Most used abilities: Arcane Portal
Most used weapon skills: Lunging Slash, Horizontal Slash, Crescent Slash, Head Splitter, Twin Strikes
As one of the guards protecting the Matron of House Ryn, fighting wasn’t a foreign concept for Teva’ryn. Indeed, while every Sylven boy had to learn how to use the sword, his training had been extra vigorous, his exceptional talent having been recognized at a very young age. Only the very best of the cadets could become part of the House Guard, after all. And even though the job was a great deal less dangerous than a common soldier’s, Teva’ryn wasn’t untested in battle. The Great Rebellion had made sure of that.
Still, the current situation was beginning to be too much even for him. Teva’ryn had mentally prepared himself to fight one giant, not ten. At first, he thought that he misunderstood Ran’del, but one look at the shock on the Humans’ faces told him this wasn’t the case. Probably. Teva’ryn couldn’t be sure, since the one person who had been explaining things for him was the only exception. Instead of being shocked, Ran’del looked rather fascinated, poking the green dome from the inside.
There was a lot of shouting, but by this point, Teva’ryn wasn’t surprised about this. Humans were a really noisy race. Teva’ryn tried to keep an eye on both of the giant octopus-like creatures. He had never seen any octopus, of course, but Ran’del described them in great length. Or at least he tried to, but the Human didn’t really know the right words for it. These monsters reminded Teva’ryn somewhat to bedtime stories that mothers told their children.
Finally, the Humans decided to retreat, trying to escape by going around the fallen trees. After a few steps, however, Imaya shouted and pointed in front of them. The woman’s eyes were glowing in a greenish light, a sure sign that she was using her Ability. Suddenly, the nearby rocks seemed to distort and an other giant revealed itself. The monster wasn’t standing, and Teva’ryn could see why: this was an exceptionally tall one. Had it been straightened up, it wouldn’t even be able to reach them with its tentacles.
In hindsight, this very much seemed like a trap. They had passed right in front of those rock formations that now turned out to be an octopus lying sideways instead. How could they have missed something so big? As the giant struggled itself to its knees it overturned two more trees with contemptuous ease, further blocking their path. The only thing keeping Teva’ryn from outright panicking now was his weapon master’s words. Fear is your enemy. Panic is the harbinger of defeat. Inside his head, he was repeating these two sentences over and over. He wasn’t the bravest Sylven warrior by far, but he prided himself in his ability to control his fear and being able to concentrate on his task if the need arose.
One of the newcomers, the dark-skinned Human one whose name Teva’ryn forgot, began throwing glowing orbs of fire at the giant. The fireballs appeared in his palms but didn’t burn his skin, and the man had to use his own strength to hurl them. His aim was terrible, but at least the fire seemed to be hurting the monster. The other Human – the one with the red hair – quickly rushed forward. When he got close to the giant, he erected his green barrier once again and gestured toward the monster. Strangely, instead of reaching around the dome to attack the fire-throwing Human, the octopus-like monster began to hammer angrily at the energy shield with a huge boulder. With each impact a few fractures appeared on the green dome, but before the giant could strike a weak point once again, the barrier always mended itself.
Teva’ryn decided that they got that particular situation well in hand, and turned around to face the two other approaching problems. They were moving slow as a niak, but would probably reach them before the large one was dealt with. Teva’ryn didn’t know how he would fight them. Alone it would be impossible. He could only reach their legs, and once one of those tentacles caught him, he would be doomed. He needed a distraction, during which he could hack at their ankles or knees, making them fall. Then, he would have a chance.
As much as he hated to admit it, he needed Devi’lynn’s assistance. Her Ability would be very useful to distract the giants until he crippled them. He didn’t like the idea, though. Devi’lynn was already too rebellious, too disregarding about Sylven traditions. The last thing she needed was more encouragement. Still, staying alive was the priority here, so Teva’ryn spoke up.
“Lady Devi’lynn, might I ask for your assistance?”
“Only if you stop calling me Lady already, Teva’ryn. How many times do I have to repeat myself?” she asked with a frown.
“As much as I’d like to continue our argument about the importance of proper decorum, my Lady, I’m afraid we don’t have the time,” Teva’ryn said. “When they get closer, could you distract the giants with your clones, please?”
Devi’lynn had already opened her mouth for an undoubtedly cutting retort, but suddenly broke into a wry grin.
“Oh my! Are you sure you should be asking a Lady to be part of such barbaric activities, my dear guardian? I must say-” her mouth was still moving, but her voice was suddenly cut off.
But it wasn’t just her voice. Everything went silent: the shouting of Humans, the hissing of fireballs, the growling of Ran’del’s little companion. The two smaller giants were only a few strides away from the group. Teva’ryn and the others could have slipped away easily between them, but from that direction there were no doubt several more octopuses heading towards them. Their best chance to escape was over the (hopefully) dead body of the large octopus behind them.
