1.39

Ceria woke up first. It was an unconscious act on the part of her body that her mind wanted no part of. As the first rays of dawn hit her she opened her eyes and sat up in her bed.

It was too early. And despite her early rising, Ceria was not a morning person.

But some things were too hard to forget. It had been years—decades, really—since Ceria had needed to wake up this early. She was safe in this inn, among her friends and companions. Safe.

Yet it was impossible to forget some things.

Rubbing her face with her hands, Ceria decided that she was up. Remembering the past would only lead to nightmares, and she wasn’t about to wake the inn screaming.

So despite the early hour and lack of sleep, Ceria stumbled downstairs. She blinked around at the room.

“Dd.”

She’d meant to said ‘odd’, but her mouth wasn’t working. What was odd wasn’t that the common room of the inn was a mess—what was odd was that it was not.

Last night. Ceria rubbed at her eyes again and remembered. Music. A night that had lasted forever. Songs and—something else. Some instruments she’d never heard before, and beautiful words.

It felt like a dream. But it had been real, so it felt even more dreamlike. She remembered stumbling up to bed as the other adventurers left, still caught in that magical moment.

Yes—they’d left, but adventurers always create messes wherever they go. Mostly in the form of dead monster corpses and blood, but in this case in the form of empty dishes, dirt, spilled food and drink and coins scattered on the tables.

None of that was here now. The room was clean. In fact, in the morning light the polished wood practically sparkled at Ceria.

She found that mildly offensive. But hunger was distracting her in no small way. She stumbled towards the kitchen—

And froze as a skeleton blocked the doorway.

“Wood rot.”

That was twice now that Ceria felt her heart was literally about to stop. She staggered backwards and pointed shakily at the skeleton.

“Don’t—do that!”

The skeleton was silent. Ceria blinked at it, still not quite thinking properly. It had a name, didn’t it? Erin called it—

“Toren, right?”

The skeleton made no reply. Well, it had probably been the one to clean up the room. Last Ceria had seen, the girl Erin Solstice had been sleeping next to the Antinium named Pawn.

Who also wasn’t here.

Something about that made an alarm bell go off in Ceria’s head, but she was distracted by pressing needs and the undead monster in front of her.

“Is your mistress up? I’d like some breakfast, but I can get it myself.”

Ceria went to move past the skeleton but its arm shot out and blocked her way. She stopped and stared at it.

“What are you—”

It put a finger to its yellowed teeth even as Ceria saw Erin rolled up in a blanket in the corner of the kitchen. She blinked at the girl.

“That’s where she sleeps?”

The skeleton made no sound, but it seemed irked that Ceria was still making sound. The half-elf shook her head. It was too early for this.

“I’m hungry.”

No response. The skeleton stared at her.

“I need food.”

Again, the pitiless cold flames of death were her only answer. Ceria tried to push the skeleton aside but it grabbed her hand warningly. She eyed it. It looked—well, it was Pisces’s creation. Carefully, she withdrew her hand.

“Fine. No waking her. But can you get me something to eat? Or—cook something?”

The skeleton seemed to consider this. After a moment it reluctantly nodded and walked into the kitchen. Unlike the many skeletons Ceria had seen or killed, this one walked with something approaching grace. It was a superior version of an inferior undead creature, and there was only one mage stupid enough to create something like that.

Pisces. Ceria narrowed her eyes at the skeleton as it trotted into the kitchen. It was certainly an improvement on his older work. For one thing, this skeleton was quite intelligent. But that in itself wasn’t a good thing. It meant he was closer to his goal. If he ever made an undead that was capable of leveling—

She blinked as Toren appeared in front of her. He was holding something.

“Is that…a loaf of bread?”

It was. An entire loaf, unmarred by imperfections such as slicing or condiments. Toren thrust it at her.

Ceria took it and stared at him.

“Am I supposed to eat this? I need something else, you know.”

The skeleton couldn’t sigh. But Ceria distinctly got that it would if it could. It stared at her, and then walked silently back into the kitchen.

Bemused, Ceria sat at a table and stared at the loaf. After a moment she fished out her belt knife.

