Sleep should have been impossible. They’d beaten a dungeon! A real dungeon! On their own! True, there’d been a celebration of said accomplishment that ran till the night was perilously close to becoming the next day, but even so, Rose knew sleep should have eluded her.
When she and Jamal had made it back to their commandeered loft across the street from the [Great Hall], she’d told herself (and Jamal) that she was just laying down to get comfortable.
That was roughly one and half blinks ago but somehow the sun had taken the opportunity to launch itself halfway up the sky.
Stretching her toes and fingers and tail as far from each other as she could get them felt gloriously relaxing and was almost enough to convince her to turn over and head back to sleep, but her stomach vetoed that plan.
“Mrrhff,” she grumbled and sat up, bleary eyed despite the copious amount of daylight she was bathed in.
“She lives!” Jamal said, using regular old, simple speech rather than they’re telepathic channels.
“Maybe,” Rose said, rubbing her eyes. In truth she didn’t feel particularly tired, or sore, but the excitement and the late hours the night before had left her with a pleasant lassitude that she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to let fall away.
“Think [Raspberry Scones] with [Honey Butter] and [Hot Chocolate] might convince you to give the whole waking up thing a try?” Jamal asked.
Rose sat up instantly, the lingering clouds of sleep swept aside effortlessly.
“They have [Hot Chocolate] now? How?” she asked, grabbing up her discarded armor.
She considered putting it back on – that seemed like the sort of wise move an [Adventurer] would do – but discarded the idea as quickly as it occurred to her. Obby had shown her how to change her equipment instantly, so if an unexpected brawl broke out over breakfast (or perhaps it was lunch at this point), she’d be fine. Far better to get to enjoy the the comfy “cosmetic” loot they’d found in the dungeon.
“Have you had anything yet?” she asked Jamal who was still sitting halfway inside the door to their balcony.
“Nope. Matt doesn’t need to eat that much, so I figured we’d just wait.”
“How do you know what they’d got then?” Rose asked.
“Tessa and Lost Alice were up early,” he said. “They let the rest of the party know what the guild’s [Cooks] were putting together.”
“How long ago was that?”
“About four hours or so.”
“Wait, how long have you been up?” Rose asked, pausing as she tucked her armor into her inventory bag.
“Five hours or so?” Jamal said. “Matt doesn’t need that much sleep either.”
“Oh! Dude! Why didn’t you get me up?” Rose asked.
“You were out of it,” Jamal said. “And there wasn’t anything important going on, so why not let you sleep?”
Rose felt a jumble of words leap to her lips. Expressions of gratitude foremost among them. She kept them locked behind her teeth though. Jamal was her oldest and best friend. He already knew everything she could say and saying it outloud would be weird.
Instead, after a moment, she asked, “So what did you do for all that time?”
“Matt and I have been talking,” Jamal said. “It’s interesting. And weird. And good I guess? Or it’s good now. The stuff her had to live through in the Consortium? That was just messed up.”
“Is it something you, or I guess he, want to talk about?” Rose asked.
“Not yet,” Jamal said. “Don’t want to ruin your appetite.”
It was a light comment, meant as a joke as much as anything else, but Rose knew Jamal, knew how open, at least with her, he always was. Knew she could trust him to come let her in when he needed help.
But, she wondered, was that true of Matt as well?
Yawlorna was dead. She died, passed her final thesis exam before the Arbiters of Judgment and been granted access to the Academic Heaven. That, she decided, was a far more likely explanation for the situation she found herself in than relying on anything as untrustworthy as personal experience and recent memory.
“You’re making remarkable progress,” Glimmerglass said. “Are you sure you haven’t had any medical training up till now?”
“Just basic anatomy and physiology course,” Yawlorna said. “But those don’t seem to line up exactly with what any of the other species here have.”
“It could still be helping,” Glimmerglass said. “Healing magic doesn’t require an exact knowledge of the body – it is magic after all – but the more we know, the easier it is to guide it to do what we want, rather than what it thinks the body needs.”
“It feels like a miracle to me,” Yawlorna said, marveling as the small cut Glimmerglass had made on her own hand sealed shut perfectly in response to the spell Yawlorna was maintaining.
“It is,” Glimmerglass said. “Priestly magic, like mine, is all categorized as [Miracles]. Primarily that’s because we’re drawing the patterns from the spells from sources external to ourselves. Specifically [Celestial Sources]. Other spellcasters find their [Spell Patterns] elsewhere, usually from elements of the world, or as a series of interrelated concepts.”
“Does anyone work with all of those?” Yawlorna asked. She felt like she was an undergrad, back in class, and listening to a lecture she was sure would apply to things beyond the limits of the auditorium. It was intoxicating.
No worries about her crew.
No concerns about getting home.
No monster to fight.
Just pure, beautiful, precious learning.
“Drawing on multiple sources for your magical patterns is one of those things that people debate and get absolutely nowhere with,” Glimmerglass said. “In theory, well, in some theories, it’s perfectly possible. In practice though there’s serious interference issues that arise and keeping the patterns from destructively interfering with each other is the stuff nightmares are made of.”