Devi’lynn didn’t waste the time and began to create her clones one by one. Her body distorted sideways, as if she was made of goo and someone was pulling her apart. First her head was separated in two, than her torso, and finally there were two identical Sylven women. The clone had a blank look in its eyes though, and it began mindlessly marching forward as soon as it was free. Teva’ryn readied his rusty scimitar and quickly swept a few strands of his hair out of his face, making a mental note to cut it short the next time he had the opportunity.
When Devi’lynn’s clone rushed past, Teva’ryn charged forward as well, staying only a few steps behind. The clone ran straight into the giant on the right, which immediately grabbed it with a tentacle. Teva’ryn pivoted to avoid an other tentacle, then ducked under a third one. With that, he found himself already at the creature’s legs, the knee being on level with his chest. Without losing momentum, he slashed horizontally at the joint.
He made sure not to think about any specific move as he did so, otherwise the contraption around his neck would have taken over the control of his body. While the added strength was sometimes really useful, most of the time these so-called ‘weapon skills’ were just hindrances for Teva’ryn. His aim was more precise than the machine’s, and he could improvise on the fly. The contraption made him committed to finish each of his movements, which could mean his end here if he couldn’t dodge a tentacle in time.
As he slashed at the giant’s knee, he could see that his blade wasn’t sharp enough to cut very deep. Teva’ryn turned back to score an other hit, but saw a swinging tentacle coming for him. He threw himself to ground, then rolled sideways. The tentacles weren’t long enough to reach all the way down to the ground, so he only had to avoid being stepped on. When he gained some distance, he got to his feet and looked around. Without his hearing, it was much more difficult to keep track of the others.
The large octopus was on its death throes. Two large flying fire-snakes were scorching every part of its body, and no matter how much its tentacles flailed, they couldn’t put the flames out. One of the two smaller giants was trying to reach Tobias, who was waving his flaming sword in front of him. Dana was also trying to hinder the giant’s progress, using a spear previously borrowed from the red-haired male. She was creating dozens of glowing spears jutting out from the ground, blocking the giant’s path.
Imaya and the nervous Human had been shooting arrows into the other creature, the male’s arrows having a bluish shine with tips that had little sparks flowing around them. Some of the arrows managed to hit the creature’s eyes, but the monster still had way too many of those. Otherwise, the arrows didn’t seem to do any harm in their skin.
The giant quickly became less and less impressed with the Devi’lynn-clones which disappeared into smoke when they were squeezed. The octopus marched towards the archers, but Teva’ryn hesitated to rush back in. Did it make sense for him to risk his life? He could barely scratch the monster. What difference could he make?
In the end, Teva’ryn just stood and watched as the giant made its way towards Imaya. To Teva’ryns great relief, the monster ignored the original Devi’lynn just like the clones. He might have been shaken by how irrelevant his attacks were to the giant, but he would still give his life without hesitation if it meant saving any Sylven female. The Divine Codex demanded no less, and so did his pride.
But females of other races… well, it wasn’t the same. Teva’ryn felt bad about letting his companions fend for themselves, but as he kept telling himself, there was nothing he could do.
As the octopus giant got closer, disaster struck. The male archer panicked, turned around, and tried to run. He rushed blindly into Dana’s field of spears, and was promptly impaled by several of the erupting spikes. Dana saw this happen, but didn’t dare to stop casting her Ability: she was trying to keep up with the giant that was constantly destroying the spikes. Those energy-spears could actually hurt the giant’s feet if it stepped on them, but a swipe of its tentacles could break the shafts. However, it needed to bend down to reach them properly, so its progress was not as fast as it could have been.
The archer was impaled through his gut and his left leg. He was probably crying in agony, but no sound could be heard.
The second giant who was going after the archers reached Imaya, who was still standing in one place, shooting arrow after arrow as fast as she could towards the eyes. Teva’ryn watched in trepidation as the monster reached down with a large tentacle… and grabbed Ran’del instead, who for some reason jumped in front of the female. As the tentacle wrapped around his midsection, Teva’ryn briefly wondered if maybe Humans are just as protective about their females as Sylven. But Ran’del hadn’t even drawn his short sword and had his pet creature on his shoulder. Teva’ryn couldn’t see the sense of it. Maybe it was customary for the animal to follow its owner to the grave? But why wouldn’t Ran’del want to die with at least a blade in his hand?
As the monster lifted Ran’del closer to its mouth, the Human grabbed Nozie with two hands and hurled him on the top of the giant’s head. In the next instant, Ran’del disappeared.
