As fortresses went, the [Great Hall] of [Dragonshire] was lacking a few things. Like an intact roof. And walls that took more than stiff breeze to knock over. It was roomy though. Perhaps even more so than it should have been.
“Is it just me or are there fewer people in here than there were following us through town?” Lisa asked.
“Yeah, we should be packing this space to the rafters,” Tessa said. “Did some of them stay outside? Or go to the surrounding buildings?”
“Nope, everyone funneled in here,” Rip said. She’d managed to scale the walls and had taken a spot on the shaky rooftop to act as a lookout in case either the townsfolk or a local monster decided to come and visit [Dragonshire’s] newest inhabitants.
“I saw a Kamie and Battler disappear when they passed through the hole in the wall,” Matt said.
“We’re still here,” Kamie said.
“I guess we’re layered then,” Tessa said. “It makes sense they’d have that in place for [Dragonshire]. Will the lowbies being funneled here it was probably supposed to be swamped for the first few weeks.”
“We’ll need to watch for that if the Consortium does show up,” Obby said. “The [Fallen Kingdoms] have always been closely tied to other dimensions and demi-planes. The last thing we want is to setup our defenses and have a troop of Consortium soldiers come spilling out of fold in space behind us.”
“Thanks for that image,” Matt said. “Kinda glad [Metal Mechanoids] don’t need to sleep or I’d have some quality nightmares to look forward to.”
“He brings up a good point,” Lisa said, limiting herself to the private channel with Tessa. “We haven’t taken a break since we got here. [Adventurers] may not need to but our Earthling selves probably need to catch our breath after everything we’ve been through.”
Tessa giggled at the thought. She felt like she could meditate for the rest of her life and that wouldn’t be enough to get a handle on everything that had happened since she’d logged in [Broken Horizons] again.
Around her, people were coming to the same conclusion as Lisa had though. The refugees from [Sky’s Edge] were setting up little encampments at the far back corner of the [Great Hall]. Tessa was pleased to see that Yawlorna’s people seemed to be mixing with them freely, though Balegritz, Illuthiz and Hermeziz were cuddled up together in a clump of ten other “demons”, a [Vampire] and two intrepid young girls from [Sky’s Edge].
Tessa wondered if the [Vampire] was a spy of some sort, since that seemed like something Vixali might encourage. Whether that was likely or not though, it fell squarely into the realm of “not my business” in Tessa’s view and so she turned away from it to the myriad of other issues that loomed before them.
“By morning we’ll probably have to be ready to deal with the townsfolk of [Dragonshire],” she said. “I’m going to suggest that we don’t keep any important secrets from them, but we may need to figure out a good order for filling them in on things.”
“Things like the monsters you brought into their midst?” Vixali said. She moved to a spot on Tessa’s left so gracefully that even the living shadows looked clumsy by comparison. Tessa had to grudgingly admit that the [Vampire] was achingly suave, while at the same time suppressing the urge to punch her.
“Exactly,” Tessa said. “The town will need to be warned about the [Adventurers] if they don’t have any in residence yet. If we’re the first ones they’ve met they won’t know the kind of monsters [Adventurers] can be.”
“And us?” Gray asked.
“These are people who moved to a long deserted town with no functional defenses and started rebuilding it,” Tessa said. “My guess is that as long as you’re willing to live in peace with them, they’re not going to be anymore concerned about you than about any of the hundreds of other creatures they share this area with.”
“They will not object to our [Life Drinking]?” Gray asked, sounding perplexed in a manner shadows aren’t normally capable of.
“Depends on what you need to drink life from and how dead that makes the drinkee,” Lost Alice said. “I mean, you’re not the only one who feeds on the living here.”
“Which, as a note, includes basically all of us,” Tessa said. “It’s not like the last hamburger I ate came from a cow who harmlessly dispensed burger patties.”
“Our concerns lie in a similar area,” Vixali said.
“Obby’s got a lot of experience,” Rip said. “Maybe the three of you could scout out the other building inside the walls here and talk about what kind of things you’ll need for food.”
As trios went, it wasn’t a terrible choice to send Obby, Vixali, and Gray out as scouts, they were certainly unlikely to have problems with anything that might be lurking in the abandoned [Administration Building], but Tessa began to wonder if Rip had some other motive as well.
“I should go too,” Lost Alice said.
“Nah,” Rip said. “You’re an [Adventurer], you can just eat like the rest of us right?”
Rip was definitely up to something, but Tessa couldn’t puzzle out what it was. Also she was pretty sure that despite her status as an [Adventurer], Lost Alice needed some kind of fresh blood supply to work with. The blood frenzy she’d flown into when they were ‘trapped’ in the [Sunless Deeps] hadn’t been wholly inspired by her revulsion for the guy who had bound them in paper mache chains.
“Fair point,” Lisa said and added privately to Tessa. “They’re not going to relax if we don’t, and I’m dead sure they need to now.”
“Was that a [Vampire] joke?” Tessa asked.
“Maybe,” Lost Alice hid a small smile before shaking her head and switching back to the group channel. “We can worry about long term food resources for everyone else tomorrow after we talk with the people here.”
“Bathroom needs should be fine too,” Tessa said. “Before it got wrecked, [Dragonshire] had working indoor plumbing. One of the early quests was to fight a plant monster that had clogged up one of the houses drains but none of the rest of the houses had that problem, so we should find a lot of it still working.”
“This place got destroyed by Titans didn’t it?” Lady Midnight asked. “Which one?”
