It was a truth universally acknowledged, that an adventuring party in possession of far better things to do must be in want of a quest to squander their time, and resources upon.
“And what, exactly, might your quest entail?” Tessa asked, mentally crossing her fingers that it wasn’t going to be some variation of an escort quest.
“We need to reclaim our ship,” Yawlorna said. “If we can do that, we can repair it and get the hell out of here.”
The other demons began murmuring among themselves at Yawlorna’s words but none of them took their eyes off Tessa or her party.
“Where does it need to be reclaimed from?” Tessa asked. There were more bad answers to that question than she could count and, given her party’s low level, almost no good ones.
“We do not know,” Yawlorna said.
Of course they don’t, Tessa grumbled on her private line with Lisa.
Don’t what? Lisa asked.
Quest with no known objective point, Tessa said. Those weren’t common anymore, but at one point early on they’d been a tactic the developers experimented with to improve immersion. Some players absolutely loved it, and were virulently against adding quests which offered any actual directions on how to do them. The majority of the playerbase seemed to disagree though.
“Our ship was damaged in the crash and we didn’t have the supplies to repair it,” Yawlorna explained. “Before we could collect what we needed, a raid from what you called the [Sunless Deeps] attacked us. We believe the raiders captured it as it disappeared some time during the battle.”
“How do you lose a whole ship?” Matt asked. “And where could they have taken it?”
“This word you use, ship, it is not exactly right,” Yawlorna said.
“But that’s what you called it?” Matt said.
“No. I said it was a ship,” Yawlorna said.
Uh, what is happening here? Tessa asked.
Translation limitation, Pillowcase said. We are thinking in English, and ‘ship’ is the closest match to the two different words being spoken in Nezzparin, their language.
It sounds like its a bad translation then, Tessa said.
If we focus on the word, the translation threads in our ears will perform a deeper analysis.
Tessa didn’t need to ask Pillowcase for an explanation of what she meant by ‘focus’ or how the deeper analysis would be performed. That knowledge already lived in her head, she just had to remember to recall it.
Pausing for a moment, she replayed Yawlorna’s words and heard, instead of English, the actual tones and syllables Yawlorna had spoken.
‘Ship’ was indeed close, but the word Yawlorna used was closer to ‘Portable Sphere Ship’ and referred to a particular class of vessel which, when traveling, looked like a steampunked up sailing vessel from Tessa’s world, and when at rest collapsed into something that resembled a crystal ball wrapped in bronze.
“I think I understand,” Tessa said. “You meant a ‘ship’, correct?” She was careful to use the more specific variant of the word and saw various people opposite her smile at her use of the proper word.
“Exactly,” Yawlorna said. “We had it guarded of course, but the things that came out of that pit…we barely survived where we had fortifications already installed.”
Tessa, Matt, and Obby explained Yawlorna’s story to the others quickly.
“That might be why they sealed the portal,” Rip said in their party channel.
Alice gave a short laugh.
“That’s probably why they had blood to spare.”
How are you holding up on that front? Tessa asked privately.
It’s not getting worse, Lisa said. It is so tempting to nibble on one of them a bit though.
Probably not the best idea under the circumstances.
I know. I’ll be good. For now anyways, Lisa said, forcing some levity into her voice.
“The forces that took our ship are beyond our ability to pursue, but if you truly cannot be killed, it should be simple for you to face them and recover our ship, no?”
“It depends,” Tessa said.
She weighed the costs and benefits of telling the demons specific details about how adventurers worked. She also weighed how much she could trust that what she knew from the game was still true in this ‘real’ version of the [Fallen Kingdoms].
“You want to charge us some fee? Negotiate a reward up front?” Yawlorna asked, her eyes narrowing at that to pick out whatever subtle trick Tessa might be planning and throw it back at her.
“No fees, no rewards,” Tessa said. “Quest rewards always suck. No, I said it depends, because there are a number of factors which could complicate things.” She continued on quickly as the mood of the assembled demons turned sour. “Factors such as did the people who stole the ship keep it or did they pass it on to someone else? Has it been moved to an area which is only accessible via travel abilities we do not possess yet such as being able to walk through solid stone? Or, worst of all, has it been destroyed, or did the person who took it make the repairs it needed and then pilot it away to another world themselves?”
“You say those as though the search for our ship will be impossible,” Yawlorna said.
“Not impossible. Far from it in fact,” Tessa said. “Just not particularly trivial. Also, there’s the very likely complication that the creatures who stole your ship are more powerful than all of us put together.”
“That’s not possible, you just don’t want to do it,” Hameziz said.
“They are only seven,” Yawlorna said. “If they faced a raid such as we did, they would not be able to withstand it any better than our warriors managed to.”
The demons gave a collective shrug of agreement at that, and some part of Tessa warned her that she should let their misunderstanding of what she’d meant linger.
Another part of her warned her that building any relationship on misunderstandings was a catastrophically bad idea.
And a third part felt like someone, somewhere, was watching her. She glanced around the room, but aside from the demons, only the other members of her party had their eyes on her.
