(Patreon) Strength Chapter 41

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When I was in Trona, I hadn’t really noticed the lack of an important fantasy feature, but after coming to Ekralas and it was no longer missing, I certainly started to notice it. That is, people that weren’t human. Othya was a predominantly human country, but that didn’t mean there weren’t others. I could remember possibly seeing a halfling in Trona, but Ekralas was much bigger and more prosperous. The adventurer’s guild was also a good place to get more people who were stood out in any case.

The first example I really noticed was the guildmaster… Timmy. He was ten feet tall and once I heard that he was half-giant, everything started to make sense. I did have to wonder how big full giants were, if that was the case. It also explained why Ralph was so much more… normal sized. They were only half brothers.

I had seen a few others around, but not really talked to any of them. What was I supposed to say, “Hey, are you a dwarf?” Perhaps the short, wide, bearded fellows would take offense to that name. Though, calling them short was really not appropriate for me, as we were almost the same height.

I suddenly had a good excuse to talk to a dwarf when Kantrilla and I went to interview with the first party. There she was, a member of the party and obviously a dwarf. The thing was, she wasn’t so obviously a she. The beard threw me off, but the other features gave it away. Apparently my scrutiny was quite obvious, as she stood up and spoke to me, “What, aintcha never seen a dwarf before?” She grinned, then looked me up and down, “If I didn’t know better, I might almost think you were a skinny, beardless dwarf yourself, with that height.”

I could tell her words were intended in good humor, and though I didn’t particularly like being called short, from someone just an inch shorter than me it didn’t sound like an insult so much as a factual observation. “You don’t think I could be a dwarf? I stroked my chin which only had a little bit of fuzz, and that was without shaving for… ever. “You’re right though, I haven’t seen many dwarves. We didn’t get many where I came from.” Plus, the dwarves where I came from were something different, and still humans. I was glad to learn that dwarves, at least, went by an expected name… or at least my brain translated it that way. It did seem to carry the same meaning of short, though.

The dwarf turned to Kantrilla after the initial banter with me. “Oh, looks like we come with a big one too! Quite an odd pair you two make. I’m Vamrehulda.” She stuck out her hand to shake, and Kantrilla and I did so, in that order.

Behind Vamrehulda was a large man, and unless my instincts were lying to me, he was a barbarian. Perhaps he just didn’t have on the right sort of gear to cover up his bulging muscles at the moment, but the way he moved made me feel he recognized his own Strength, and was proud of it. “I’m Gil.” He also stuck out his hand to shake.

“Llyr.” Gil had a firm grip, and I returned with an equally firm one of my own. However, before we let go, Gil squeezed a little tighter… and so did I. The cycle continued until it started to really hurt my hand… at which point we seemed to reach the conclusion to let go at the same moment.

“Oh, you’re pretty strong. Gotta work on that Toughness though.” Gil nodded a few times, “I’ll admit, I almost doubted which of you was the Martial Apprentice and which of you was the cleric, even with her garb.”

“Yeah… you wouldn’t be the first.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much about my looks. My muscles just weren’t huge like the numbers said they should have been. Even if bonus points didn’t count toward that, my base Strength values should have been high enough for that… but instead they only looked moderate. At least I no longer looked like I would fall over in a stiff breeze- and at one point that would have even been true, if I had even managed to stand.

Behind the two of them was a rather skinny fellow in a robe. I wondered what it was about magic users and robes… though at least his looked practical enough to be able to move in. That was rather important for a dungeon. He introduced himself next, “I’m Vardan. Warlock.” Kantrilla gasped, and he rolled his eyes, “Oh, don’t be like that. It’s not like all warlocks are ineffably evil. I haven’t sold my soul to a devil or anything. I just use dark magic that weakens enemies instead of light magic that makes allies better. It’s quite useful, you know?”

“Ahaha… sorry.” Kantrilla bowed her head, “You know how stories are.”

“Quite. Now then, let us get started.” He gestured to the table they had been sitting at.

“Drinks for everyone!” Vamrehulda said enthusiastically.

Gil held up his hands, “While I do love a good celebration party, it’s not exactly time just yet. Perhaps we should save the drinking for later, yes?”

“Pfft, spoilsport.” Vamrehulda shook her head, causing her beard to wave back and forth. “Well, I suppose it is a bit early.”

We spent a good hour discussing what our plans were- what Kantrilla and I wanted, and what they wanted. Of course it was also important to see if the party roles were properly covered and if we got along well. If we joined the party it would be fairly balanced, though a bit lacking on the defensive side. On the other hand, everyone had to take care of themselves for the most part, and barbarians weren’t incapable of controlling the flow of enemies. They were certainly enough of a threat that enemies couldn’t just ignore them and run past, and they were capable of sustaining a large amount of damage. Though they were a bit older than us, probably late 20’s to early 30’s, I thought Kantrilla and I could fit into the party… but there were still more to check out. We might even find a better match.

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