Teva’ryn’s jaw dropped as the situation had completely turned around. Ran’del’s little beast was surprisingly nimble, running up and down on the octopus giant’s head, scratching, biting, and spitting fire at its eyes. Nozie had no difficulty avoiding the tentacles, as only the topmost ones could actually reach that far up on his head, and their speed couldn’t compare to the animal’s swiftness.
Soon, the giant was completely blind, and the red-furred animal jumped down to the ground to… join Ran’del, who was apparently alright and currently dragging Imaya towards Devi’lynn. Teva’ryn didn’t understand what happened but hurried to join them.
Suddenly, Devi’lynn’s expression turned into pure shock, and began pointing at something behind Teva’ryn. With a terrible sinking feeling, Teva’ryn realized that he had been too careless. While he was gawking at the others, and hadn’t been paying attention to other possible dangers. Which was a big disgrace, considering his profession.
He looked back just in time to see a small tree trunk flying towards him. Probably an other giant farther in the back had thrown it, after spotting him on the edge of their group. Seemed like a just punishment for not trying to involve himself in the fight more.
There was nothing he could do, except for taking the hit and rolling with it to negate as much force as possible. The tree slammed into his lower legs, however, so there wasn’t much rolling to do. He felt the bones in both of his legs shatter, and he was sent flying in the air. He landed with his left arm stretched out, and his wrist broke as well. There were scrapes and bruises all over his body, but compared to the broken bones, they were nothing. He gritted his teeth and tried not to cry out. Pain was an old friend of his. He could take this much and still greet Afterlife with dignity.
He was lying only for a few seconds face down on the ground, panting heavily, but it felt like hours for him. Finally, two pairs of hands grabbed him by each of his shoulders and began to drag him away. This movement was too much for his shattered bones, and he roared in pain. To his surprise, he could hear his own voice.
“I think the armored Human and his friend managed to kill the big one,” said Devi’lynn. As if in agreement, the machine around their necks let out a soft chime. Quest completed. Now they just had to survive.
Teva’ryn’s thoughts were becoming hazy from the constant agony. Just when he was about to beg for them to stop, he was suddenly propped up in the base of a tree, and he could catch his breath. Ran’del and Devi’lynn were the ones who dragged him away, he could see now. He was extremely ashamed that a female had been more useful in this fight than he had been. If the others back home knew this, he would be surely demoted. Not that ranks mattered much to him at this point, but it was also about the matter of pride. He just wanted to sink into oblivion now.
He was startled out of his misery when he saw Ran’del leaving them behind, running straight towards the impaled archer. But before he got there, all of Dana’s glowing spears had suddenly disappeared. This would have actually made it easier to rescue the injured Human, but the other giant was free to roam as well. Teva’ryn looked at Dana, who was sprinting after the two giant slayers. They were retreating with haste, skirting around the blackened remains of their kill. It seemed like they didn’t really care about the rest of the group.
The problem with Dana running after them was that she did so without warning. Of course, with the sound absorbing aura she didn’t have many options. Tobias was still near the giant, poking it with a flaming rapier, and using the spears as cover. When they suddenly dissipated, Tobias was caught off-guard. The giant managed to hit him with a tentacle, sending him to the ground.
Ran’del immediately changed direction, no doubt to repeat his earlier stunt. This time though, he couldn’t make it. The giant wrapped a tentacle around Tobias and lifted him off the ground. Ran’del jumped and grabbed his legs, but he couldn’t help him. The giant was strong enough to lift them both, and soon Ran’del was held by his legs, hanging upside down. This time, Teva’ryn saw what happened. He was able to see both of them very well, unfortunately.
Tobias was squirming, shouting, and trying to wriggle himself free, but it was in vain. In an unhurried manner, the monster raised Tobias to its mouth – a large, gaping hole at the base of the tentacles – and bit off his head. Imaya began to scream hysterically, and Nozie shot forward, no doubt realizing that the same could happen to his master too. But he didn’t need to worry for long, because the moment Ran’del saw that he couldn’t help Tobias anymore, he disappeared from the grasp of the monster.
In the same instant, he reappeared on the ground and broke into a run, steering clear of the place where the impaled archer had been. The blinded octopus giant had somehow found the injured man and was already chomping on his remains.
When Ran’del got closer, Teva’ryn could see that he was carrying the rapier. The man wiped his tear-soaked face hurriedly, then turned towards him and Devi’lynn.
“Move while monster eat,” he said and grabbed Teva’ryn’s upper arm, while Devi’lynn took hold of the other. Teva’ryn steeled himself for the pain. This time, he didn’t even flinch as they began to drag him backwards. He kept staring at the feasting giants for as long as he could.
Eventually, they had stopped at one of the caves. Ran’del went inside with Nozie, and came back shortly after to tell them that it was probably safe, though he couldn’t see the end of the cavern.
They didn’t know whether the giants were still chasing them or not, but couldn’t drag Teva’ryn forever. They sat down near the entrance of the cave where there was still some light, then Ran’del spoke up.