“Your pardon,” she said. “I didn’t mean that the seven of us would be unable to handle some of the things which live in the [Sunless Deeps]. I meant everyone in this room, with fortifications, and the element of surprise, wouldn’t even come close to being able to handle some of things down there.”
“That’s not…” Hameziz began to say but Obby cut him off.
“I think we need to establish a baseline for our capabilities,” she said. “What do you say we do a quick spar? That should demonstrate things clearly enough.”
Hameziz raised an eyebrow and frowned, looking over to Yawlorna for direction.
“If you wish,” she said, directing the comment to Hameziz.
“So, you and me?” Hameziz asked. “What are the rules?”
“Hmm, how about no fatal or disabling blows from me, you’re free to do whatever you want,” Obby said. “We go for a minute, or until one of us gives up? We should know by then about how tough we each are.”
“Weapons?” Hameziz asked.
“Anything you want,” Obby said. “I’ll stick with my gauntlets though. If I use a sword I’ll have to put too much energy into not chopping you up to have any fun with it.”
“You’re serious?” Hameziz said, glancing again to Yawlorna, who nodded once more.
“Not usually,” Obby said. “But this seems fun, and it should cut through a lot of back and forth.”
“Well then, gimme my spear,” Hameziz said. “We’ll test out that immortality thing you’ve got going on.”
“Not likely,” Obby said, rising from her chair.
You sure about this? Tessa asked Obby privately.
Yeah, Obby said, They’re not that high level.
Tessa wasn’t sure how Obby could tell that since none of the demons were showing level indicators near their names, but long term players had a sense for things sometimes.
The first round of the fight was so brief that it barely qualified as a sparring match. Hameziz and Obby approached one another in a cleared out space in the main hall, Hameziz tried to lunge unexpectedly at Obby. Obby caught his spear, pulled him in and hit him so hard in the face that he did a complete summersalt before landing flat on his back.
“That…that was a cheap shot,” he said as Illuthiz and Balegritz helped him to his feet.
“It was, but points for trying it,” Obby said. “If you’re going to fight higher level foes, keep thinking like that, just don’t over commit so much.”
“I didn’t…” Hameziz started to say before Illuthiz poked him. “Well, we’re not done.”
“I hope not!” Obby said and raised her hands in relaxed fists.
The next exchange was more drawn out than the first, though Pillowcase suspected that was largely because Obby wasn’t particularly interested in ending it quickly.
Hameziz thrust with his spear and slid the attack into a nimble parry the moment Obby deflected it and moved it to launch her own attack. They clashed back and forth like that for several passes, with Obby offer commentary as they did.
“Don’t cross your legs when you retreat.”
“Watch for low strikes too.”
“Shove and jump back if you want to create distance.”
They were basic tips for spear fighting and despite Hameziz’s ability to engulf his weapon with the [Flames of Avarice] which suggested mastery of the weapon, he seemed to be benefiting from the instruction.
“Is this really a sparring match?” Yawlorna asked.
“Yes!” Hameziz said, as he corrected his stance as Obby had suggested.
“Not exactly,” Obby admitted.
“I think you’ve made your point,” Yawlorna said.
“I’m not sure about that,” Obby said. “Tell you what. One more round, but this time let’s bring in some more people.”
“You wish to fight with your friends?” Yawlorna said.
“Oh, no! Not on my side,” Obby said. “I mean more to stand with Hameziz.”
“They will likely kill you,” Yawlorna said.
“They won’t which is why I think you need to see this,” Obby said. “And, I’ve got gems to rez with if I’m wrong.”
“As you will then,” Yawlorna said. “Let’s see how you fare against three at once.”
“Make it six,” Obby said, gesturing to the nearest five demons and Hameziz.
The demons stepped forward, each smirking and eager to wipe away the arrogant calm they saw in the [Guardian] before them.
The fight wasn’t as quick as the first round, but it was less than a minute later when all six demons were laying on the ground, groaning in pain.
The rest had taken more than a couple steps back.
“That was quite the display,” Yawlorna said, calculations and analysis ticking away in the background of her eyes.
“Thank you,” Obby said. “I could probably handle twice as many before things got dicey. Three or four times as many and I’d go down without significant support. But to be fair, I’m only in a level 15 body at the moment and wearing level 15 gear. Once I level up a bit those numbers will change fairly drastically.”
“How so?” Yawlorna asked.
“At level 20, your troops will be down to a 2% chance to hit me and will be doing only about 10% of their usual damage. By level 25 I could be completely surrounded by as many of your troops as would fit in the space and they wouldn’t be able to damage me faster than my health can naturally recover.”
“So level 25 means you’re undefeatable?” Yawlorna asked.
“Undefeatable by your troops as they are now,” Obby said. “If you were helping them though, it would take more levels for me to reach ‘undefeatable’.”
“There are levels above 25?” Yawlorna asked.
“For adventurers? Yeah, we can go up to level 99,” Obby said.
“And the monsters in the [Sunless Deeps] are even stronger than that,” Tessa said. “Some of them, the most powerful bosses there, go up to level 150.”
“We have truly landed in hell,” Yawlorna said, sinking back into her chair.
Tessa wanted to reassure her, but on reflection she wasn’t sure Yawlorna was necessarily wrong.