Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis, Orang
Author’s notes: One chapter of CotE remaining. The last chapter will come tomorrow. I’m seriously falling asleep here and am struggling to keep my eyes open. You will understand this a little better tomorrow, or whenever I wake up and can finish my to do list.
Chapter 7 – Mutant Beast Abilities
After leaving the Lost Water Caverns and arriving back at Greyhorn Townsend, both Regal’s squad and the three guards go their separate ways.
Within a dimly lit house near the southern gate that the Greyhorn Guard use as their barracks, Jerule meets with the leader of the guards, Bryn.
“Leader, I have done what you asked and scouted information on the newcomers.”
“Good, give me your report.”
“Yes, leader. Our target of interest, Regal, has shown far more promise than I anticipated. His talent in crafting hasn’t been verified, but his capabilities as a leader are outstanding. He quickly adapts to any situation and leads his squad to perfectly counter it. Even as just a leader, he already exceeds me.”
“Jerule, you used to lead our people on raids and have proven yourself. Aren’t you exaggerating this a bit?”
“No, there is a clear comparison. His decisions are not only swift and precise, but every single one takes into consideration the strengths of every member in his unit and forms the most appropriate formation based on that. After analysing all of that, I don’t believe I would have been able to come up with such solutions in that situation.”
“He truly does sound extraordinary. What else?”
“I have learned about the relationships between the squad as well. Regal and Veronica, the one with messy auburn hair, are in a romantic relationship. A second girl, Aqua, appears to have feelings for Regal, but they are unrequited. There is nothing special other than that, but everyone is very close, like a family.”
“Hmm, there must be a complicated relationship between those two girls if Veronica is with him and the other is forced to watch. We can use this to break them apart. Do you remember that time thirty years ago with the wealthy merchants?”
“Yes, leader, I do.”
“Good, we will do that again.”
“Sir, what about the others. We only need Regal don’t we?”
“Indeed, he will be the face of our community and attract thousands more citizens. As for the rest of them, we will make them leave. They won’t be able to help us and will risk holding Regal back.”
“Good, start the plan immediately. Regal will be busy with work for the lord three days a week, so we can use that time to shatter their bonds. I expect to see results within a month. How effective is your inherent skill on them?”
“They have little to no resistance. Their levels and stats are both still low after all. There is one person I am concerned about though.”
“Do speak, Jerule. We can’t allow for any mishaps.” Bryn’s cold eyes focus on Jerule under the dim light, containing within them the trace of a warning.
Jerule begins to get nervous, faint perspiration forming on his forehead in thin beads. “Actually, leader, one of the girls appeared to have a strong resistance to my skill. Her name is Piora. I was in the middle of convincing Regal to stay with our community when she interrupted and caused my skill’s effect to break. I suspect she has a resistance-”
“You impertinent fool!” Bryn’s furious shout interrupts Jerule, the dusty glass cup in his hand shattering from his strength. “How many times over the years have I warned you not to be impatient! A resistance to your skill? Don’t shit excuses to me, it is because you were too hasty once again and someone got suspicious!”
“Leader… forgive me.”
“Don’t forget, Jerule, we are now a community. This is no longer the past. We need to take things one step at a time. If you do something out of line again, I will imprison you in these walls for the next decade.”
“Forgive me leader, it won’t happen again.”
“It better not, now get out of my sight!”
Jerule humbly bows toward Bryn, well aware of his high standing in Greyhorn Townsend, before turning and leaving the room. On his way out, Jerule falters in his footsteps and asks nervously, “Leader, about that girl?”
“I will make arrangements for the girl, you just need to carry out your orders.”
“I understand.” Jerule leaves the room and only Bryn is left inside, rubbing his temples to alleviate the headache.
Unaware of the secret conversations taking place in the shadows of the community the previous night, Regal awakens to the morning sunlight streaming into his room and Veronica curled up against the side of his body.
Regal remains in bed even after waking up, wrapping his arm around Veronica and subtly feeling the curves of her body beneath her thin sleeping clothes. Her head is in position against his chest, the morning light reflecting off her bronze cuff earrings. A few of Veronica’s disarrayed hairs irritate his nose, which he attempts to blow away when Veronica suddenly says, “We need to get up.”
“Ah, yeah, we do,” Regal awkwardly says while trying to figure out just how long she was awake.
The two quickly get dressed and meet the other squad members downstairs. Aqua has decided to make breakfast this morning, a strange pudding like item with a brassy gloss. Regal joins the others and eats the food, but quickly places his spoon down and puts on a strained face as he forces the food down his throat.
