“Ah, I can’t believe we wasted a day on that…” (Cat girl)
“I know, right? What a useless bunch. They didn’t even last half a day.” (Human girl)
“I think we spent more time on the wagon going up there and back.” (Cat girl)
“Aaaah~! I wish those hunks we woke up with woulda let us party up with them.” (Human girl)
“Yeah, mine musta been real strong. And vigorous. I’m still sore. Wish I could remember what he was like in the sack better.” (Cat girl)
“Two mugs of ale. Two silvers.” (Bunny girl)
“Thanks. Here. He musta been pretty good, judging from the sound I was hearing through the walls. You’re loud, girl.” (Human girl)
“You remember yours?” (Cat girl)
“I sorta sobered up toward the end there. I think he was pretty good, but mostly I remember you howling like a wolf.” (Human girl)
“How rude! I do not howl like a wolf!” (Cat girl)
“Waroooooo!” (Human girl.)
“You wanna piece of me?!!” (Cat girl)
“Know what mine told me? He said we danced on the table completely naked in front of everyone!” (Human girl)
“No way! I’m sure I’d remember that!” (Cat girl)
“It’s true. I can confirm it.” (Fairy Vampire Girl)
The two simultaneously turned and stared at me.
I confirmed, “That was you two, drinking at the ‘Laughing Unicorn’ inn last night, right?”
Human girl cleared her throat and then took a swig of ale. Cat girl said, “Yeah?”
“I was worried when those two carried you off, but Ana said they were good guys.”
“Who’s Ana?” cat girl asked.
“The tavern girl,” I explained after wiping my mouth from my latest swig of ale. Then an idea hit me. “Hey, you don’t have a party?”
Cat girl grimaced and shook her head. “It’s gotten more dangerous in there lately, so they changed the minimum party to three members the other day. We always work as a pair, but now we can’t do that no more.”
I nodded and tipped my head. “Well… I need to go in there to search for some friends. I don’t want to take any requests, so I would need to pay you to party up with me, right?”
“Eight gelder a day,” Cat girl said immediately.
“Hm,” I scratched my temple with an index finger. “Come to think of it, I need to find a money changer. Most of the money I have is Orestanian…”
“Quarter crown per day,” she immediately responded.
My eyes bugged. “Even for both of you together, that’s too expensive!”
A quarter crown is four sovereigns. And by the way, it’s close to twice as much as six gelder. Which means she badly inflated the price when we switched to Orestanian money.
A basic foot soldier costs a sovereign a day to hire. Two sovereigns gets a top-ranked, highly-skilled veteran, like a squad leader.
Are you two a full squad?
“Isn’t that completely unreasonable? One sovereign a day for each.”
Human girl pulled out her dagger and started cleaning under her fingernails. I imagine she intended to seem intimidating. Well, she was a lot taller than me, so maybe it was?
“Look, little girl,” she said, “You’re wearing fairy armor and you’re pretty and you got smooth skin and all, so you probably fool a lot of people, but I think you ain’t no real fairy knight. You’re just a rich little missy playing adventurer, right? The mines are a dangerous place. You should pay the price to let your big sisters protect you.”
During the last sentence, she had been waving her dagger loosely my direction instead of cleaning her nails, which left it just close enough to pull this off. I reached out, got my fingers on the tip of the blade, and bent it sideways.
No, I am not actually that strong. My fairy blood lets me do things like that. Iron goes weak the moment I touch it, which is the reason I can’t use steel or iron in anything. I can deal with iron stairs and such because all my boots and shoes have bicorn leather soles, but nothing flexible enough for making gloves or gauntlets insulates the effect, so I can’t touch iron handrails or use iron implements like her dagger. I have to carry my own tableware made of brass because of this, and this is also the reason I use a fairy steel dagger and a mithril sword.
I should use silver instead of brass? Nope. Gives me rashes, remember? Oh the joys of being half fairy and half vampire…
“I’ll reimburse you for the blade,” I commented airily. “What were you saying about playing adventurer?”
Human girl didn’t answer. She was too busy staring at the deformed blade.
Cat girl, who had also gawked for a bit, caught herself, shook her head, cleared her throat, met my eyes and stated, “A sovereign each isn’t enough, Milady. We’ll do it for three sovereigns each.”
“I’ll give you three for the two of you together.”
Cat girl sighed, and came down to what I believed was closer to the market price, based on military pay. “Two sovereigns each. That’s final.”
Which was the price I was shooting for.
I smiled sweetly and extended my hand. “Deal”
Human girl. “… my dagger…”
With a sigh, I added, “Plus a sovereign for the dagger?”
Cat girl nodded and shook my hand. “Yeah, that’ll be good.”
# # #
It happened the first time right after I bid goodbye to the two adventurers. We had an agreement to meet up in the morning, within an hour of dawn, and I was headed back for the night. Once I got to the base, I would be raiding the supplies of Arken and Melione and then heading out to buy whatever else I needed, but I went ahead and stopped at a preserved food purveyor that was on the way.
Just as I was walking away from the stall with a bag full of hard tack, sausage, cheese and dried fruit, my body bathed in a wave of warmth I identified immediately as Healing magic.
Surprised, I looked around, trying to figure out who was doing it and, more importantly, why it was aimed at me. Finally, I realized that I was not receiving the magic; I seemed to be casting it.
Frankly, I’ve never succeeded in casting the most elementary spell, fairy light. Healing magic is something far more intricate, a chantless, intrinsic casting by natural healers like Melione, in the same way I use vampire magic, or an extremely advanced magic performed by mages like Arken or Mother.
A failure of a spellcaster like myself should never have a chance to pull it off.
But I could feel Healing mana flowing out of me. A door seemed to unlock and swing open in my head and I felt the knowledge of how to control it somehow entering me from outside myself.
Using that knowledge, I was able to make the flow stop.
As an experiment, I put my right hand on my left and tried to repeat the magic, now with a target in mind. At first nothing happened, but I remembered my previously fruitless magic lessons from Arken and Mother and gathered mana to my right hand first, before trying again.
Apparently all those useless lessons over the years really had taught something useful after all. I felt something like an attempt for the casting to begin.
Remembering that even first level spells that are often cast without a word actually required at least a mental spell invocation, I gathered again, and muttered, “[Heal].”
Right on cue, the healing warmth came back, now with the right hand casting and the left receiving, exactly as intended. I could feel exactly how it worked, and I knew I could repeat the magic at any time.
But as to the question of why I could suddenly cast [Heal], the only theory I had was…
“What the phở?”
Growing up, Tiana had always had one unshakeable article of faith. When faced with something she didn’t understand, she could always say, “Arken will know.”
I hurried back to the base as quickly as I could.