She’d just managed to cut a few slices away when the skeleton reappeared. It put a bowl down in front of Ceria. She stared at that, too. It was also holding eggs.

Tor dropped the eggs in front of Ceria next to the loaf of bread. Then it added a bag of sugar. It went away and brought a cup and a pitcher of water out and then walked back into the kitchen.

Ceria stared at the food on her table. She eyed the eggs, bread, sugar, and the water. She caught one of the eggs before it rolled off the table and stared at it.

She shrugged.

 

—-

 

When Gerial stumbled downstairs, yawning and rubbing at his eyes he found Ceria dipping slices of bread into a bowl of egg yolks. Some sugar had also been added to a slice of bread and turned into a sandwich that made him forget entirely about breakfast.

The half-elf looked up as she munched on her dipped slice of bread. She was reading from her spell book.

“Oh. Hey. The innkeeper’s asleep so there’s no breakfast. But the skeleton got me some food. Want some?”

Gerial stared at the raw egg dripping from the slice of bread. He shuddered.

“That’s disgusting.

Ceria rolled her eyes.

“You humans. You eat eggs all the time. What’s the difference between frying them and grabbing them from a nest?”

“A very big difference, thank you.”

Gerial sat at the table and tried not to watch Ceria chomping down her meal. He stared at her cup.

“Is that sugar?”

“Goes well with the water if you add enough. Want some?”

He hesitated.

“I think I’d prefer normal food, thanks. Where’s the innkeeper?”

“Still asleep, I think. She’s in there.”

Ceria nodded to the kitchen.

“That damn skeleton’s guarding her though, so don’t go in. This is all it gave me to eat.”

“I see.”

“Yup. So this is the only food you’re getting for a while. Want some?”

“Pass.”

The two adventurers sat in silence for a while. It wasn’t the first time they’d done this. Gerial was a morning person, and he’d often found Ceria awake. His stomach rumbled and he tried to ignore it.

After a while, the silence was too much. Gerial had to talk. He rubbed at his mustache and awkwardly cleared his throat. Ceria looked up and raised an eyebrow.

“So. Last night.”

“It was quite something, wasn’t it?”

“Something? It was—”

Gerial didn’t have words to describe it. He was no mage, and the memory of last night stuck in his head as something he could only describe as magical.

“What was that? Was it a spell?”

“A Skill, I think. Not one I’ve ever heard of. Must be a rare one.”

“But that wasn’t it either. Those songs—”

“Beautiful.”

Ceria smiled and Gerial nodded fervently. But she didn’t seem as awed as he was by the memory. She frowned slightly.

“It was amazing. But odd as well.”

“Odd?”

“I’ve never heard any of the songs she sang. Not one. And the music that came with it—did it sound like anything you’d ever heard before?”

“Not even in my dreams.”

But Gerial had dreamed of those songs last night. He felt his eyes sting a bit as he remembered and turned his head to wipe at them. Ceria shook her head.

“They were moving, but that’s not the point Gerial. It’s another mystery. Where did that music come from? How did that girl—”

She glanced up and stopped talking abruptly. That was another thing Gerial was used to, so when Erin stumbled out of the kitchen he was already turning to greet her.

“Good morning, Miss Erin.”

She stopped and stared at him. She was still wearing the same food-spattered clothing she’d had on yesterday. She also looked miserable.

“Morning.”

Ceria nodded at Erin. The girl shook her head.

“Is everything alright?”

Another shake. Erin paused, made a face and reluctantly opened her mouth.

“I hab a thore throat. And a cold.”

“Oh.”

“I see. My condolences.”

Erin staggered over to their table and flopped onto it. Gerial saw the skeleton walk out of the kitchen and stand behind her. Erin didn’t seem to notice—or care.

Ceria put down her book and pushed aside her bowl of egg yolk to peer at Erin. She shook her head.

“It must have been sitting out in the rain last night that did it.”

“I bnow.”

The half-elf was already focusing on Erin, her fingers glowing with pale green light.

“I can do something about the sore throat, but healing potions don’t cure colds.”

