While dragons most certainly had a desire for comfort, the definitional differences between comfort for a scaled and winged quadruped and a humanoid were quite significant. At least everyone had bundles of pelt to soften the stone floors of the cave and keep us warm, but I was also keenly aware of how much proper camping equipment would make a difference.
“I hate everything and want to sleep in a real bed again,” I said.
“Agreed,” Izzy said.
“Aren’t you supposed to like the wilderness?” Ice Guy asked.
“Not necessarily. And only on purpose.”
“Same here,” Ceira echoed.
“I’m a metropolis dweller,” Midnight added.
Breakfast was the same thing. Panther and tuna. And we were going to run out of the former soon enough, because we could only carry so much. With five people eating- realistically closer to four in actual consumption given our two smallest members- we only really had enough for a few days. Technically we could eat less, but hiking all day wouldn’t be possible without nourishment. Speaking of which…
“… All my muscles hurt,” Ceira commented. “Can Replenish fix that?”
I shrugged, “I guess you can find out. Do be conservative with your mana though, even if we recover quickly here.”
I felt her use a few points of mana. “I feel better, but that might be placebo. Anyone else- Ah, Izzy. What about your arm? Let me take another look.”
Before actually looking, she did perform some more of her healing magic. At worst, it should have no effect. I did feel it dance around inside the arm, and it was likely there was still some damage there.
Then we took off the wrappings and splints. “Ow,” Izzy said.
“Still hurts?” Ceira asked.
“I think it was too tight. Blood is returning along with a reminder of feelings.” She rotated her arm around, trying to help the process or at least recontextualize the tingling pain. “I think it’s mostly better,” she said, poking her upper arm with her opposite hand. “But uh,” she sniffed. “It wasn’t exactly breathable.”
“Time for a round of Clean spells, then,” I said. “Probably on all of us.”
Between Midnight and I we spent probably twenty mana on the whole thing. Maybe that was excessive, but instead of it taking a couple hours to recover that mana we could expect it to only take half an hour, perhaps less. Ceira added a bit of healing to all of us, and it did certainly help with muscle aches. Not the internal issues, but those were probably getting better on their own.
“I need to get some sort of shelter spell,” I said.
“Wouldn’t I be the one to get it?” Ceira asked. “Like, transforming the surroundings into… something?”
“I’d just conjure a temporary house. Or mansion,” I said.
“Oh, can you?”
“Not without points to spend. I should level up soon, though,” I looked over at Senan.
“We’re not sparring here,” he said flatly.
“What about when we get to our stopping point tonight? We have protections and healing magic and I only need literally 3 experience.”
“I’m not sure,” he said, arms folded.
“It will come with beds.”
“I’m in,” Izzy said before he did. “You just need to fight, right?”
“Right,” I nodded. “Though it might take a couple evenings. Otherwise I could be at level 50 or something if I averaged multiple points of experience every day of casual effort.”
“That sure would be convenient,” Izzy replied. “But we should probably get moving. No telling when those robots will catch up to us.”
“They might not even have a portal to go back through,” I grumbled. “I wonder if I can slag them with Chain Lightning?”
“They should be fairly well protected against damage,” Senan replied. “But their energy sources are most likely limited. But first you would have to be protected against explosions and bullets.”
“Stoneskin and Energy Ward together should cover that… but you have made an excellent point about not getting in a straightforward fight with them.” I frowned, “Oh right, one thing about the Shelter spell. I need dirt and rocks and wood, I think.”
“What for?” Ceira asked.
“As a focus. It represents the foundation and structure. There might be more there that I’m missing?”
“Doesn’t the status thing say things like that?”
“How did anyone figure it out?”
“Uh… good question,” I admitted. “Maybe people invented these?”
“How would they be on every spell list then? Wouldn’t you have to learn from someone?”
“Listen,” I replied. “Some of that information was intentionally obfuscated and I don’t know why. I think Master Uvithar knows more, but it was a risk for him to share.”
“Oh.” Ceira frowned, “That sucks. Hiding information everyone should have access to.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“I would say that there might be legitimate safety concerns,” Senan commented, “Except the information you currently have instead leads to you experimenting in risky ways. So they’re clearly not worried about the individual, if there even are valid concerns.”
We were already off, traipsing through the woods. Our conversations were kept relatively quiet, and infrequent because we’d just run out of things to say. Like how we wanted to be back home, or at least somewhere comfortable.
I did notice some oddities in the forest itself. Perhaps many less than Izzy was noticing, but some things couldn’t escape even the untrained eye. “Are we getting smaller?”
“I think it’s more reasonable to assume that the trees are getting bigger,” Senan pointed out. “And everything else. But… do you detect any magic?”
“This forest is brimming with it. But it’s mostly free mana,” I admitted. “Not active spells. Just to be safe though,” I activate Arcane Sight. “It doesn’t seem like there’s anything. Nothing I can detect.”
“I can confirm things are bigger,” Ceira said. “The dirt particles are pretty much the same size, even if the leaves and ferns and undergrowth are also larger.”
“I guess I was just looking at things the wrong way,” I admitted. “Soon enough these will be as big as those great sequoias. But everything else matches.”
“It’s good we’re not getting smaller,” Izzy said. “As it’s already inconvenient to be a halfling. At least that other world has places optimized for us smaller individuals…”
“Not people without hands, though,” Midnight pointed out. “It’s a good thing I have magic.”
