Assessing everyone after the battle, our injuries were much less than they could have been. Midnight, Ice Guy, and I were in the best state. This was partially because of our familiarity with combat, but also due to a simple factor known as armor. Because Francois made every outfit for the Power Brigade and his work wasn’t shabby. Even Midnight had something that sat atop his fur comfortably. Midnight and I had some patches where bits of acid had gotten through our other layers of defense, but were otherwise uninjured.
Ceira had taken a single direct blast of the breath weapon, completely wiping out the Energy Ward upon her. She had a few patches of reddened skin and some bits that looked worse, matted with dirt and a bit of blood.
Then there was Izzy, who had expertly avoided the vast majority of the acid and tumbled past claws and underbrush unscathed. I expected to find her in the best shape except perhaps for Ice Guy, and at first glance that remained true. Until I saw her left arm dangling by her side.
“So, uh,” Ceira looked at the dragon piled up in front of us. “What do we do with this? Can we eat it?”
“We should not,” I said clearly. “Dragons can be carriers of diseases from humanoids they consume.”
“Is that not true of the panther? Are we all going to get sick?” Ceira looked around at all of us with eyes wide.
“We shouldn’t,” I said. “And the panther isn’t sapient so… it’s still the better option.”
“Sapient? Like… thinking and feeling?” Ceira confirmed.
“… the dragon was?”
“It wanted to eat us,” I reminded her. Meanwhile, Ice Guy was taking a close look at Izzy. “Do you happen to have any healing skills? What are they called… cure, heal, regenerate? Something like that.”
“I-I don’t but…” Ceira bit her lip and I could see her eyes focusing on her invisible status window. “Uh, Regenerate is… too expensive. I can’t quite afford- oh I have more points.”
“Make sure you have enough mana,” I reminded her.
“It’s still not quite enough anyway. That’s level 15.”
“There should be lower level things,” I said. “I’m just not particularly familiar with healing options.”
“Cure poison… is not what we need right now,” Ceira continued. “… Replenish?”
“That certainly sounds like something in the right ballpark,” I said.
“It’s level 3. So it’s only 5 points to learn and I just got more. So who needs- Oh, Izzy!”
“Make sure you have-” I tried to warn her as she began to gather mana then fell face first onto the forest floor. “-mana.” She did brush against Izzy as she fell, and I felt the mana flow into her. That was good at least. At least, I thought it was good.
Ice Guy was putting Ceira into a more dignified position. She should wake up in a few moments.
Izzy had a pleasant smile, “Oh wow that’s-” Izzy’s smile turned into a frown, “That’s kind of odd,” she looked down at her arm, part of it still bent slightly. “Uh, at least it doesn’t hurt now.” She winced, “Unless I try to move it.”
I looked at the dragon. “Too bad we have to leave all of this here.”
“I thought we weren’t eating it?” Midnight said. “I’m not humanoid but the sapient thing-”
“Can still use its hide and scales, or claws and fangs.”
“Is that better?”
“What do you mean?”
“Using bits and pieces of a sapient thing?” Midnight asked.
“Dragon parts are really good.”
“No wonder it wanted to eat us.”
I frowned. How would that statement connect to it wanting to eat us? Oh. “I’m pretty sure it called us prey.”
“Doesn’t mean a tradition of hunting dragons to use as materials didn’t provoke this conflict,” Ice Guy said.
I shrugged. “It’s not like we had a choice here. But also… I suppose we can’t really make use of it. Though with a small amount of experience, I could triple the space of Storage.”
“Really?” Midnight perked up. “That would be so much…”
“For just me,” I clarified. “It’s already beyond what Familiar Bond supports. And upgrading Familiar Bond is less efficient point for pound.” I shook my head, “Not that I have the level yet, nor the desire to spend 30 more points on a level 1 spell.”
“Uuugh… what…?” Ceira was just coming to.
“You overused your mana,” I reminded her, kneeling down to be more at head height as she leaned back against a tree. “You should wait at least half an hour before you attempt any more. And that’s even with the greater mana regeneration rate here.”
“… Did I heal Izzy at least?”
“She’ll be fine for now,” I said. Izzy nodded.
“So,” Ice Guy said. “We really need to find somewhere to rest up. Do dragons have… lairs?”
“They should. I don’t know how easy it is to track one…” I looked at Izzy. “Since they fly.”
“Lots of claw marks,” Izzy pointed with her good arm, and the blade carried in that hand. The other one had been stowed away. “I can at least try.”