“Really? You can—”

Erin yelped as Ceria poked her throat. Instantly, the skeleton behind her raised a threatening fist but Erin sat back in her chair.

“Ow, that—hey! My throat is better!”

She still had a stuffed nose, though. Silently, Gerial offered her his handkerchief. Erin blew her nose and looked him gratefully.

“Sorry.”

“Think nothing of it.”

Erin sniffed and handed him the handkerchief back.

“I hate colds.”

She looked at Ceria and Gerial pleadingly.

“Magic?”

Ceria shook her head at Erin.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t cure that so easily. I only know basic healing spells and colds are tricky. Only the [Restoration] spell cures colds, as far as I know.”

“What? But it’s a cold.

Erin whined at Ceria. The half-elf sighed, but remained patient.

“It’s a cold. The most common of illnesses. People have been using magic to cure it for so many years that magic no longer works.”

Gerial was surprised.

“That can happen? I thought—well, it’s just being sick, isn’t it?”

Erin groaned.

“Magic-resistant super-viruses. Just what I beed.”

More words that the adventurers didn’t quite understand, but both got the meaning. Ceria shrugged regretfully at Erin. Then she glanced at Gerial with a slight smile.

“Looks like breakfast is cancelled, Gerial. Unless you all want to risk getting sick before the ruins.”

He sighed.

“No helping it, I suppose.”

“I can make food.”

Erin tried to sit up, but Ceria gently shook her head.

“Some rest will do you more good than anything else. And you coughing into your food won’t do anyone any good.”

She was right, and Erin sagged back into her seat.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t mention it.”

Gerial was already standing and stretching. He was hungry, but it wouldn’t be the first time he’d missed or deferred breakfast until a later date. He nodded at Erin.

“We’re going into the city. I think Calruz is already gone, but the others are still asleep. Don’t worry about feeding us—they can always go into the city.”

Ceria looked surprised. She glanced upstairs.

“Calruz is gone? I didn’t hear him moving.”

“I don’t think he slept. He went after the bug—ah, I mean, the one called Pawn.”

Erin sat up in her chair, suddenly wide awake. She stared around the empty room.

Pawn?

 

—-

 

Pawn of the Antinium had not slept since the night. It wasn’t as if he’d missed much sleep, though. Erin Solstice had sung well into the morning and so it was only an hour or two later that he sat outside the Wandering Inn, thinking.

And suffering. He could still feel his missing appendages, or rather, the places where they should be. It felt…horrible. Horrible in a way he couldn’t describe, not to be able to move properly. But there was nothing he could do, and at least the pain had stopped.

Small mercies. But the memory of how he had lost his limbs still haunted him. And yet the memory of what had happened last night was with him as well. He still heard the music, still felt his soul shifting, hurting, rejoicing as he heard Erin sing.

Pain and wonder. They fought for dominion, but the pain was nothing compared to the wonder that still filled him.

So he sat and thought. He thought of many things, from his role in the Hive as it had been to what it was now. He thought about what he had suffered, and what was happening. He thought about many things and had no answers. But when he thought about Erin Solstice he felt something else.

And he had no words for that emotion. And it was troubling. In a good way, and a bad way, but enough so that when the Minotaur stomped towards him Pawn was almost glad of the interruption.

“You.”

Pawn inclined his head respectfully. He didn’t know if he should, but all he knew was his role as a Worker. But he wasn’t one anymore. Should he be respectful? It seemed appropriate.

“Adventurer-Captain Calruz. How may I help you?”

The large Minotaur scowled down at Pawn. His eyes were shadowed and he looked tired. And angry. He’d been walking outside by the looks of it, but now he stopped and stared down at Pawn.

“Answer me something, insect. Why did you not fight?”

Pawn stared up at Calruz.

“I’m sorry?”

The Minotaur glared at Pawn. He jabbed a finger at Pawn’s chest.

“You. Why did you not fight? When you were being tortured by your own kind—why did you not resist? Are all of your kind cowards or do you not have any pride?”

The question was so surprising to Pawn that he took a few moments to respond.