“What, you don’t like it?!” Aqua complains loudly, tasting her food before also quieting down with teary eyes.
Regal, unsure why Aqua’s usually excellent cooking turned into this, unhesitantly asks, “Aqua, what exactly did you put in this?”
“I… I thought I would experiment with the ‘Amber Flint (Low)’ and try make something with it… It looked so nice once it was made.”
Regal looks at her with astonishment before exhaling and saying, “Aqua, ‘Amber Flint’ can’t be used in cooking, not without refining it first at least. I did some tests and studied a few of them last night and found they have the hidden qualities of earth and blood. Nothing with the hidden quality of blood can be used in cooking without refining first.”
“How was I supposed to know that?” She says defeatedly.
“I’m sorry, I’m not telling you off. But please come to me if you don’t know what an item can be used for. We can study it together to understand it better.”
Aqua, upset over her failed breakfast and the long building frustration of seeing Regal and Veronica together, flees the room without looking back.
“Leave her. Just give her some time.” Piora stops Regal who moves to follow behind and try remedy what he thinks are just hurt feelings from a small failure. “I will speak with her. You are starting your work with the Community Defense Team today, so you need to get going.”
Regal hesitates for a moment before nodding, bidding everyone farewell and leaving Piora to talk with Aqua.
There are a lot of hunters on the streets of Greyhorn Townsend early in the morning. Regal can make out several squads already formed and travelling to the various exits of the community to go hunting for the day. He also picks up on a few groups returning from long ventures with weary expressions and beat up equipment.
Regal wasn’t surprised that they came across no other hunters in the first floor of Lost Water Caverns yesterday. His squad are the only low level hunters to join the small community this year, showing that this town’s growth has declined to a near standstill.
Regal soon arrives at the location where the Community Defense Team and other crafting groups under the employment of Lord Solace are located. It is a large hall-like Silverstone building with extraordinary iron accents on it, most likely the work of the crafters themselves.
“Where do I go?” Regal asks himself as he walks into the gaudy building and finds there are no signs. He walks through a large hall with an enormous ceiling and marble flooring, glancing across the large rooms along the walls.
Regal picks one room in particular where there are a number of people are inside and asks, “Is this the Community Defense Team?”
“No, that is the next room over,” one of the crafters chuckles and explains.
Regal hurriedly thanks them before leaving and going to the following room that the crafter explained. Inside this room are an even larger number of crafters, all sitting at a long and narrow wooden table of exquisite workmanship.
“Hello, I’m Regal,” Regal introduces himself as he steps into the room.
The crafters inside smile back at him. One of the crafters, a young looking man with a grey beret speaks up, “We heard from the city lord you would be coming. Come, sit down and I will do our introductions.”
Regal finds an empty seat and the young man starts to first introduce everyone who is part of the team and then follows up with how the team works. They all also connect their transmission plates with Regal’s to share contact information as a part of formally accepting him to the team.
“We don’t have a leader or anyone to govern us, we decide everything with a vote. Now that you, our 23rd member is here, we finally have an odd number of crafters. We can finally be done with those tied votes and get some more work completed. However, although we don’t have a leader, we still need to submit a report to the lord once a month.”
Regal nods his head and the young man, Seref, continues with more recent matters.
“Our budget is currently a fifteen gold a month. The community earns a lot from the sale of Silverstone to the traders each month, but that is all they can afford at present. We have been saving our budget and currently have 110 gold saved up for a big expenditure on the city walls, but we can’t decide on what that will be.”
“We don’t have enough coin to reinforce it with iron, but we can afford another layer of bronze. The only problem is half of us believe it will either make no difference or it will be such a small change in defense that the coin would have been wasted, hence our endless tied votes. You have a fresh and new outlook on the situation, do you have any thoughts?”
Regal thinks heavily on the options before replying, “I can understand both views of going ahead with it or not, but are they the only options?”
“What do you mean?” A lady who appears in her 30’s curiously asks.
“What I mean, is that isn’t there a third option, or a fourth? We only have a simple wall at the moment, the amount of possibilities to reinforce it should be more than one or two, even with our budget.”
The crafters think heavily on Regal’s words before Seref smiles cheerfully and speak up, “Okay, everyone, I call a vote on visiting the wall to investigate and increase ideas for possible improvements, supported or not supported?”
“Supported, I think increasing our possibilities will help us come to a more unanimous decision.”
“Not supported, adding to our current options will only segregate the group further.”
“Supported, we need fresh ideas.”
In the end, there are nineteen crafters supporting the vote and only four not supporting. With the outcome decided, all twenty three of them stand up and leave the room, heading out of the building and toward the nearest town gate.