“Any shelter you find would be appreciated,” he replied. “Then we can continue to patch people up and attempt contact with home,” he looked at me. His words were authoritative and efficient, as usual. He was a good captain, but I wondered if he was upset that I hadn’t brought up Sending yesterday or this morning. Then again, we were all pretty exhausted the whole time, and even more now.
Eventually we set off, regretfully leaving the dragon behind. It was tough so it would have been a pain to dismantle to begin with, given our limited options. Izzy took the lead, somewhat more slowly I felt. Yet even so, it was Ceira who began to lag behind first as we trudged our way through the wilderness. “Do you need to take a break?” I asked.
“No, I can-” she grit her teeth. “I’m fine to keep going.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “You’re the only one not trained for this yet.” Midnight rode on my shoulder much of the time… and had four legs and a light body for the rest. But even he had endurance training as a member of the Power Brigade.
“We should eat something,” Senan agreed. “Even if our options are… limited.”
Technically, nothing stopped us from chewing the smoked jerky on the move, but Izzy found a nice spot to stop with some fallen trees to sit on. We sipped from our makeshift waterskins as we chewed the tough meat.
Since it was as good of a time as any- and my mana was recovering nicely due to the high ambient mana levels- I worked with Senan to put together a message. For Calculator, since he would properly remember it all even if he wasn’t ready to write it down.
I gathered the necessary mana, the full 10 points to make sure Sending was at maximum effectiveness given it had to cross a dimensional barrier. “Turlough reporting with Ice Guy, Midnight, and friend. Hostage rescued, entered portal. Pursued by robots. Return will be quite delayed. Status of Doctor and Swiss?”
“Did it work?” he asked.
“We’ll find out in ten or twenty minutes,” I answered. “It’s not instant. Which is why it’s useless on Earth.”
Meanwhile, another conversation was happening nearby. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to heal it wrong. I thought… I thought healing magic would just work.” Me too. But I wasn’t sure why. Other powers had their own restrictions, including the healing from Earth.
“It’s alright,” Izzy said, using her good arm to pat Ceira on the head in a comforting manner despite the huge size gulf between them. “It’s better than leaving it as it was.”
“Will it be like that… forever?”
“Just until we can fix it.”
“It can be fixed?”
“Definitely,” Izzy lied. At least, that was what I determined. She might have something in mind, but with our only healing having done that…
“Should I try again?” Ceira asked. “I’m recovered now.”
“Better to leave it for the moment,” Izzy said. “We need to keep moving. Its lair should be close.”
“I would expect a flying thing like this dragon to range a significant distance,” Ice Guy said. “Is that not correct?”
“Not with this canopy,” Izzy said. “It could fly high and out of the forest, but it wouldn’t be able to hunt anything in the forest. No way it flew at its combat speed all the time, it would exhaust itself quickly. But the signs are getting denser, and there are fewer other creatures. So regardless of what might be, I’m pretty sure we’re close to its lair.”
Shortly after we set out, I got a reply from Calculator- which was highly encouraging for multiple reasons. “Doomsday escaped. Swiss Arms injured, but recoverable. Lair self-destructed, likely including portal. Can you use Gate?” His message was a bit shorter than necessary. Either that meant there was nothing more to say, or he was being conservative to not go over. I was fairly certain it should just get cut off, but that could still cause misunderstandings.
Close was another couple hours of hiking, but on the grand scale of things that counted. We found the lair, flanked by piles of bones. Yet they didn’t seem haphazardly placed but intentional. The same was true of the insides- there was indeed one larger pile of bones and scales, but it was still organized.
“I thought dragons liked coins,” Ice Guy said. “And magic weapons.”
“They do like coins,” I said. “In general. And I would assume these bones are the most valuable thing to be found on this plane, or at least in this forest. They’re certainly… shiny. And scales from it and perhaps other dragons or something…” I frowned. “Wait, stop!” I called out to Izzy.
“Don’t worry about me,” she said. “I noticed just fine. Some kind of ward?”
“I think my staff should be able to dispel that,” I said. I pulled it out from Storage- it wasn’t useful even as a walking stick in its current tangle- and moved over to behind Izzy. “It feels like one thing, but I’m not quite sure.”
“Try this angle,” Izzy said, pointing to a particular spot. “Should be among the safest if things go wrong.”
Ultimately, the dispelling magic from the staff was sufficient to unravel the magic. I’d thought so, as it didn’t feel terribly strong, but one never knew with dragons. Which was to say, I’d never actually interacted with any, but my learning said their magic varied from only their innate breath to quite powerful, though not all dragons improved their magical capabilities.