“I had no right to resist. The one who took me—he was the Prognugator. He judges other Antinium. Our lives are his to use.”

Calruz looked disbelievingly at Pawn.

“So. You would allow death and dishonor to befall you because of mere rank?”

“The Antinium have no honor. And I am—was a Worker. My life is for the Hive. If my death is required, I will die.”

For a long moment Calruz stared at Pawn. Pawn held his gaze, wondering if the Minotaur would lash out at him. It had happened to several Workers before. But the Minotaur just snorted angrily and turned away.

“All that I should have expected from a slave.”

He stomped towards the door and flung it open. Erin crashed into his chest and the Minotaur blinked at him.

Pawn!

She spotted the Antinium and froze. Pawn got to his feet and nodded at her.

“Erin. Is something wrong?”

Erin sagged and some of the color returned to her pale face.

“You scared me! I thought you went back into the city—!”

“I was about to. I would not wish to trouble you—”

“No!”

Pawn was surprised by the vehemence in Erin’s statement. She grabbed him.

“You can’t go back! Not to that—that evil guy!”

“Ksmvr?”

“Yes!”

Erin nodded. She gestured towards her inn.

“That guy—I’m going to—well, I’d like to—what’s more important is that you stay here. Not in that stupid Hive. I’ll make a bed for you and you can stay as long as you like. Free of charge.”

Pawn stared at the inn, and then at the two adventurers who’d followed Erin outside. He shook his head.

“Your offer is most kind. But I belong in my Hive.”

“What?”

His words seemed to shock the others. But Pawn was used to that. He tried to explain.

“I am missed. I must complete my duties.”

“But Ksmvr—”

The name made Pawn shudder, but only slightly.

“He will not harm me.”

“Bullshit.”

Pawn met Erin’s eyes steadily. He remembered her holding him. Remembered her strange warmth. The music was still in him.

“He will not harm me, Erin. He has determined that I am individual. He will not question me further. And I will be protected there. Now that it is known I am individual I am—important.”

“Important?”

That seemed to surprise Erin. And her surprise surprised Pawn. How could she not realize? But he had learned how little others knew of the Antinium. But surely she understood this—

“I still don’t trust that Ksmvr guy. He’s dangerous.”

“He was merely fulfilling his duties. But once the Queen is told, she will summon me. I am sure of it.”

This didn’t seem to reassure Erin at all. She stared at Pawn anxiously, not seeming to understand the great honor this would be.

“The Queen? And where was she while he was stabbing you?”

“She is occupied at the moment. It is the Process of Anastases.”

“The what the what?”

Pawn shrugged. It was a convenient gesture he had learned, shrugging. He noticed that the half-elf was staring at him intently behind Erin as the human and Minotaur talked.

“I do not know. I only heard what was spoken in passing. But it is an important ritual which cannot be interrupted. I…sense that.”

Erin stared at him. She did not understand, and Pawn worried that she would try to keep him. That would lead to conflict, and he could not allow her to be hurt. But the half-elf spoke to him.

“You—ah, Pawn. Can you tell me something? What do the Antinium want?”

“To thrive.”

It was an automatic response, and not the one she wanted. Ceria shook her head.

“I’ve heard that from every Antinium—I mean, what do they want here? The Antinium have never established a Hive so close to another species, let alone in their city. Why did this Ksmvr take you and—and question you?”

More hard questions. Pawn tried to answer as best he could.

“We came ten years back. To make…make something. I do not know. I do not know what. But it was Decided. The Queens sent a single Hive to the city. Paid in gold for a place with those not of the Hive. To make something. A new kind of Antinium.”

“And this Process of…does that relate to it?”

“No. Yes. It is important. I cannot tell you what it is. I was not told. I can only sense that it requires all of my Queen’s attention.”

“But when she’s done with it, she’ll want to see you, is that right?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re important.”

“Yes.”

Easier answers. Pawn saw the light of comprehension in the half-elf’s eyes. But Erin still did not understand. Pawn saw that, too. But the half-elf did. She tugged at Erin’s arm.

