Traveling through Escait would have been miserable without Socks. We couldn’t be sure whether anyone would be looking for us or not, so stopping at cities to stay at an inn wasn’t a good idea. Without mounts, news would be guaranteed to travel faster than us, even if they didn’t consider it urgent enough for messenger birds or some form of magic. Socks turned miserable into merely unpleasant by finding little caves and such for us to spend the nights in.
The only problem was that sometimes those caves were occupied. Socks could tell when that was the case, but if it was our best option… then we just had to clear them out. That was how I found myself facing off against a snake whose head was as big as mine. Unfortunately, with the snake being in a cave I couldn’t exactly attack from a long distance with my sling- and even if I could, it was just an improvised one we’d thrown together. That left my spear.
Strictly speaking I wasn’t alone. There were only three snakes, and we had a full party. Alhorn, Socks, and I faced off against different ones because we were the ones who had to be up close. Kasner and Halette would support us from the back, along with Kantrilla- though hopefully we didn’t need Kantrilla much. A blessing of Dexterity was nice, but requiring healing meant something had gone wrong.
The snake finally decided to strike. It was fast- especially for something that huge. I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of it preparing to strike in time to use Martial Trance. Once I saw its trajectory, all I had to do was guide my spear tip into its open mouth. That was easier said than done, but we only had a few battles per day so I could spare the mana. The snake impaled itself right on the spear, the momentum behind it forcing me to use most of my Strength just to keep my position. If the snake had recognized the danger of my spear, the fight would have been much tougher.
Kasner froze the one Alhorn was facing off against, though it couldn’t have done much to bite through his armor anyway. Socks… actually got in a very dangerous looking tussel. She crunched down on the middle of the snake while it actually sunk its fangs into her. Well, it tried to anyway. Socks’ fur was almost as strong as iron now, and the skin underneath was tougher than leather. It didn’t manage to bite deep, so Kantrilla easily removed the venom.
After we confirmed there were no more snakes in the cave, Kantrilla sat down and sighed, “I can’t wait for all of this to be over.”
I nodded. Things had been especially tough on Kantrilla, since she was still recovering from two weeks of terrible treatment. During the first few days of travel she seemed to stub her toe or nearly twist her ankle every other step. Even so, we still had to continue moving. When she had trouble walking, Socks or I would carry her for a while- though Socks wasn’t very good for riding on. I could carry her piggyback just fine for an extended period… but that was awkward for reasons just beyond the fact that my back got sweaty.
“We’ll be out of here soon,” Halette said from where she was starting a fire, “Tomorrow we should reach the Golden Eagle. It’s enough off the direct route that nobody should be looking there anyway… if they even have any knowledge it was us.”
Kasner shrugged, “I’ll just be happy when we don’t have to sleep in caves. They’re too… hard.”
“You can sleep outside if you want,” Alhorn gestured. “I’m sure the night monsters wouldn’t mind a good snack.”
“Very funny,” Kasner turned up his nose, “But you know I’d barely be worth their time.”
Especially given the circumstances, I was remarkably happy now that the party back together. It was nice. It was too bad that Kasner would probably go back to retirement afterwards, but he’d come to help anyway and that was the sign of a true friend. Maybe if I’d trusted in my friends more I wouldn’t have gotten myself into my own personal stupid mess.
“What’s wrong, Llyr?” Kantrilla moved next to me. She could always tell when I was thinking something depressing.
“Just thinking about this whole stupid situation. But I can’t complain much with you being alright. Well… alive.”
“I am alright,” Kantrilla smiled. “I’m pretty healthy and didn’t need all that Luck anyway.”
Kasner laughed, “That’s the sort of attitude that got you a Blessing of Luck in the first place.”
Kantrilla shrugged, “Well, maybe. Either way, it’s not like I earned any of that Luck. And… I’m recovering. At least, my Luck is back to 80 now.”
Alhorn grinned, “I never thought there would be a day when you had the lowest Luck in the party. Though I do wish we could give it back.”
“Oh, I have an idea!” Halette grinned and stood up, walking over next to Kantrilla. Then she rubbed her hands against Kantrilla’s cheeks. “Maybe it will rub off!”
“Good idea!” I stood up and started tussling Kantrilla’s hair.
Alhorn and Kasner joined it, and somehow it turned into a situation where everyone was tickling each other. That was fun until Socks jumped onto the pile… then it was even more fun. For Socks, anyway. Soon enough I found myself wrestling her to give everyone else a chance to get away from the licking monster. That inevitably meant I was the one who got covered in wolf slobber, but Kasner could help me clean that off with a little water magic.
Alternatively, I could do it myself. Since I had some spare time, I trained in water magic, getting it all the way to… level 1. That wasn’t much to speak of, but for a few days it wasn’t bad at all. It helped that I had a lot of Focus for someone just learning magic, and thus a decent mana pool. I’d also already learned one type of magic- even if my Light magic was also level 1. The point was, practice in controlling mana helped a lot. So did not getting a penalty to learning magic from having a martial class.