“[Vaspe Breath Stealer]?” Starchild asked.
“Same Titan,” Tessa said. “No physical form beyond a cloud of toxic gas. That was why the town wasn’t flattened completely, and why it couldn’t be resettled right away. It took a while for the poisons left behind by the Titan to breakdown and get absorbed back into the land.”
“We should verify that there’s no more gas waiting in the low places like the basements,” Starchild said. “It could be why the townsfolk didn’t choose to begin restoring this place first.”
“Don’t go alone!” Rip said.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got her back,” Lady Midnight said.
“Me too,” Pete said. “Sort of.”
The [Great Hall] had a set of rooms behind the central dias. Obby and Glimmerglass had done a pass through them to ensure nothing was lurking in wait before the mob Tessa was leading showed up. Tessa hadn’t seen the rooms but from their description and they sounded like they’d once served as the personal chambers for the town’s ruler. The [Adventurer] in her had hoped that meant there’d be treasure to loot from them, but Glimmerglass had assured them that the rooms had been long since picked clean.
Starchild and Lady Midnight passed through the door into the back area where the stairs to the basement level lay and Tessa felt a pang of worry. [Adventurers] in small groups could run into all sorts of trouble they couldn’t handle and they hadn’t yet found the town’s [Heart Fire].
Tessa forced herself to take comfort in the idea that, for as bad as things were, they weren’t in a horror movie. Starchild and Lady Midnight would stay in contact with them and both of them were smart enough to back off the moment anything started looking questionable.
And if something did attack them, there were a disturbingly large number of [Adventurers] and otherworld creatures ready to bring the hammer down on whatever foolish monsters might be waiting in ambush. It would be the shortest dungeon run ever if everyone they brought to the [Great Hall] went surging downstairs in an XP gathering blood rage.
“We should make contact with as many of our surface side friends as we can,” Tessa said. “That no one was here waiting for us probably means we’re the first to get down to the surface from the [High Beyond].”
“I’m already on it,” Kamie said. “You remember Penswell? She’s acting as a dispatcher for, like, everyone. I’m filling her in on what happened and up there and what our story is.”
“I’ll be surprised if they can send us any official help, but maybe there are people who aren’t fighting the Consortium who can help us out?”
“My sister said she’ll be sending over some care packages for us,” Pete said. “Look for mail from Feral Fang your Inboxes. There should be gear attached to it for level 10, 20 and 30. Nothing too flashy, but it’ll be better coordinated than random drops.”
“We owe her a ton,” Tessa said. “That’s going to come in incredibly useful for everyone. Uh, except me I guess.”
“Still no interface to work with?” Lisa asked.
“Nope. So if Feral Fang does send me anything it’s probably just going to sit there,” Tessa said.
“Lucky for you, you don’t need new gear then, right?” Lisa asked.
Tessa mind was blank for a moment as she noticed just how damn alluring Lost Alice’s neck was. It seemed weirdly backward for a human to find the idea of nibbling on a [Vampire’s] neck utterly compelling, but they were in a weird world so she wasn’t going to try to judge her own tastes.
“Because your gear will all level with you?” Lisa’s reminder shook Tessa’s thoughts loose.
“Right! Uh, Pete, could you let your sister know that I’m good,” Tessa said. “Might be worth checking with the others too. Some of them are probably in [Heirloom] gear too.”
“I would if I could get a word in edgewise,” Pete said. “Apparently routing an entire Consortium army is a feat to be proud of or something.”
Tessa didn’t miss the clear, beaming pride in Pete’s voice. It was warmly comforting to see a brother and sister who loved each other that much.
“There’s a house outside the wall that has a great view of the whole town,” Rip said. “Jamal and I will go check it out and crash there for the night if it looks safe.”
“Why stay there?” Tessa asked.
“We should have some people outside the walls we don’t get surprised by anything, right?” Rip said. “I mean even if this place is peaceful, we don’t know when the townsfolk wake up or when they might come wandering over here. Good to have someone in a species they might recognize available to greet them. I can handle that and Matt can handle staying awake.”
Tessa noticed that Rip had used Matt Painting’s other name. Jamal was a nice one, but she wasn’t going to call attention to it since everyone else would probably just forget it.
“How far away is the lookout point you have in mind?” Lisa asked.
“It’s the tall building one street over from the east gate,” Rip said.
“That’s not too far,” Lisa said privately. “And she’s got a point.”
“Yeah. Not thrilled with them being off on their own like that, but it’s better than trying to hold them back and having them sneak out on us.”
“You sound like your speaking from experience?” Lisa said.
“I was a troubled youth, or was that a troublesome youth? I don’t think people ever decided really,” Tessa said.
“If that sounds good, I can see a building, it looks like a tea shop, at the western edge of the hill we’re on. It’s right on the main road, so it should make a great point to intercept anyone coming from the forest,” Rip said.
“I could take that,” Battler X said.
“No, it’d probably be better if it was someone on the same party channel as Matt and I, just in case we need to compare notes without waking all of you up,” Rip said.
”Clever girl,” Lisa said privately.
Tessa wondered at that, and then put one and one together.
“Oh! Yes! Very clever,” she responded privately before adding in the public chat. “We can handle that one then. Battler can you make sure everyone’s able to get some rest or even sleep if they can.”
“Sure thing boss.”
Tessa wasn’t delighted at that turn of phrase but the leadership roles were a problem for later on.
For the moment, all Tessa was concerned about was getting the two of them to a nice, secluded house and having Lisa all to herself for a while.