“I think I get it. Erin, Pawn needs to go back to his Hive. You can’t take an Antinium away from the Hive. If you do—they spare no effort to reclaim their lost. Or if it’s impossible to reclaim them, those Antinium die.”

“They do?”

Only in times of war. Pawn knew with absolute certainty his Queen would never order him to die. He was too important. But the lie—

“That is correct. I would be in jeopardy or place you in danger by remaining.”

It hurt him to lie to Erin. But it was partially true. Once his Queen learned of his nature she would spare no effort to reclaim him. And if Ksmvr tried to reclaim him and brought soldiers—

The thought of it was too much to bear. So Pawn lied. He lied to protect the one called Erin Solstice, the innkeeper who played chess and who sang. The one who had given him his individuality and more things than he could think. The one who was important. The one who the other Workers…

Admired. Perhaps that was the word for it. But Pawn thought it wasn’t the right word. What Erin was to the Workers was different. She had brought something into their stale lives, and taught them that they had been living in boredom and monotony. She had elevated one of them, and so what the Workers felt for her was not admiration. It was something else. Another word.

But Pawn had no idea what that word was.

 

—-

 

Pawn left. Ceria and Gerial left with him, and Calruz stomped off when he learned Erin was sick. They left her alone.

She felt bad about it. Upset that Pawn was leaving. Emotional. She threw a cup of water at Toren.

She hated being sick. And she was so tired—she’d barely gotten what, a few hours of sleep? So Erin put her head down on her pillow in the kitchen. Just for a short nap. It was just a bit too much.

Before she knew it, she’d fallen asleep. All things considered, it was good for her. Erin was so tired, emotionally as well as physically that nothing could rouse her. Not even Selys screaming when she saw Toren.

 

—-

 

Pisces heard the scream and debated running. But the odds were quite good that there were adventurers still in the inn, and therefore quite good that the screaming didn’t mean anything too dangerous was happening.

Still, he cast [Invisibility] before he entered. It was a wonderful spell. A Tier-4 magic like this afforded him far more safety than any armor, and allowed him a number of useful opportunities as well. It had been worth the year of study it had taken to master it.

Nevertheless, Pisces poked his head cautiously through the inn’s door. Safety was paramount. He would run at the slightest hint of trouble—

But curse it, Erin Solstice might be in trouble. And after last night he couldn’t just abandon her. Not just because he’d heard what those arrogant Gnolls had said. They might be stealthy, but they relied on their noses too much. Pisces smelled exactly like the outdoors because he never bothered to wash. Another advantage.

And the music. He couldn’t forget the music. An [Immortal Moment] indeed. All of it meant—well, it meant—

It meant he was doing something stupid, which Pisces regretted. He readied several spells as he looked around the inn. If it was a monster he’d attack and retreat. That was all he could do. More than he should do, really.

There was no monster in the inn. Not unless you counted the skeleton and Pisces wasn’t afraid of his own creation. The cowering female Drake didn’t seem to share his opinion, however.

Pisces relaxed and let the invisibility spell end. His heart was beating far, far too fast. Curses. He recognized the Drake. She was a female receptionist at the Adventurer’s Guild, the one who often talked to Erin. Selys Shivertail.

She was still whimpering and trying to shield herself from Toren as the skeleton stood watching her. Pisces shook his head. Non-mages. They were so…

He looked around for Erin Soltsice. She was nowhere to be seen, which was inconvenient. He had hoped for some food—

Pisces was used to wandering into the kitchen of the Wandering Inn for food. He’d done it quite often, and so it was quite a shock to him when Toren shot out a bony arm to block his way. He yelped and stumbled backwards.

“What are you doing?”

His creation studied Pisces. Toren didn’t reply—not that Pisces had given him the ability to speak. The mage paused, and gestured with his fingers.

“Move aside. I require sustenance.”

A flicker of hesitation—and then the skeleton shook his head. Pisces frowned.

“I am your creator. Move aside.”

Another shake of the head. Pisces frowned darkly. This was wrong. But of course, he had expected complications when he’d created this skeleton. He just hadn’t expected the spell-weaving to interfere with the obedience of the skeleton—

“Move.”