“I need to learn the spell to fix your staff too…” Ceira commented. “I think I have enough points. Was it… Warp Wood?”
“I think so,” I said. “But we should focus on other things first.” I looked to Izzy.
“Oh yes. Since we’re fairly safe here, I think we can… take some time to work on my arm.”
“Sorry!” Ceira said.
“It’s fine. Anyway, Turlough, I need you to break my arm.”
“Okay,” I agreed.
“Whoa!” Ceira commented. “You agreed just like that?”
I tilted my head. “Why wouldn’t I? It’s to help.”
“Yeah, so…” Izzy rolled up her sleeves. “I’m not an expert, but it should look more like this, than like this,” she gestured to each arm in turn with her head. I could see a noticeable bump above her left elbow.
“Before we do that,” Senan provided some guidance, “We should prepare something for you to bite down on. First aid training and all that. And maybe some splints, in case the magic doesn’t work instantly.”
He was right, of course. Even my limited first aid training told me that much, I just didn’t have the practical experience for it all to come to mind easily. So we scurried around to prepare, ultimately using the largest part of the pelt for Izzy to lay down on- we didn’t want her to hit her head- and some conveniently sized bones shaped into a pseudo-splint we would wrap around her arm if it seemed necessary.
“Mrrmph.” Izzy pulled the bit of hide out of her mouth. “Ugh, gross. I’m ready. Or… next time I mutter that.”
I nodded. “Okay.” I made sure she had the thing back in her mouth, then I placed my hands on her arm. They barely fit on her upper arm together, but in a way that would make this easier. I had to do this properly. If I didn’t provide enough force, it wouldn’t be clean… but I didn’t want to push too far, either. It wasn’t clear exactly what was going on under the skin, but we wanted the bones to line up properly. I didn’t have much magic that could help with this. Speeding myself up or slowing her perception of time both seemed like problematic options that could lead to unintended results. For example, with Slow her perception of time was slowed the pain would come and go more quickly- Haste would do the opposite, dragging it out. One might overwhelm her, and the other would just prolong suffering.
I took a good long look at the good arm, seeing where muscles and bone lay, then did my best to set or possibly break and then set this bone in Izzy’s arm. The bad news was that her body was somewhat tougher from having levels, but the good news was that I was quite strong and the effect of levels on durability only stretched so far for classes like ours. Like Earth’s superpowers, we were generally tougher but nothing like even a newbie with an actual durability power.
The sound wasn’t very pleasant, nor were the moments of moving things around trying to line them up. I snapped something into what I thought was the right place. “Ceira. Now.”
Mana flowed through her and out of her continuously. It was odd, seeing magic function like that. As for the visible effects, there were only minor sparkles around the wound. Everything should be internal anyway.
It was good that Izzy was biting down on something, because it sounded quite unpleasant. But, after a few moments Ceira stopped. “I think that’s all I can do at once. If you give me a second I can do another burst…?”
Izzy shook her head, using her good arm to pull the panther hide strip out of her mouth. “I think it’s better. We should let it heal on its own some.” She poked it. “Still tender. Maybe we’ll splint it just in case?”
“Are you sure I shouldn’t do more?”
“I’m not sure we should use too much magic at once,” Izzy said.
“Speaking of which… what level is that?”
“3,” Ceira said. “Why?”
“Because you used at least 6 points of mana, which should be impossible.” And not just in the I-was-told-it-worked-that-way, but also having specifically tried to get around those limitations myself. “Is that spell special?”
“I don’t know,” Ceira admitted. “Uh, I guess I can try Warp Wood now? I already spent the points.”
“Oh,” I nodded. “Then yes please,” I handed my staff to her. “Careful, there’s a metal core. In that straight bit there, but I don’t know if you can pop that out on accident.”
“I’ll just work around it,” she said. I felt the mana gather then flow from her to the staff- an even 4 points. It certainly straightened somewhat, but only part of it. “Uh, I can do that again. Might as well use my mana before we sleep, right?”
That was true. It seemed like it would take more than a handful of uses for her to fully restore the staff- either because it was more difficult to straighten or her lack of understanding. Though she should only have one more use at the moment. I also prepared to spend some mana for Sending. Maybe one or two myself, and maybe Midnight could provide another. It was more important that we had some mana in reserve if something attacked in the night, so I wasn’t planning to completely drain us.