“Check… this,” he pointed at the contraption around his neck. “Check new Ability. Lukas tell me it give what we need.”
Teva’ryn didn’t understand what the man was actually trying to say, but figured that it wouldn’t hurt to check out the reward of the quest. Anything to take his mind off his pain. He still had an uninjured limb after all, so he could operate the machine around his neck. Thank the Creator for small favors.
Regeneration, level 1
Continuously pour your mana into a specific area of a living body to heal it over time. Although this type of healing takes more time than other healing Abilities, its usefulness lies in its versatility.
Channeling mana cost: 2 mana per 5 seconds
Teva’ryn was staring at his screen completely frozen with disbelief, his hand hovering in the air where he had touched the Quest button. This was so ridiculously perfect that it couldn’t be a coincidence. He had been completely prepared that the others would eventually abandon him and let him die. After all, mending the bones would have taken a lot of time, weeks or maybe months. Who would want to drag him around for that long, from one dangerous place to another?
He realized belatedly that Ran’del was speaking to him to get his attention.
“Ability good? Truthful?” the Human asked with concern.
“Don’t lie, don’t lie,” Devi’lynn injected playfully, waggling a finger at Teva’ryn. Insolent and childish. Teva’ryn’s eyebrows twitched in annoyance, but ignored the woman this time.
“The word is useful, not truthful,” he corrected Ran’del. “And yes, it is really good. It’s called Regeneration and I think it should work on my broken bones.”
“Good?” Ran’del cocked his head, then flipped through his book to find a word. In the dim glow of their screens, he could read it easily. Teva’ryn decided to wait patiently.
“Heal?” Ran’del finally said, though it was pronounced so badly that it could barely be understood. It was a bit disappointing that they were waiting this much for only that single mispronounced word. Nevertheless, Teva’ryn nodded and decided that it was time to demonstrate the Ability. He really hoped that he wouldn’t need extensive knowledge about healing in order to set his bones properly. He put his right hand over his broken wrist, and thought about using the Ability.
Warm, white light emanated out of his hand and seeped into his other one. It tickled a bit, but otherwise Teva’ryn didn’t feel anything unusual. He continued to channel Regeneration for a few minutes, until his mana ran out. When he pulled his hand back, his wrist was still broken.
“Doesn’t seem to be working,” Devi’lynn commented.
“No, my Lady, it is working. It’s just really slow.”
“I hope you know that all this formal talk just makes me want to tease you more, injured or not,” she said.
Teva’ryn was aware of this, naturally. Had he been someone with just a bit of a higher rank, he would have used physical force to discipline her long ago. But being only a House Guard, and not even her guard but an allied House’s, he didn’t have the right. Even if no other Sylven was here, even if no one would witness it, he wasn’t going to overstep his bounds.
Devi’lynn knew this of course, but it didn’t mean that Teva’ryn had given up on her. There were other, subtler ways to make her behave. And if those weren’t enough, well, at least during combat situation every Sylven woman was supposed to listen to any command – even from the lowliest of men – as per stated by the Divine Codex. He had to be content with that.
It would take time to get his mana back, so Teva’ryn had plenty of time to think. A lot of people would be envious of him. Not about his injuries, but about the overall situation. Someone of his station, being alone with a woman for weeks? It was unheard of.
Even better, Devi’lynn was already of breeding age, but unwed. She avoided marriage so far only because of her status: the head of the Lynn House was her father. Being the only daughter, Devi’lynn had been pampered more than the most, Teva’ryn was sure. But even a noblewoman wouldn’t be able to delay getting married for much longer, or her House would lose face.
Teva’ryn wasn’t the type of man whose only purpose in life was getting laid. He knew way too many men like that and he refused to be one of them. Besides, he wasn’t even attracted to Devi’lynn. Sure, she had a pretty face – though it was a question whether one liked freckles or not – but her body was too athletic, too far from the Sylven ideal. Even so, for Teva’ryn the real turn off wasn’t her looks, but her personality. For a woman, she was way too bold, borderline arrogant. She had too little respect for their own culture, and interpreted their rules too lightly.
The Divine Codex stated that women were not permitted to look into other men’s eyes, the only exception being their husband. Yet, when Teva’ryn had reprimanded Devi’lynn about her wandering gaze, she had told him that the Law said nothing about Human males. And the damned woman took the rules just as loosely about fighting. Women aren’t allowed to fight and risk their lives? No problem, her clone isn’t herself, so it could participate in the fight. Why didn’t the Creator think about loopholes like these? The question in Teva’ryn’s head sounded borderline blasphemous, so he tried to forget it quickly.
