Nails were pounded into his head rhythmically. Each swing of the hammer throbbed as the nails dug deeper into his skull. Fred just wished he could die, but he didn’t even have that choice. It was like the worst hangover he’d ever experienced. Had he actually let someone convince him to try out some of those harder dwarven spirits? I don’t remember that, Fred thought as much as his pounding head would let him, But would I remember it? The strange thing was, hangovers didn’t usually come with a fever and he was burning up.
At some point he must have groaned from the pain. He heard a voice from beyond the hammers. “You will be alright, Frederick.” The stabs belied the truth of the words even as they were spoken. “It’s just extreme mana deprivation. Since you woke up… you will recover.” Stabs made his eyes hurt even more as he vaguely tried to open them. He almost didn’t hear the whispers after that, “…I hope…”
Eventually someone forced him to drink some water, which did nothing to ease the burning heat throughout his body. After gruel was spooned into his mouth he managed to pass out again. When he finally awoke once more… everything was merely half as bad as it had been. He opened up his eyes. “…Tath? Did we die?”
“I will take that as an attempt at humor,” Tath smiled, revealing some rather sharper teeth than humans had, “The fact that you spoke at all is good.” Tath looked around, though they were in a small room where nobody would see them. He leaned in closer and kept his voice low. “You’ve been experiencing extreme mana deprivation, from applying my aptitude. I’ve kept the details secret, in case you didn’t wish to share. I had heard it was quite difficult but… if this happens to you every time, I can understand why you would want to keep it secret.”
Fred held his head, though both his hand and face burned as they touched. It at least seemed to limit the throbbing pain. “Don’t know. Never done it before.”
“Never…? I suppose I will not ask,” Eustathios inclined his head, “I’m sure you had your reasons. I would like to thank you for choosing to assist me. I can feel the aptitude took hold, though I haven’t yet had much opportunity to attempt to learn.”
“What time… how long was I out?” Fred briefly attempted to sit up, but immediately dropped back onto the cot again.
“It has been six days. Helvia was quite concerned that her guidance was lacking. She was able to recognize mana deprivation and was unaware why. I tried to assure her it was not her fault but…” Tath shrugged, “I could not really tell her what happened.”
Fred turned onto his side, where he saw Brick looking at him anxiously. “Oh hey buddy,” he reached a hand out, which promptly got licked. “Good to see you.”
“He has been by your side the entire time. He was barely even willing to let me carry you back here.”
Fred smiled, “Thanks for the protection, Brick, but Tath is a friend.” Brick nodded, as if acknowledging he already knew that.
The next day Fred was up on his feet. He wouldn’t say he was recovered, but he was at least able to move about. His entire body ached, though nothing as much as his head. His fever was lower as well, though his ability to work was… minimal. At least he learned some things.
|Name: Frederick Hughes|
|Points available: 3↑|
Animal Handling (3)↑
View Status (3)↑
Water Mana Gathering (1)↑
Water Control (1)↑
Fire Mana Gathering (1)↑
Skill Setting (1)↑
There were always extremes for things. Never before had he gotten his first level in a skill after a single action. Then again, most actions didn’t take a week to recover from. He’d also gotten a level… the whole difficulty thing again. He’d also discovered a quick way to jump start his mana gathering skills. Just give someone an aptitude and nearly kill yourself. Easy.
His common sense about the world let him know about mana deprivation, when someone used too much mana at once. He was aware of it, but usually it was harder to achieve such a state… and usually if it was going to happen on accident it would have occurred earlier in his life. But since he’d only had access to a world with mana for… two months now? And no way to use it until the last month or so… he hadn’t run into the issue yet.
The frightening part was how easy it was to go past his limits. It hadn’t felt so difficult when he was doing it. He’d just been going with the flow. However, thinking back… he hadn’t drawn that much fire out of the air, but mostly out of himself. In theory, people had mana of all types within themselves… in some quantities, at least.
So… how could he use it again? First, Fred was never going to attempt it after training magic. He hadn’t been particularly tired, but that was likely a factor. Starting with smaller skill settings would be better. A twenty point aptitude wasn’t the highest things went, but when compared to starting with a single point skill… it was a bit much. Perhaps Tath would still want some of those skills. Fred was interested in keeping his ability secret for a bit longer. Not forever, because having an ability that people could benefit from was a good thing, especially in a place like they were, but he wanted to be able to do it without harming himself first. In addition to that, not everyone liked skill setters.
Common perceptions of them were greedy and haughty. It was a rare ability, apparently. Fred was fairly certain he would have been able to set his own skills regardless of anything else, since he was from another world… but the ability to do it for others was likely made more possible by his aptitude for Leadership. If he thought about it, he got the idea it was in that category. It was possible that everyone could learn it, but without an aptitude… maybe they would just kill themselves? Especially if they started with an expensive aptitude. It was nice to save up for an aptitude instead of just buying early ranks of skills that would just get harder to level up. Not everyone made that choice, but perhaps enough.
Fred thought about adding aptitude as a skill setter. He wasn’t sure if it was possible without someone to potentially add it to, but he thought it might be. He could see why skill setters might not be interested in doing that, though. It was a valuable skill… and having more competition meant less money for them. Doubtless there were some who were more altruistic and simply never considered it, but it was easy to want to be unique. Fred found himself wondering if sharing it would be a problem… though it also wouldn’t be a cheap aptitude. Brick… could not have it, so he couldn’t check. That was probably for the best, though Fred wondered how wild animals spent their points… if they even could. There were tales of dangerous magical beasts that continually grew stronger… perhaps those were ones who learned to set their own skills.
There was a lot of time to sit around and think, though Fred hated it. First of all because sitting around was boring… and second because the village really needed everyone working. They also didn’t have something like sick days. Not formalized, certainly. If he was too much of a burden… it was unlikely he would be abandoned, but people wouldn’t like him. Being shunned by the community would be quite inconvenient. So Fred had to work hard on recovering… which involved not working hard at all. It was awful. Especially since he had been taking up Tath’s room instead of his place in the bunkhouse.
Helvia came to find him the next day. She’d theoretically been around before, but not when he was conscious. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think you would push yourself that hard. I should have said-”
Fred held up a hand to stop her. “Don’t worry. This wasn’t your fault. If it had been… I would forgive you. Everyone makes mistakes. This time, it was just me.” Fred smiled, “I’m an adult man. I should know how mana deprivation works.” Now he did. For real, and not just as knowledge he’d never really interacted with.
“I still feel bad…”
“Don’t. Though me telling you not to won’t change anything, I’m sure,” Fred shrugged, “People can’t just change how they feel. So don’t feel bad about feeling bad either. How’s the progress been?”
“Growth is pretty good in the fields. I’ve been monitoring the water levels. Could use a couple more people pulling weeds though. I recruited some folk but… it doesn’t feel quite the same as those you send over.”
That would be the Command skill working, probably. The actual ability to pick out weeds and such among those who didn’t actually work in that area likely varied less than ten percent… so they would be better by some noticeable degree. Plus Fred knew the more friendly people. “I’ll try to send some people over. I’m not up for heavy labor right now anyway, so I can contribute as well. It won’t involve using mana, so it should be fine.” His entire body still ached, though.