Our party didn’t immediately return to adventuring at our former level. Besides the fact that my gear was inferior to what it had been, we hadn’t fought together for over a month, discounting the rescue of Kantrilla. It was important to get used to exactly what people were capable of, and to get back into good habits. For that, we returned to the goblin dungeon.
Because I didn’t need to use much mana for fighting, I managed to gain more proficiency in light magic. Not much, but second level light magic was much better. I could do more, or use mana more efficiently for the same amount.
After a week, we were ready to get back into action. None of us were particularly keen on doing more in dungeons for a while. They were always dark and dreary, and there wasn’t a good one near Ekralas for people our level. Well, the rest of the party’s level. There were absolutely no dungeons fit for level -11 people, or even level 0 people. However, my attributes ended up around right still, since Strength grew so easily for me and I had trained everything else as well. It was a bit depressing to not kill things as easily, but that helped me improve my technique. I had relied a bit too much on just bashing things to death. Khyrmin had showed me that, but it was only when I actually lost Strength that I really started to improve in some other areas. Nothing crazy, but I could feel the improvements in technique.
We took a quest to go hunt giant eagles. A nest had moved into an area, and livestock had been killed. Some of the giant eagles were big enough to carry off calves, but all of them were able to kill a cow or even a bull. In a way, having an entire calf go missing was worse than finding a half-eaten cow carcass. Though the ranchers had guards, they couldn’t go hunt down any attackers that fled. Thus, our job.
One good thing about giant eagles was that they were easy to spot. They mostly relied on their size and speed to catch prey, rather than stealth. There was only so much that could be done to hide a twenty foot wingspan. The only way to really miss them was to not look up at the sky at all. They could hide above the clouds, but they couldn’t move the clouds to their whims and eventually they had to come out. However, even if we could see them, hitting them was another matter. Even if I could hit a target a hundred yards away, that didn’t apply straight up against a moving target, and I couldn’t throw something a mile or more in the air no matter how much I tried. Fortunately, their size made Halette’s main job easy, though their nesting location didn’t make our hike easy.
“Why is your armor so hard, Llyr?” Kasner complained.
“Do you want me to carry you or not?” I retorted.
“… Please keep carrying me.”
Kasner could manage walking on flat ground or even many sorts of rough terrain, but the inability to bend his missing knee (without using magic) and the lack of any sort of path made his climb up the mountainside troublesome for him. Perhaps it was a hillside, I wasn’t sure the exact cutoff… but it didn’t matter. It was a place that sloped up from the terrain around it. Because of that, Kasner would have had to climb more than he walked, whereas even I could step up most of the rises. Because of that, I was carrying him. The one benefit of that was he kept me cool, otherwise I would have been sweating everywhere inside my armor.
Socks sniffed the air, then barked lightly. “What’s that, girl? Found the scent?” Halette asked. Socks barked once more in acknowledgement. “You heard her. We should be close to the nest. Be prepared for an attack.”
Even with that, it was another hour of hiking before we found their nest. Or, before Socks and Halette found their nest. I couldn’t see one, nor would I have guessed a giant eagle lived anywhere nearby if anyone had asked. How could they hide a nest the size of a house?
The short answer, of course, was on top of something. The long answer was on top of a rock outcrop and also nestled away in a crevice. There weren’t any trees around large enough to support giant eagles, so that made the most sense, but I wouldn’t have been able to find it without searching every rock outcropping on the entire hill or mountain.
Climbing up the outcropping wasn’t exactly difficult, but Halette was the one climbing ahead so she had it much harder. I still had to carry Kasner, and while he could have pulled his way up a rope… it was better if he only had to be attached to me. That way he had his hands free for any magicing we needed him to do… such as a giant eagle flying toward us and trying to rip us off the outcropping.
Fortunately, giant eagles weren’t well versed in magic, and lightning magic was especially hard to dodge. It was nearly instantaneous, which meant that the eagle fried and started falling out of the sky immediately. No matter how big they were, they were still birds. They were a bit more delicate than other sorts of creatures… and Kasner didn’t exactly conserve his mana. “Phew! I thought it was going to eat me…” I couldn’t argue with that thought. I’d thought it might eat me and I was much bigger than Kasner and covered in armor.
We reached the top of the outcropping to find a nest full of eggs the size of basketballs, in their widest parts. They were huge, which made sense based on the creatures they were for. After all, ostrich ages were giant, and they didn’t grow nearly as large. Then we heard the cry of another eagle. Well, of course there was another. Eggs didn’t exactly hatch on their own. Fortunately, we had our footing, so we could all pull out our weapons to fight.