The skeleton clattered its jaw at Pisces and raised a finger to shush him. He blinked at it.

“What are you—I, Pisces, order you to move aside and let me pass.”

Another shake of the head. Pisces ground his teeth. He was about to try something more drastic when something slapped the back of his head hard. He staggered and looked around.

“You!”

Something was attacking him. Pisces yelped as Selys advanced on him, hitting him with her fists.

“You’re the one who made this—this thing, aren’t you? You evil, wretched—!”

Selys yelped as Toren caught her hand. She nearly screamed, but the other bony hand covered her mouth. Pisces froze. Was his creation going to—?

Toren held Selys in a grip of death. Very, very slowly he removed his hand from her mouth and raised it to his own. One finger went up and he shushed her.

Selys quivered as she nodded. Toren gently let go of her hand. Then the skeleton pointed inside the kitchen.

Both Pisces and Selys stared inside the kitchen and saw Erin curled up into a ball, still sleeping somehow. They exchanged a look.

Toren moved back in front of the kitchen entrance and stood there, a sentinel. He stared pointedly at both mage and Drake. Slowly, the skeleton reached for a sword belted to its bony waist. It unsheathed the blade an inch. They backed away.

 

—-

 

“What was that?”

“It was my creation. A skeleton. It was merely guarding its master, Erin Solstice.”

“You created that thing?”

Selys stared at Pisces, horrified. He raised his nose at her.

“Of course. It is a bodyguard for Erin and an able servant.”

“It’s an undead monster. And you—I thought you were just an [Illusionist] scaring poor people. But you’re that [Necromancer] Relc was talking about, aren’t you? Well, you leave Erin alone! She doesn’t need you bothering her!”

“I am a favored customer at her inn. I have every right to be there.”

“You had a bounty on your head until a week ago! You stay away from her or I’ll—I’ll—”

He sneered at her.

“You’ll do what? Hit me? I’m a mage.”

“And I’m a receptionist at the Adventurer’s Guild. I’ll put a twenty-gold bounty on your head if you so much as raise an undead anywhere within twenty miles of the city.”

“You—you don’t have the authority to do that.”

“Try me. And get out of my way!”

“I am going to the city. With Erin…indisposed I require sustenance there.”

“Then walk behind me! I don’t want to be anywhere near you!”

“I am entitled to walk wherever I please. If it bothers you so much, you may wait.”

“You flesh-faced jerk—

Rags watched curiously as the arguing Drake and mage stormed past her. They didn’t even notice her—not that she was practically visible in the long grass anyways. Her dark green skin camouflaged her well, and if she closed her eyes she could practically disappear at times.

The other Goblins made her a bit more noticeable of course, but amazingly, Pisces and Selys had managed to miss them as well. And it was hard to miss thirty-odd Goblins.

It didn’t matter much anyways; Rags shook her head and walked towards the inn. She snapped at the Goblins following her and they dispersed into the grass while five waited outside the inn. As an escort they were important, but the inn was a peaceful area. Besides, her scouts had already determined the inn was empty aside from the skeleton and Erin Solstice.

Thus, when Rags stepped into the inn it was only Toren that saw her. Now free from the eyes of her followers, Rags took a moment to wince and feel at her side which was in complete agony. She chattered to herself as she prodded the huge bruise, but determined it wasn’t worth wasting a valuable healing potion over.

The skeleton took little heed of the Goblin except to assess how dangerous she might be. It noticed her frowning as she searched for Erin Solstice and mentally sighed again.

 

—-

 

Refreshingly, Rags understood that Erin was sleeping and not to be disturbed quickest of all the inn’s guests that day. The small Goblin wasn’t happy, but Toren didn’t have to dissuade her from entering the kitchen.

Instead, the Goblin hopped up onto one of the chairs and grabbed a chess board. She muttered to herself as Toren stood patiently in his place in front of the kitchen. He stared impassively at the Goblin as she ignored him.

Perhaps someone who wasn’t an undead skeleton might have had a bit more of a reaction to Rag’s appearance. They might have questioned the cuts on the side of her face, the way she winced as she moved, or perhaps the glowing orange-pink potion strapped to her belt. It was one of many valuable items that an astute watcher could infer had been looted from travelers.