In the end, it didn’t really matter whether Devi’lynn was just toeing the line or went even futher. Even if she broke any rule, Teva’ryn wasn’t going to properly punish her, since it wasn’t his place. He just hoped that Devi’lynn wouldn’t stray too far from the teachings of the Divine Codex before they found a Sylven community.
Teva’ryn wasn’t sure about other Sylven living in this world, but seeing that their Human companions had met other Humans, he could hope. Even if he never got to see his home again, maybe he could start over here. Who knew, maybe the Sylven in this world were living in peace, without any internal strife, and not having to repel invasions constantly.
Teva’ryn’s eyes found Ran’del as he was trying to talk to Imaya. The woman was just sitting, hugging her knees and crying silently. Whatever Ran’del was telling to her, it clearly wasn’t working. She hadn’t stopped crying ever since they arrived to the cave, and didn’t even bother to check her new Ability. Which reminded Teva’ryn to ask his other companions about their recently gained powers.
“Lady Devi’lynn, may I ask what kind of Ability you’ve received?”
“You may,” she said with a sigh. She paused here for so long that Teva’ryn actually thought she wouldn’t continue, but then she blurted it out.
“You won’t like it though. It is an Ability that needs a weapon to work. Flicker Strikes. It is part illusion, as it creates afterimages of my strikes, so it fits my arsenal, right? Deceiving the enemy, that’s what I do.”
“Doesn’t matter if it fits or not,” Teva’ryn replied before she became too enthusiastic about the idea, “You will not use it.”
“Can’t you see that I might have to?!” Devi’lynn raised her voice. “This situation is nothing like home! This time I’m not behind city walls, longing to go out to help the defenders of my home! This time I’m already outside, and you are depriving me of any means of self-defense!”
While what she was saying had some truth in it, it was still against the Codex. Plus, what would an untrained woman be able to accomplish in any fight? It was nice that Devi’lynn could fight with her words here, but it was quite another to actually fight on the battleground. Being overconfident that she could ‘help’ by picking up a weapon would just kill her faster.
“You can rely on the others,” was all that Teva’ryn said.
“Heh, and who are you talking about? Yourself with your broken limbs?” Her voice had a hysterical edge now. “Or are you telling me that sobbing archer over there would protect me? Or-”
“Abilities?” Ran’del joined in.
“The… Pardon?” she asked back. At least the Human managed to break Devi’lynn’s tirade.
“You talk about Abilities?”
“Yes. Me and Teva’ryn have been discussing how utterly and totally inane it is to stick to his bigot ways,” she fumed.
“Talk slow please,” Ran’del said.
“Fine,” Devi’lynn huffed, “I need a weapon.” She began mimicking swinging a sword. Ran’del probably understood, because he reached for his rapier, but then suddenly stopped and glanced at Teva’ryn.
“No,” Teva’ryn said with finality.
“Why can no weapon women?” Ran’del asked in return. Teva’ryn sighed.
“Sylven men outnumber women by 10 to 1,” he said. Ran’del didn’t understand the numbers, so Teva’ryn and Devi’lynn spent the next few minutes by trying to explain him this single sentence. At last, the Human’s eyes became wide as comprehension dawned on him.
“So women can no fight because no many women?” Ran’del asked.
“Yes, exactly,” Teva’ryn said calmly.
“But it be too late for Devi’lynn, she already here.”
“Yes, exactly!” Devi’lynn said excitedly.
“It’s not that simple!” Teva’ryn tried to protest, but Ran’del talked over him.
“Devi’lynn be already in danger! It be too late for no fight.” He held out the hilt of the rapier towards Devi’lynn, but Teva’ryn had one last, desperate objection.
“Wait! I have lost my scimitar when I got injured. Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to give the excess weapon to someone who knows how to use it?” Of course, Ran’del didn’t understand at first what he said, and quite unsurprisingly Devi’lynn didn’t help with the explanation, but Teva’ryn managed to get his meaning across eventually.
“Oh,” Ran’del said when he finally realized what Teva’ryn’s problem was. He then reached for the short sword on his belt, and promptly handed it over.
“Good weapon? Can fight with this?” the Human asked.
Teva’ryn couldn’t find his words as he inspected the sword. Good? That rusty, dull scimitar couldn’t even measure up to this! The sword was simple, but well cared for. The hilt fitted into his hand perfectly, and the bluish light from their screens reflected on the steel blade beautifully. Upon closer inspection Teva’ryn could see that the sword hadn’t been used much.
“Why are you giving away your weapons all the time?” Teva’ryn suddenly snapped at Ran’del, but after seeing the Human’s questioning stare he simplified it to, “You no weapon?”
“I have this,” Ran’del pointed at the black dagger on his belt. Teva’ryn vaguely remembered that it was the same dagger that the body-controlling people had left behind. Its shape looked menacing, and the glowing orange symbol on the blade gave the weapon an eerie aura, but Teva’ryn still wasn’t sure why Ran’del would be satisfied with only one dagger.