“I feel like I could write a dozen papers if I eavesdropped on even one of those debates,” Yawlorna said.
“They can get pretty lively,” Glimmerglass said, chuckling at some long distant memory. “You’d have the advantage that people wouldn’t try to glower over you and try to ‘win’ the argument through sheer intimidation.”
“They would if they knew how weak my people are compared to you [Adventurers],” Yawlorna said.
“Magic debates, I guess somewhat surprisingly, aren’t usually resolved with spellcasting,” Glimmerglass said. “Everyone there tries to keep things civilized, at least to the extent that the staff doesn’t throw the debaters out on their ears and ban them from coming back. Also, you’re pretty far from weak.”
“That is both interesting and kind of you to say, but I’ve seen what you can do,” Yawlorna said. “Even if we were stripped of all gear, and all our magic was suppressed you’d be able to toss me through a wall with one hand tied behind your back.”
“And yet, I can’t come close to matching the [Warriors] or other [Melee Fighters] that I know,” Glimmerglass said. “So I’m strong here, but so are you compared to most of the people in town, including Tessa, you know, my other self? And compared to the people from [Sky’s Edge] you’re vastly out of their league.”
“That doesn’t seem terrible fair does it?”
“It’s not,” Glimmerglass said. “Life doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to be fair, I think because ‘fair’ is something we all need to work towards, not something the world just gives us.”
The war had turned and it was thanks to her. Hailey had heard that comment enough times now that she was ready to scream at the next person who tried to thank or congratulate her about their “impending victory”.
Because there wasn’t a victory impending.
Yes, fighting had turned in the good guys favor, but it was a slight and fragile advantage. One they could lose at any moment.
And, more importantly, it was one that so many other people had fought to make real.
She’d taken a risk, true. She’d conveyed some detailed and highly useful intelligence to the people who could make the best use of it, sure. She’d even fought in a couple battles herself. She felt good about all that, but she’d seen how much others had given too. They deserved far more recognition than she did.
“There aren’t that many people who know what you did though, are there?” Tessa asked on the personal channel Hailey had setup for them.
“More than probably should from a security perspective, but, yeah, not the whole world or anything,” Hailey said.
“I’m gonna guess those were the ones who saw just how bad things were getting though, right?” Tessa asked.
“Eh, some of them,” Hailey grumbled, ceding the point even though her discomfort remained.
“For what it’s worth, you’re intel may have saved my bacon too,” Tessa said.
“How so? I didn’t wind up anywhere near you?” Hailey said.
“When we escaped the [High Beyond], I needed a safe landing spot for everyone,” Tessa said. “I’m not sure there would have been one if the Consortium had been able to keep steamrolling the [Defense Force]. I mean do you know if there was a Consortium event planned for the new starter cities?”
“Oh damn! I think there was!” Hailey said. “It was supposed to help the new players feel like they weren’t missing out. There were token drops you could have on to for level capped gear pieces.”
“Well then you spared us from that,” Tessa said. “So, you know, I should thank you.”
“You’re evil,” Hailey said.
“I’m glad you remember!” Tessa said.
“Like I could ever forget,” Hailey said and added in a quieter voice, “Those were just the best times back then.”
“In the game?” Tessa asked.
“Yeah, that too,” Hailey said.
“I’m glad you remember them that way,” Tessa said. “I liked them too.”
“I wish I’d caught you coming in,” Hailey said. “I could have rolled up someone to join you and we woundn’t be trapped on the opposite sides of the world.”
“I’m glad you got in here at all,” Tessa said. “And I’m glad you still had BT. Being low level is…I think challenging is probably the right word.”
“I told you, I know people, I can have them come out and power level you up,” Hailey said.
“Believe it or not, I think we’re doing pretty good there,” Tessa said. “We’ve got Glimmerglass here, and she’s been handling some of the lowbies who wanted the help. And even without her help my team beat the first dungeon without a single TPK!”
Hailey couldn’t help but smile from absorbing even a sliver of the joy that radiated from Tessa’s voice.
“I forgot how awesome that could be,” she said. “Seems like you found a pretty great group if you’re still this buzzed about it half a day later?”
“I’ve been pretty happy recently,” Tessa said. “Which is kind of scary. And, I don’t know, inappropriate I guess? But, whatever, I’m not going to second guess this. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
For a moment, Hailey was sixteen again, headphones on to drown out the world, with the voice of one of her best friends in her ear as they talked about any and every random thing that came into their heads.
Her heart ached at the thought.
She missed sixteen year old Hailey.
Not enough to want to ever go back to being her.
Tessa and her other friends aside, those years sucked.
But who she’d been then? Awkward, stupid, and childish though she’d been? That Hailey wasn’t so bad in hindsight.
“It sounds like you’re in love,” she said, meaning to tease her old friend before wondering if they’d gotten back to the casual teasing stage yet.
“That’s probably because I am,” Tessa said, smug happiness evident even from several thousand miles away.
Hailey’s breath caught in surprised glee.
“What? Really? With who? Tell me everything!”