But Toren wasn’t interested in any of that. Instead, the skeleton was troubled by his own thoughts. He was guarding his master and that was well. But he had failed to guard a few days ago. He had lost to the Antinium, and that was wrong. Bad. He felt this should not be so.

But he was still only a Level 3 [Skeleton Warrior]. He had no way to level except in the [Barmaid] class, and Tor felt that this would not be particularly helpful.

Rags muttered to herself as she began playing a game of chess. Without any opponent she was forced to play both sides which she was not happy about. She groused to herself in her own language.

Again, to any other listener her words would be meaningless nonsense. The language of the Goblins was scratchy, garbled, and sounded vaguely like rocks being tossed into a blender. In short, incomprehensible to anyone who was not a Goblin.

But the dead speak a universal language, and so Toren understood her perfectly. He listened, at first mainly because he had no choice, but then with increasing fascination. He was fascinated by Rag’s comments about the [Strategist] class and chess and stared at the chess board.

The Goblin played one game by herself, and then two. After she won and lost the third game, she looked up and nearly tumbled out of her seat.

Toren stood silently over her, staring down. Rags unsheathed her short sword, but the skeleton made no move to attack. It stared down at the chess board and then slowly sat across from Rags.

With mechanical precision it began moving chess pieces to their starting positions. As Rags, disbelieving, watched, Toren choose a pawn and moved it forwards on the chess board.

She stared at the undead skeleton. Its fiery blue eyes fixed on her. Slowly, Rags got back onto her chair and stared at the board. She stared at the skeleton. Then she shrugged.

And began to play.

 

—-

 

Ceria and Gerial walked through the streets of Liscor, laughing and talking. They were walking down a street filled with restaurants and pubs. They were being watched.

Gazi’s eye flicked around the street and she smiled as she walked forwards. Relc was headed straight for the leader of the Horns of Hammerad several streets over. The [Princess] was crouched at another table, under the cloak of an [Invisibility] spell, but she would not interfere.

The man was an average adventurer. Level 17 in the [Warrior] class—without much to distinguish him. But the half-elf was as noticeable as the Minotaur. She could only be Ceria Springwalker, member of the Horns of Hammerad.

Just the ones Gazi had been looking for.

 


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14 thoughts on “1.39

  1. I am so tired that I don’t even think I’m thinking straight. Thus–a shorter chapter, but one I hope, filled with interest and cerebral stuff. I hope.

    Hm. News~. On the upside, thanks to all you wonderful readers we’ve managed to reach the #13 spot on TopWebFiction after only two months! And on RoyalRoadl, we shot all the way to the #46 spot in a single week until someone down-voted the story to around #86 on the top stories list.

    I mention this not to brag but to say thanks to people who vote and review. Because uh, I don’t. Whenever I watch Youtubers I never subscribe. I don’t punch any like buttons mainly because I never bother logging in. It’s a dedicated person who’s willing to do even something like comment, and I thank you for it.

    I’m bringing all this up because I’m wondering if I should start a TV Tropes page. I understand Wildbow did it which helped his story, and it’s always been my dream to reach the height* of internet fame by getting a Tropes page. But maybe it’s too soon?

    *Note I don’t mention how high this actually is. Depending on who you ask it’s Michael Jordan or Porky Pig high. Or negative high since some people really hate that site.

    Anyways, thanks for reading and I’m going to preempt any comments about no Ryoka chapters by saying that next chapter will be ANOTHER ERIN CHAPTER. It’s all part of the plan, I promise. My sleep-deprived, incomprehensible plan.

    …Thanks for reading!

    PS: Anyone wondering about those stupid ads — it’s because this is one a free WordPress site and they can put ads on the blog. Sorta sucks, but hopefully they’re not too annoying.

    • For the most part, I’m pretty sure that people only fake-dislike TvTropes due to how much time one can end up wasting browsing it? In general, it’s a very much liked site. o /

      Also, the longer we can stall the sad times of Ryoka ahead, the better. Or not better. Ripping this bandage off is gonna hurt. ; ;

      • There are some legitimate and not-so-legitimate criticisms to be made of it. Me, personally, I stay away from that and just enjoy wasting time reading the pages now and then.