“I give her weapon now. Devi’lynn can protect Devi’lynn, until you heal,” Ran’del announced after he saw that Teva’ryn didn’t object further.
Devi’lynn was grinning like a maniac. Throwing away all sense of decorum, she quickly snatched the rapier from Ran’del before he could change his mind. Teva’ryn was disgusted by how eager she looked as she clambered to her feet. Ran’del gave her some space, and she held out the weapon.
The blade of the rapier began glowing faintly. She focused on a point in the air, then started to swing and stab at it, slowly first, but increasing her speed by every second. The white glow remained for a few seconds in the weapon’s wake, creating a mind-bogglingly beautiful picture in the dimness of the cave.
Devi’lynn’s stance was awful: footwork nonexistent and pose awkward. Even so, her left arm was moving extremely fast. In fact so fast, that Teva’ryn couldn’t keep track of her hand amid the blazing white streaks all around it. As seconds passed, Teva’ryn’s eyes became increasingly uncertain what they were seeing. It almost looked like as if Devi’lynn had two or three arms holding rapiers, striking simultaneously.
“Hya!” Devi’lynn stumbled, finishing abruptly. The white streaks remained for a few moments, even after she had stopped moving.
“Ran out of mana,” she said sheepishly. She was rubbing her neck above the contraption, which had no doubt been vibrating as a warning. Ran’del suddenly began clapping, startling Teva’ryn. When the Human saw Teva’ryn looking he stopped clapping and shrugged, looking a bit apologetic. Why did he start clapping, though? There were obviously no servants here to summon or order around.
Even Imaya had been watching the show. She looked quite amazed, until Devi’lynn stopped and the archer saw the weapon that she had been holding. Her lower lips began to tremble, then she buried her face into her knees once again. Seeing Devi’lynn holding the rapier almost made Teva’ryn feel like crying too, only for a different reason.
Of course, he was sad that they had lost Tobias, but he didn’t really know the man. For the last few weeks, they had been travelling beside, and not with each other. Dana and Tobias seemed to be especially cold towards the Sylven, always acting as if they weren’t even there. It was difficult for Teva’ryn to feel more than a mild sadness about the deceased Human.
“So Ran’del, can you show us your Ability?” Devi’lynn asked as she sat down once again.
“Show?” Ran’del asked. “No, it… you see my ability. Teleport. New Ability is same, but for Nozie.”
“Oh,” Devi’lynn looked a bit crestfallen at the lack of demonstration, but she didn’t press further. She also glanced toward Imaya, but decided to stay quiet. Finally.
“I explain you better when I better speak language,” Ran’del said. Then he took out a flask and some leaf-covered meat from his bag. He handed the flask to Teva’ryn, just as the Sylven realized how incredibly thirsty he actually was.
“Drink, I get more later,” Ran’del said. After Teva’ryn finished, the green-eyed man took back the flask and handed him the meat.
“Now stay here. I go hunt more food.”
It wasn’t like Teva’ryn was about to go anywhere, but he nodded nevertheless.
“Nozie!” Ran’del called his pet, then walked towards the exit. The animal was sprawled next to Ran’del’s book, licking the fur off his belly and cleaning himself. He didn’t seem to be very eager to follow his master.
A moment later Ran’del marched back, picked up the animal and put him under one armpit, then stormed off.
And then there were three. Two women and a cripple. Teva’ryn decided that it was time to continue healing himself, this time starting with his legs. He was going to need those first, if they wanted to move on from this cave soon. Besides, Teva’ryn didn’t even need a second arm to be able to take away the rapier from Devi’lynn.
They spent the next few days in the cave, Ran’del being responsible for getting their food. He told them to stay in the cave, because the giants might still be lumbering around. Getting enough water for everyone was a chore with only a single flask, but Ran’del didn’t complain. He also gathered huge leaves and plants so that they didn’t have to sleep on the hard stone. At least he wasn’t bored to death, like everyone else. Except for moving away to relieve himself (which was a very embarrassing and tricky operation), Teva’ryn had spent most of his time sitting in silence and healing his legs. Additionally, he and Devi’lynn helped Ran’del in learning their language. Teva’ryn hoped that one day their teachings would be reciprocated.
Teva’ryn had a lot of time to think, but he was still having difficulties in determining what kind of person Ran’del was. In Sylven standards, he was a disgrace as a man. Skinny and with barely any muscles, having no idea how to fight. What’s more, he clearly didn’t even try to learn! When he had a spear, he gave it away to Dana.. and now he did the same with the rapier. It was as if he was trying to avoid fighting, content to let others do it for him. Teva’ryn just had to think about their first day with the big-headed screamers where Ran’del had stayed back with the women, or the next day with the raobs where he decided to just observe after his initial kill.