“Seref,” Regal talks to the crafter who seems the friendliest on the way to the gate, “What is our current situation with locating an iron ore deposit. I heard we have been searching for various ores nearby but haven’t found anything yet.”
“Oh, you heard about that? Indeed, we are still looking. We found an iron ore deposit about four years ago, but it was tiny and completely depleted by the end of the year. Several crafters with the skill ‘Mining’ use the knowledge from ‘Ore Repository’ to search for locations, but even with all our help, we haven’t found anything. This land has proven to be very scarce on resources. If it wasn’t for the Silverstone quarry nearby, the community would have likely moved long ago.”
“So everyone has ‘Mining’ then? Ore deposites shouldn’t be too hard to find if everyone splits up to look for a week should it?”
“Haha, if that was the case. A large number of us don’t actually have ‘Mining’. You don’t need it to dig through stone, so there is no need for most of us to learn it when we already have our respective crafts to focus on. I hear you have learned many different crafts and are proficient in all of them, but I actually find that incredibly strange! Most of us focus on only a few crafts.”
“Is that so?” Regal chuckles to himself, chatting with Seref all the way until the Community Defense Team exits the town and inspects the wall from the outside.
“What do you think, any ideas?” Rancor, a burly middle-aged man with a thick black beard, asks Regal after they have inspected the wall for a few hours.
Regal has been constantly coming up with various ideas for how to strengthen the walls, from interlocking patterns of plates to dissipate physical blows, to various materials that can be used supportively with what is currently in front of him.
Regal also considers other outside of the box methods, like digging a moat, but that would not only prevent the community expanding in the future, but there isn’t a body of water nearby to fill it. The only water the community has is from deep wells, drawing from an underground reserve. Even if that water was funnelled in, it would only sink back through the ground and return to the reserve.
It isn’t until he leans against the wall that inspiration suddenly strikes him.
“I have thought of countless options, but the best one I can think of is related to the extra reinforcements around the wall. It’s a little different however. We craft large bronze plates, which I trust a few of you have ‘Forging – Intermediate’ that will allow you to condense the metal to make it harder. Once they are done, short but thick iron springs are installed at the key locations between the current wall and new reinforcement.”
“This will soften the blows of every impact, softening and dispersing the weight of blows over a much greater area and preventing damage.”
Rankor thinks about it deeply, chatting along with the other crafters before pointing out his concerns, “The enemy will simply rip them off if we do that. While it will slow them down, it would be a one time defence. We need something more permanent.”
“It won’t be if we align all the plates against each other,” Another crafter enthusiastically grasps the concept behind Regal’s idea and explains what Regal was about to. “If we get them close enough to each other, the gap will be nearly seamless. No enemy will be able to grab a hold of it, and it would be difficult even with tools.”
“I understand!” Rankor claps his large hands together and appears enlightened. “What will we make the springs out of though, they need to be both strong and flexible. Bronze isn’t suited for the job.”
Regal returns to the conversation and inputs, “We use iron. There isn’t enough coin in the budget for an iron wall, but there should be enough for iron springs. If we make them short and thick, it won’t take too many resources. Of course it will be better if we can find an iron ore reserve.”
“Do you have ‘Mining’, Regal?” Seref asks curiously.
“Yes, I do.”
“Why don’t you head out for the day and use ‘Ore Repository’ to search for possible locations with the other crafters? I want to organize the crafters with ‘Forging – Intermediate’ to test this new idea of yours, so there isn’t much you can do other than watch. Once we have tested it, we can then hold a vote again to decide if we should move forward with it.”
“That’s a great idea!” Another crafter in the group exclaims. “I don’t have ‘Forging – Intermediate’ so I will be one of those going with you.”
Seeing the positive reception of everyone, Regal grins and agrees with them. Seven crafters have the necessary forging skill and they head off with Seref at the head, leaving Regal with the fourteen remaining. Three of the crafters have the ‘Mining’ skill so he splits the group up into three groups of five, each group selects one viable location to increase their chances of finding an iron ore vein, even if it’s just a small one.
Two of the teams set out across the dusty landscape while he asks his group to stay behind and patiently wait as he calls Lande and Lore to come through their mental connection. The two mutant stone beasts arrive shortly afterwards, their heavy bodies causing the ground to quiver with each step.
“Why did you bring them? We can easily defeat any mutant beasts in the area. Those beasts won’t be of any help,” One of the crafters says with doubt, his uncertainty reflecting in the eyes of the other crafters as well.
“They’re Mutant Stone Beasts. They can eat the rubble we dig up and speed up the process of mining.”