        But it is important never to use TV Tropes as any sort of writing guide. Too much focus on what is and isn’t tropes kills stories.

        Anyways, you don’t have to worry about Ryoka. She doesn’t have any bandages.

  2. Tired. Typo found. “Selys stared at Pawn, horrified. He raised his nose at her.” Pisces, not Pawn.

    Yeah, individual important. Queen making something. Assessment about searching for game changer makes more sense. Rebellion in the Hive? Trying to make more individuals? Think it was mentioned all individuals fail. Pawn was released to get Erin to leave in for capture, then retrieve Pawn. Cause she can make individuals? Few others would talk to bugs.

  3. … That potion, in a chapter in which I was expecting a Ryoka chapter… you’ve dashed my hopes and my expectations of what would happen next.

    seriously this is how i was hoping/expecting the story for chapter 1-37
    Goblins dragging in an unconcious human to a nearby inn who had passed out from bloodloss running to liscor. Erin identifies the ipod she carries, and there’s a measure of hopeful understanding helping shame her and acting as a welcome grace from the runners chapter before. … … … yeah i’m very glad the hammerheads arnt in the inn at this very moment though…

  4. I think it give it another month or two and then do the tv tropes. It’s great that your story is a success but going too fast could be more deficient then helpful. Thanks again for the chapter.

  5. I liked how you worked the classic protagonist “I must get stronger” trope into Erin’s skeleton – and how he’s desperately trying to level in everything possible (warrior, barmaid, strategist, etc.) in wonderful contrast to (imho) ryoka’s anti-level policy. I was curious if he gets levels as a guard / guardian type character for all these efforts to shield Erin from perceived danger and / or distrust ion? He did an excellent job in this chapter after all. Similarly I was wondering if he was going to level up as some sort of prep-cook class or if all such experiences just fit under barmaid

  6. I’ve come here through your very enjoyable piece of Erfworld which is the best fanfic, together with Erethreum, I guess. The focus on books, and food made it quite unique!
    And that’s true for this story too: the everyday details, the kinds of food, the various hygiene situations, make a nice change from all the weapons clatter, not that there isn’t any of that either!
    Its obviously a woman’s POV (sorry for suggesting), but I enjoy it tremendously! In fact, as I co-initiated a Dungeon&Dragons circle some 25 years ago, it was precisely the lack of anything besides fighting that turned me away pretty quickly. Not saying I’m playing Harvest Moon or such, or not enjoying a gory bloodbath, but if we would want to search for similarities in the field of RPGs, I’d say that the long forgotten marvel that was Microproses Darklands would fit the bill, with its summerized CV for character generation and the possibility of taking on mundane jobs etc.
    When, not if because it’s only a matter of time, I’ll sign up on Patreon, I’ll make sure to throw something your way, to say it in the parlance of our time, I really think you should be supported to write, and I’m usually very picky 😉

    • Hey Boor, thanks for commenting! I’m always glad to hear people like the lack of fighting and bloodshed that occurs in this story at times.

      I’ve had similar experiences in D&D, although admittedly I never played it much. But in video game terms I totally agree–it’s time for Stardew Valley to meet Dark Souls and give us a real open world experience.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope you continue to enjoy this female-centric story. Maybe I should toss in more male characters. Eh. Toren is referred as male. That’s probably enough.

      • “Male” or “female” is not generally nearly so important as “interesting”. You’ve already implied that there are potentially a fairly large number of people who have been transported to this world, so you’re free to mix in as many more as you can keep track of; but make sure not to waste your time on anyone who isn’t Interesting.

        Personally, I think a Munchkin could be fun. Someone who would admire Pisces for having thought of using Necromancy to repair living bones and spend his time looking for other “loopholes”, “exploits”, and just generally ways to game the system that nobody’s thought of yet, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.

        But then, I’ve always had a liking for characters that everyone else thinks are insane. 🙂

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