What’s more, Ran’del had been crying when Tobias had died. Men shedding tears, even in the face of death, was a sign of great weakness. Though Teva’ryn had to admit that he didn’t know how the Human body worked, and maybe it was different for them. Imaya certainly seemed to have a lot of tears inside her, but she was a woman so it was at least understandable.
Ran’del also had the tendency to become lost in his thoughts. Even though Teva’ryn couldn’t communicate with him properly, he could still see that the Human was often quite… distracted. Which was once again a strike against him, because a man should always be aware of his surroundings, and always be alert for danger.
But even while looking at all these facts, Teva’ryn couldn’t dismiss Ran’del as someone insignificant. Maybe he wouldn’t pass as a decent Sylven male, but he was strangely… capable. He managed to survive without the others for days, and in the end he came out better of it. He even tamed a local beast somehow.
He was also the only one who had bothered to learn their language. Yes, he was fortunate that the reptile people could help him out with that book, but still, forming alliance with them was a feat in itself. Teva’ryn didn’t fully understand what was happening at that time, but in hindsight it was obvious that the falling out between Tobias and Ran’del was because of the reptiles.
Add these to the fact that in the last fight, it was Ran’del who saved Imaya and risked his life to save the two others. It was his pet that blinded the giant and allowed them to escape. Instead of leaving Teva’ryn on the battlefield, he helped dragging him away and found a cave where they could hide. Like many times in the last couple of days, currently he was outside, hunting and bringing them food despite the danger of the nearby giants.
So if Teva’ryn couldn’t call Ran’del a man, what did that make of him? Him, who couldn’t even hurt any of the giants. The one who got injured for no reason and was now dragging down all of the others.
Before Teva’ryn’s thoughts could turn even darker, the light was momentarily blocked out in the opening of the cave. But when he looked up, he didn’t see anything out of ordinary. It seemed strange, and he immediately realized why: he didn’t hear anyone approaching. The gravelly ground in front of the cave always made sure to announce Ran’del’s comings and goings.
Suddenly Ran’del’s black dagger flew into the cave, bounding off the walls without making a sound. It was followed by Nozie who jumped over the burnt wood (which had been used last night to cook the meat) and ran towards Teva’ryn without hesitation. Ran’del’s pet seemed to be in a hurry and Teva’ryn soon saw why. A large tentacle slapped down on the remains of their campfire, scattering wood everywhere. When the tentacle retracted, Ran’del appeared on all fours above the dagger. He didn’t even bother to stand up, just quickly scrambled deeper inside – one hand clutching his latest kill, a fat bird with three legs – and collapsed in an undignified heap next to Teva’ryn.
“Monster outside,” Ran’del said, breathing heavily, then looked up to Teva’ryn. “How heal your leg?”
“My left one is good, currently healing the right. I think I can walk with some assistance.”
“Alright. I can not go out now. Monster know we are inside. They watch,” he said. Then, after a brief hesitation, he said, “I suggest move now. Go outside or go in there,” he pointed further into the cave. Without proper source of light (and without the need) they didn’t explore where the cave led, so it could possibly be an escape route.
“You decide,” Ran’del added.
Before Teva’ryn could reply, Imaya began to complain in her own language. She probably didn’t like being left out, getting the same treatment that the Sylven had received in the past. Teva’ryn waited for her brief argument with Ran’del to finish, then asked.
“You want me to lead? Why?”
“Lead…? Yes, decide. Lead. You are soldier. Better than me.”
Technically he wasn’t a soldier, but otherwise Teva’ryn agreed. He had the right training for these kinds of situations. Well, not exactly for these kinds, because his world didn’t have people with magic powers running around and slaying monsters for Abilities, but it was close enough. He wouldn’t have complained if Ran’del wanted to lead them, but he was glad that he didn’t have to blindly follow others anymore.
Ran’del’s suggestion to begin moving was sensible. If he couldn’t get out safely anymore, it meant that he couldn’t bring more food and water. They shouldn’t waste any time hoping that the giants would just leave them alone.
“First we explore the cave. If there is no other exit, we use Devi’lynn’s clones as distraction and try to break free,” Teva’ryn said.
“Alright,” said Ran’del. “Devi’lynn, you know what is there?” he asked, pointing once again to the back.
“I… no. Sorry. I know I had time to explore, but I didn’t want to go in there alone.”
“And I’m glad you didn’t, Lady Devi’lynn. We are not sending anyone forward to scout either,” Teva’ryn announced. “We’ll go together. We cannot know what will we find, so we better be cautious and stick together.” He struggled to his feet, and Ran’del came forward to support him. After everyone activated the contraption around their neck, they got going without further ado.
The cave was incredibly deep. Its formation seemed natural to Teva’ryn, but he hadn’t been in a lot of caves to be able to tell it for sure. They weren’t going downwards, luckily. Even so, they were walking so much that Teva’ryn had to request a few minutes break to rest his aching legs.