At Regal’s explanation, the crafters exclaim in realization and show their complete support for the two beasts joining them. The crafters even agree to protect Lande and Lore in the event of strong mutant beasts appearing.
Regal leads the small group of crafters toward a group of craggy hills near the horizon. With the basic knowledge given by the Tier 1 ‘Ore Repository’, he can tell that this is a likely location for mineral deposits underground. He also takes the opportunity to expand on the map he started creating yesterday, adding another small region around Greyhorn Townsend.
“We have already created a mine in this location, there was nothing but rocks, dirt, and more rocks under here.” One of the crafters points out once they arrive and Regal begins surveying the area.
Regal finds this to be reasonable. It is likely that all locations located within a few hours travel of the community have been mined in search of minerals, but they don’t have the time to take a day’s travel away from the community to search for new locations.
“I see, but that doesn’t change anything. It is still possible the mine may have missed a mineral vein and it went undetected. If there is a mine already in place, it will save us a lot of time creating the initial tunnel and support shafts. We can simply extend the existing mine and search in new locations.”
The crafters seem reluctant but they still follow Regal’s lead. Regal climbs onto Lande and allows the Mutant Stone Beast to ascend the jagged areas he would have problems climbing himself while the other crafters used the stats of their higher levels to rapidly jump across surfaces and keep up with Regal.
Both the Mutant Stone Beasts are using their earth fusion ability which somehow affixes their feet to the ground and allows them to easily move up the uneven surfaces. Regal is slightly surprised at this as he didn’t know their ability had such a significant effect, but what comes next completely stupefies him.
While Regal is directing Lande over and around the craggy hills in search of the existing mine entrance, a faint feeling of the mine extending through the ground below them catches Regal’s attention. He almost passes the strange thought as being superstition, but halts when he realizes that the sense came to him through the connection with Lande.
The crafter watch Regal in confusion when he and his beast suddenly stop moving and Regal closes his eyes. What he is doing, is in fact focusing his thoughts on the connection between Lande and himself. Thoughts being sent from Lore are suppressed as Regal extends his senses through Lande with fumbling mental movements like grasping at wisps of smoke.
It takes Regal a few tries, but he soon succeeds and the five senses of Lande are transmitted to him. He can see what Lande can see even though his eyes are closed, smell the scent of various types of rocks, even hear the shallow footsteps of the crafters who are moving about.
“’Soul Shackle’ can be used like this?!” Regal’s thoughts explode out of his mouth as the shock separates the connection with Lande and his senses return to being only his own.
The crafters look at him with curiosity and confusion, each trying to discern the meaning behind Regal’s sudden outburst.
Regal is unaware of many characteristics of the ‘Soul Shackle’ Divine Art, as it is a completely unknown skill. Standard tamed monsters do not share a constant mental link with their tamers, so there is no previous knowledge in this area. What Regal did notice, is that the after separating his senses from Lande’s, his skill ‘Soul Authority’ instantly raised two levels, leaving level 4 where it was stagnating and reaching level 6.
Regal closes his eyes again and focuses on melding his senses with Lande’s. Once he can see and feel what the Mutant Stone Beast does, he scrutinizes the odd impression of the mine below them.
Regal feels the connection the Mutant Stone Beast has to the ground with its earth fusion ability, and finds that there is a lot more information transmitted through the link. He can sense the existence of a gaping passageway below him, almost as if he can see through the ground, he can even sense the soft padded vibrations by small mutant beasts that now call the mine home.
Being able to feel the passageway is not the extent of the ability either, he can even search the through the ground. Regal can’t control Lande, but he gives it orders to investigate the ground in more detail and feels a form of vibration transmit through the ground, eventually returning back with details on the mineral composition beneath them.
The ability only extends about fifty feet through the ground, but that is more than enough to touch upon the side of a mineral vein. Regal doesn’t know what the mineral is, but Lande recognizes it as being “harder than rock” in a measure that can only be expressed with senses and not words.
Regal also managed to sense the entrance to the mine, which is only forty feet away from them and half hidden by a few shrubs that have grown over the years.
“Everyone, I’ve found it. Prepare your picks!” Regal enthusiastically says before leading the bunch of perplexed crafters to the mine entrance.
They are all surprised when Regal reveals the mine entrance only a minute later as if he knew where it was all along. Most of the crafters have questions, but they silently follow behind him and wait to see what he is planning.
The mine is wide enough for the two Mutant Stone Beasts to walk side by side, but everyone follows in a single line so they can easily move around if need be.
