Sometimes celebrations are well planned affairs with detailed guest lists and intricately arranged menus and events for the guests to enjoy.
Other times the party just can’t wait.
“I would not have guessed that Hermeziz could lift Yawlorna off her feet like that,” Tessa said, taking a pull from the mug of ale which had less-than-mysteriously appeared in her hand at some point after her team arrived back at the [Great Hall].
“I would have bet a pile of gold he wouldn’t have dared to try,” Lisa said. She’d acquired a glass of wine from the same less-than-mysterious Baelgritz source as Tessa’s ale had come from.
Wine for the [Vampire], because of course Lost Alice was classier than Pillowcase.
Though, as this was the first ale Pillowcase had ever drunk, it wasn’t clear what her drink preference should have been. Flavor-wise, Tessa was pleased to notice that either the ale was very mild or Pillowcase’s taste buds were something of a token afterthought on a combat unit that technically didn’t need to eat.
Elsewhere in the [Great Hall], the infectious energy radiating off the new leveled up trio of space demon scientists had spread creating an impromptu festival for everyone.
Or everyone who hadn’t gone sprinting off to the chapel to take advantage of the [Sister of Steel’s] last few sparring practices of the day. Quick and easy leveling proved to be a popular passtime for [Adventurers] it turned out.
“Is it bad that Yawlorna’s looking over at us?” Lisa asked, offering the giant lady a friendly wave of her hand.
“We’ll find out in about five seconds I think,” Tessa said.
She didn’t brace for impact, or shift to a fighting stance despite her instincts telling her that doing so would be a good idea. Yawlorna was a friend. A new friend who she couldn’t necessarily predict the reactions of. A very large, very muscular, very scary looking friend to be sure. The important part though, the part Tessa forced herself to focus on was the ‘friend’ bit.
Tessa and Pillowcase had a shared experience set with authority figures and being fearful of their wrath but, with them both together, she knew it was something she needed to work on, and the big demon commander seemed like a fine place to start.
“You did this didn’t you?” Yawlorna asked without preamble as she pushed through the crowd and made it to where corner Tessa and Lisa had gravitated towards.
The truth was that it was Rip who’d been the most directly responsible but neither Tessa nor Lisa were even microscopically willing to throw their quasi-kids under that bus.
“Credit goes to your people,” Tessa said. “They worked hard for what they got today. We just let them know there was an opportunity they might want to try out.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Yawlorna asked. At her full height she loomed over Tessa like a mountain and Pillowcase’s estimation was that it would hurt roughly the same being hit by either one.
“We didn’t know they needed your permission to be off experimenting,” Lisa said.
“Permission?” Yawlorna sputtered. “This isn’t about permission! Do you have any idea how insufferable those three are going to be thanks to being the first ones to figure this out?”
“So, you’re not mad that we invited them to the sparring match?” Tessa asked.
“Mad about…? No! I’m mad you didn’t invite me first!” Yawlorna said. “It was hard enough riding herd on those three when I could at least put them all in the same headlock together. Now?” She shook her head in disbelief.
“You could go visit them tomorrow,” Lisa said. “They said they’re planning to hold a few extra sessions since the demand will be high.”
“Oh, I’ll be there,” Yawlorna said. “The problem I hear is that the lessons cap out pretty quickly?”
“Around level 20,” Tessa said. “Which is still fairly low for this area.”
“What level did they get to?” Yawlorna asked.
“They were about to give up at 10,” Lisa said.
“Then we congratulated them about leveling up,” Tessa said.
“And they kept at it till they hit 20 didn’t they?” Yawlorna asked.
“They tried to go farther than that but the rewards hit a huge diminishing returns at that point,” Tessa said.
“And what level am I in your weird system?” Yawlorna asked.
“You’re classed as a Boss,” Lisa said. “That means your levels aren’t quite like the rest of us. I think Bosses usually have between a 1.1 and 1.35 factor for their powers from what their level would normally suggest.”
“That’s at max level,” Tessa said. “Low level bosses get more swing since the base values are so small. Yawlorna’s probably at 1.5? Or maybe 1.8?”
“Oh yeah. Probably 1.8. Huh, which is weird now that you mention it,” Lisa said. “Look at her level. She’s level 16 now right?”
“Yeah. Oh, yeah, that’s new isn’t it?”
“What are you two talking about,” Yawlorna said. “What’s wrong with me?”
“”Nothing!” Tessa said. “It just looks like you’ve already been leveling up.”
“I’ve been what?”
“You’re level 16, and with the Boss modifier that’s closer to level 29 effectively,” Lisa said.
“So I can still handle my crew?” Yawlorna said, casting a dubious look at Lisa.
“Three on one odds wouldn’t be great but I’d put my money on you still,” Tessa said.
“What’s more important, is that I’m pretty sure you weren’t level 16 when we first met,” Lisa said. “That would have been overleveled for the area you were camped out in.”
“In the version of this world we saw as a game, everything is grouped up according to level. Even bosses will be around the same level as their troops so that the players know what they’re getting into when a fight starts.”
“And in the game, fights always started,” Lisa said.