He began to regret giving the few rounds of healing a few days before to Ran’del’s leg wound. Teva’ryn had wanted to do something for the Human in return for his kindness, but now he regretted giving up even that much Regeneration. His legs ached and left wrist was also still painful, having healed it only just a little so it wasn’t swollen.
Regeneration had been healing his bones frustratingly slowly. It’s effectiveness was much more visible on Ran’del’s wound, however, that cut wasn’t fresh and had been already healed up a lot. Teva’ryn even boosted his Spirit attribute – after Ran’del gave him the tip that it increased his mana pool – but mending his bones was still a slow process. It was a lucky thing that the big giant had such a large soul. Teva’ryn was level 22 now, which meant that he was able to put 7 points on Spirit.
“We should turn back,” Devi’lynn said after a while. “I will use my clones and we will run.”
Strange that she was mentioning this now, when the space around them had finally expanded. They had arrived in a cavern so large, that they couldn’t even see its side walls. Teva’ryn had to admit though, that the total blackness was a bit scary. It felt like they were in the bottom of the Abyss.
“No, Lady Devi’lynn, I’m afraid not,” Teva’ryn said over his shoulder. “It is very unwise to do so when we have just arrived to a large cavern. Don’t you think, my Lady, that we should explore it first? Who knows, maybe we are close to the exit.” Teva’ryn stopped, but still didn’t look back at the woman as he continued. “What’s more, should we decide to turn back, I wouldn’t be able to outrun the giants anyways. Even walking back to the entrance would be difficult with these legs! I know that compassion is a foreign concept to such a fine Noble like you, but I beg for your understanding, my Lady.”
As expected, Devi’lynn became furious. Teva’ryn didn’t really have a reason to provoke her, but he was fed up with her behavior so much, that he didn’t care. It felt good to poke back at her finally, even if he was being terribly rude while doing it.
“Now listen Teva’ryn,” she grabbed his shoulder. “Firstly, this isn’t only about you! We could get lost in this cave, and for Creator’s sake, we don’t know what creature could lurk in this darkness! It’s only sensible to turn back while we can,” she fumed.
“And secondly, I demand that you cut out this idiotic formal talk! I don’t know what I have to do in order to stop it, but now I really had enough. I can feel that you don’t believe any of it, I can see your disregard towards me in your eyes. It became even worse since Ran’del gave me-”
“See it in my eyes?” Teva’ryn interrupted her, brushing off the hand on his shoulder and turning to face her. “Are you sure, my Lady, that you should be admitting such things?” he said menacingly, voice echoing ominously in the cavern.
“You continuously disrespect our traditions and the teachings of the Codex, Lady Devi’lynn. The only reason I haven’t punished you for any of it is because I am mindful of my rank and station.” His voice was really cold now, and Devi’lynn’s fury was quickly replaced by confusion and maybe even fear. She slowly began to back off, but Teva’ryn began to follow her with limping steps.
“So are you telling me, my Lady, that I should leave out the formalities? Should I perhaps ignore a few more rules, while I’m at it?” His right hand shot out lightning fast, grabbing Devi’lynn’s horn and yanking her head to the side.
“Let’s say, what about the appropriateness of a House Guard hitting a Noble?” Teva’ryn hissed into the woman’s face, his eyes flashing angrily. He didn’t actually mean what he said, but he couldn’t deny that he was losing his temper. It was true what Devi’lynn tried to say about the rapier: ever since she had taken that weapon, Teva’ryn had less and less patience towards her.
“Y-you wouldn’t d-dare,” Devi’lynn said, voice full of terror.
At this point, Teva’ryn hesitated. Should he threaten her further? If he scared her enough, it might be constructive in some ways: it could force her back to the right path. But he didn’t want to push her too far. With a final jerk he released her head and she stumbled backwards.
“D-don’t you dare to touch me again,” the woman said as she kept backing off. She wasn’t all that uppity anymore.
“Devi’lynn, stop!” Ran’del shouted suddenly. The ground under the woman’s feet shifted and Devi’lynn fell backwards, disappearing with a terrified scream. Teva’ryn scrambled forward alongside with Ran’del just to see an incredibly steep, rocky slope where the ground gave way. Devi’lynn was rolling down on it alongside with a few loose stones.
Teva’ryn couldn’t really see much in the darkness, but when Devi’lynn’s light disappeared with a splashing noise, he didn’t need a good vision to know what was down there. The water on the bottom was probably deep enough to completely submerge the woman and break her fall. Which was good, because it meant that Devi’lynn had probably survived the fall.
Instead of being relieved, Teva’ryn’s panic only intensified when he remembered that Sylven women weren’t usually taught how to swim.