There are no torches in the deep tunnel, only Regal holds one at the front of the group to illuminate the path. Along the sides of the mine tunnel are wooden shafts supporting the roof and preventing a collapse, but a few of these shafts have already rotted and broken due to not being maintained over a long time.
“We need someone to go get wood and replace these broken shafts, I already know where to dig,” Regal states to the crafters, one of which nodding his head before hastily leaving to fell some trees and craft new shafts from the trunk. “Also, there are three enemies coming.”
The remaining three crafters look at Regal dubiously as they couldn’t sense anything coming, but still focus their attention on the dark tunnel beyond where the light reaches. Just as Regal claimed, three enemies truly did appear. They are pitch black serpent like mutant beasts with six legs and rows of crimson rings on their backs.
“Scorching Venom Serpent’s,” Regal hisses between his teeth, instantly recognizing the level 30 poisonous beasts. He also knows that the poison from these creatures is too strong and can’t be cured by the two ‘General Antidotes’ in his inventory.
“I have never seen them this close to Greyhorn before,” One of the crafters says, unfazed after observing the enemies.
The three crafters with Regal quickly move to the front to protect Regal and the two Mutant Stone Beasts. The Scorching Venom Serpents dart forward in a blur of red and black, venom from their gaping mouths falling to the ground and igniting small flames.
Two of the crafters draw the large rifles from their backs and fire them in a single motion. Both weapons have a complicated alchemical circle engraved on their barrels with ‘Alchemy Bestowment’. Although they both use regular bullets, one fires a small fire shell, which explodes as it collides with one of the mutant beast serpents, knocking it into the wall with enough force to shake the tunnel, while the other shoots a bolt of electricity, arcing between and stunning both of the two remaining Scorching Venom Serpents.
The third crafter casts an ice based Tier 8 Divine Art which turns all three enemies into ice sculptures, the ice slowly cracking as blood spurts out and their health rapidly diminishes.
The ice entrapment soon fades and the three mutant beasts try to turn and run, but more flame shells and lightning bolts land on them in quick succession and quickly kill them.
“That was a bit anti climatic,” Regal sighs to himself and says as one of the crafters collect the loot from the dead serpents.
“We may be crafters, but we aren’t weak,” The nearest crafter boisterously laughs in response.
Regal can tell there is a massive difference between him and these three crafters. Although they are all crafters, they have a strong combat ability, while Regal only has talent in crafting.
Not long after, the initial crafter who left returns with several crafted large wooden supports prepared. Regal fuses his mind with Lande again and focuses on the beast’s sense of the earth, relaying his order to check the surrounding earth. He can still sense the dense ores a number of feet behind the wall, but he notices that the distance Lande can sense through the rocks is at least halved due to the interference of whatever ore is hidden.
“We will dig through this wall!” Regal indicated where to dig and after replacing the broken supports around it, all five crafters begin to dig. Lande and Lore stand back and take on the role of disposing all the rubble waste by eating it.
Regal and the four crafters work at an extremely efficient pace, digging through a several feet of earth in only ten minutes. They continue at this pace and after an hour, the wall reveals rock with an orange and red tint. The crafters can’t help but be excited as they exclaim, “Iron ore!”
The four crafters accompanying Regal then step back and don’t attempt to mine the ore. This is because they don’t have ‘Mining’, and while they can still mine the ore, it will be one quality level below what it should be. This means that if the ore being mined is ‘Iron Ore (Low)’, then everything they harvest will become ‘Iron Ore (Poor)’. All ‘Poor’ quality items are a result of hunters harvesting them without the required skills.
Regal had been constantly fusing with Lande so he notices another feeling the beast has, which is a desire for the raw ore. Curious of the effects, Regal swings his pick and starts collecting low quality iron. Once he has a small pile, he has both Lande and Lore eat it as per their desires.
The two Mutant Stone Beasts quickly gorge on the iron ore, emitting crunching sounds as the pile of ore vanishes within minutes. Regal can feel the strong sense of satisfaction they are transmitting to him from their thoughts, and not only that, but also the sensation that they have just levelled up, both reaching level 17.
Regal has been surprised too many times today, so the effect of levelling up only caused a mild shock, him quickly realizing that Mutant Beasts can gain levels by eating food and not just defeating monsters. At the same time, raising his contracted beasts this way would be a massive expense of resources, so he is reluctant to do it.
“Okay, let’s harvest as much iron ore as we can then return to the community with the great news. I’ll call the other two mining teams and tell them to come here. I’m sure everyone will be surprised!” Regal grins and happily says. The crafters in his group smiling wryly as well are greatly pleased that their group has had so much success with the addition of Regal’s skills and leadership.