“Speaking of magic,” I said. “Should… would it be better for you to try to get your own class?” Even bringing it up made me nervous. I didn’t want Midnight to be dependent on me, but sometimes I had the feeling Midnight was only my friend because of magic.
Immediately, I was hit with a wave of his feelings, but just because they were completely different on the topic didn’t suddenly stop my own doubts. “Bonds are not so easily broken. Neither that of Celmothians, nor I suspect that of familiars and mages.” He flicked his tail, “And I don’t want to.”
“I guess you’ll just have to live with my choices, then,” I shrugged, trying to repair the mood.
“One of those choices should be improving Familiar Bond since you have several spells with 5 total upgrades. And others that might get there soon.”
“Fair enough. Should easily fit in with Shelter.”
“Speaking of which,” Izzy said. “What sort of dirt do you need?”
“… Let’s just go with a sample of various kinds,” I said. “I don’t need much.”
“Where are you going to keep it?”
“In Storage,” I said.
“… Won’t that get dirt on our food?”
“No,” I shook my head. “Everything is stored separately.”
Ceira turned at that. “Like… each grain of sand?”
“Each handful,” I said. “Specifically determined by the packet of stuff I put in. Though if the limit of multiple is below the weight I can retrieve at once, I can retrieve multiple packets.”
“Perhaps,” I admitted. “But so it is.”
We continued along in peace, and I was surprised at how little danger we had encountered. I expected to be beset by even bigger wild beasts as we moved into a place of larger trees. I did not voice my thoughts, however, because I did not want to ruin the moment.
“How about this?” Izzy asked. “Got some sand, and clay. You said you needed rocks?”
“Yes, um, just some small ones. But I’m not sure precisely what kind.”
“Just splinters,” I said.
“Do you need something for mortar?” Ceira asked. I turned to look at her, tilting my head. “… What? Since I started my new channel I had to research the genre. People don’t just make lean-tos or tiny cabins with sticks, you know. Speaking of sticks, does your staff count? Or would that be bad? Will the spell eat it?”
“The spell will not… eat it. These are not material components, but a focus.”
“… I don’t get it,” Ceira said.
“They are to make one recall the necessary features, or sometimes to form the heart of a construct. They are not magical themselves, like diamond dust.”
“Pretty sure diamond dust isn’t magical,” Ceira said. “Don’t you get artificial diamond dust?”
“Does not energy go into them when they are made? That imbues them with the properties required.” Probably. “Look, if I start questioning it now Stoneskin might stop working, okay? This would be a bad place for that.”
“Right,” Ceira nodded.
We stopped for lunch during the afternoon, still having encountered no violence. Ceira took the time to Replenish Izzy’s arm, as it was still apparently sore, if functional. She also spend some effort on repairing my staff. Another day or two and it would be good as new, which just went to show how easy it was to totally screw it up. I couldn’t imagine that particular druid had hundreds of points invested in one spell, though. So there had to be something more to it than ranked improvements. Perhaps a lack of confidence, or an unclear image. But I wasn’t going to complain about an impossible task being done over a few days.
“It’s getting late,” Izzy said. “So the next thing I find resembling shelter is where we set up camp.” That thing turned out to be a half rotted of what had once been a massive tree, the insides having all melted away into a layer of thick dirt, while a shell of mainly bark was still a foot or so thick. I could have stood upon my own shoulders and still not been able to reach the top. It wasn’t terribly deep, not because the tree wasn’t tall but because the rest was simply filled up with dirt and unrotted wood. “I guess this will do,” Izzy said. “But tomorrow I want to sleep in a bed.”
She turned around to punch me in the gut, and then we were scrapping. It brought back so many memories, mostly good. However, those memories also came with bad habits. When we were of a similar size, Izzy had also been lower level. Thus, grabbing her forearm and tossing her had been vaguely within the realm of possibility. Now I was much better at grappling… and she was as slippery as an eel.
When everything ended my lip was bleeding- though not from a direct hit. Instead she’d leapt up to punch my jaw, and that caused me to bite my lip. Or maybe my tusk sliced it.
“Wow,” Izzy shook her hand, “Are you made of rocks? This is why scouts are supposed to use weapons, I guess.”
“I hope you didn’t break it,” I said.
“No, it should be fine in a bit,” she said. “But…”
Ceira sighed, “I do have healing magic now. But did you have to draw blood?”
“Yes,” Izzy said with confidence.
“More serious is better experience,” I concurred. Speaking of which, I checked my experience. Still one short. Only 2 points for all that? Then again, neither of us were laid out flat on the ground, so what could I expect?
Izzy got her hand healed, and I my lip. Then we were lying in the half-shelter around us. Everything was going to be so dirty in the morning.
“Hey Turlough,” Izzy said.
“… The beds aren’t going to be made of rock and dirt, are they?”
“… no way,” I said. “Who would ever make a spell like that?”
“Do you need a focus for sheets?”
“I… don’t know,” I shook my head. “We have cloth, though.” We were just wearing it. But that was fine, since it wouldn’t be consumed by the spell. I would have to make sure to consider that as part of the focuses though. I didn’t want a sheet made out of splinters. Or perhaps the default was bare frames? That made me worry about what the spell actually did. But if it didn’t work right… I’d just have to force it to.