“Where you were the things you were fighting were in the vicinity of level 10 if I remember right. A team that was challenged by those would barely be able to make tiny scratches on you as you are now,” Tessa said.
“I’m not disliking that idea,” Yawlorna said.
“In real life like this it’s pretty excellent,” Tessa said. “In a game though, not so much.”
“It’s still good news though,” Lisa said. “It means you can level the same as we do, even without special tricks like the [Sisters of Steel] sparring sessions.”
“But going to them is still the fastest option?” Yawlorna asked.
“Oh, absolutely. Especially given that everything here is calibrated around [Adventurers] being level 20 to start,” Lisa said. “You’ll have a much easier time if you skip up to 20 and then start following the usual leveling paths.”
“Huh, or will she?” Tessa asked.
“What do you mean? Am I going to be blocked somehow?” Yawlorna asked.
“No. Just the opposite in fact,” Tessa said.
“Oh, right, the Boss modifier still applies against non-[Adventurer] foes too,” Lisa said.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Tessa asked.
“If you don’t ask her first I will,” Lisa said.
“Ask me what? Yawlorna looked from the [Clothwork] to the [Vampire] and grabbed a passing drink without looking.
“It’s going to be night in a few more hours,” Tessa said. “There are undead monsters that come out on the hills to the east once darkness has fully fallen. We’re planning to hunt them.”
“We had thought we’d need to do so very carefully,” Lisa said. “As a team of level 15s and below, we should have been able to handle one level 20 [Cursed Walker] at a time.”
“The problem with that approach is that its really easy to pull more mobs, or enemies, than you intend, and two or three Walkers would probably have eaten us,” Tessa said.
“So you’re mad then?” Yawlorna asked.
“By some measures, probably, but that’s fairly typical for [Adventurers],” Tessa said.
“When you can run right from being eaten alive and get immediate revenge on your killers, you approach problems somewhat differently,” Lisa said.
“Okay. I can see that,” Yawlorna admitted. “Still seems mad.”
“Thanks to the [Sisters of Steel] it’s become considerably less mad,” Tessa said. “With the whole party at level 20, it will be the [Cursed Walkers] who need to run from us. Except they’re not smart enough for that.”
“Why bother fighting them then?” Yawlorna asked.
“Two big reasons,” Lisa said. “Fighting them will provide the experience we need to level up more, and the higher level we get the more things we might be able to survive.”
“Then there’s the loot,” Tessa said. “Leveling up is one thing, but an [Adventurer’s] strength is also largely derived from their gear.”
“Why would the undead have gear you would want to use?” Yawlorna asked.
“As an incentive to fight them,” Lisa said. “It doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense, but this world seems to have been crafted with a lot of the game related effects built into it.”
“We met one of the dead gods,” Tessa said, though her memory of it was from Pillowcase’s viewpoint only. “Apparently this world was something of a group project for them, which seems to be why parts of it resemble the game we were playing.”
“So this is all someone’s fault,” Yawlorna said. “That’s good to know.”
“They’re inconveniently dead at the moment,” Lisa said. “So any complaints may not get you many answers.”
“When do they ever with gods?” Yawlorna asked. “You had something you wished to ask me though I believe? You want to take Bael, Illu, and Herme with you I’m guessing?”
“And you,” Tessa said.
“We thought it would be too dangerous since a [Cursed Walker] would have been able to one shot you all if things went wrong. With Bael and the others being level 20 now though, and since you’re effectively level 28 or 29, you shouldn’t be in that much danger unless something really unexpected shows up.”
“Like a group of people with a rag doll, a blood drinker, a metal man, and a overcharged cat girl showing up out of the blue?” Yawlorna asked. “Or would it be more like the lava snake you came riding back up from the depths of the Abyss?”
“To be fair, riding the lava snake wasn’t our idea,” Tessa said. “It was just that we needed to get back in a hurry and Darren insisted on helping us out.”
“That you know the lava snake’s name illustrates my point I believe,” Yawlorna said.
“So, does that mean you don’t want to come with us?” Lisa asked, a crestfallen note in her voice.
“Want to? Absolutely not,” Yawlorna said. “I have every confidence that going anywhere near danger with you will end in unforeseen disaster. Unfortunately, that disaster can probably land anywhere in a hundred mile radius and being near you seems to be the most likely option we have for surviving it.”
“Oh so you will come then!” Tessa said, bumping shoulders with Lisa.
“Whether or not I do, I know Bael, Illu, and Herm will tag along with you,” Yawlorna said. “So, yes, the four of us will join you – but only if I have your solemn oath that they will make it back here alive.”
“We’re going to have a team strategy meeting before we head out,” Tessa said. “Part of that is going to be specific plans for how we retreat. Keeping the four of you safe will be a key element of that.”
“The rest of us can all afford to die. We know you can’t,” Lisa said. “If we hit something too difficult for us to handle, we will absolutely buy you time to escape.”
“Yeah, just because we can’t beat something, doesn’t mean it’ll have an easy time killing us and getting to you,” Tessa said.
“And, worst comes to worst, I can always bring them back,” Glimmerglass said.