Balegritz could breath fire, or, to be properly rigorous about it, [Hellfire].
“With a name like that I would have expected it to smell like brimstone,” Illuthiz said.
“It’s got more of a charcoal aroma,” Hermeziz said and asked, “What does it taste like?”
“Charcoal is pretty much spot on,” Baelgritz said. “I’m more concerned with the fact that we haven’t managed to find anything it’s not melting right through. How hot is this stuff?”
“It’s not the heat,” Illuthiz said. “You cut a steel plate in half. If you’d done that with just heat we’re see different deformations on the sides of cut.”
“And we’re probably have second degree burns from touch two halves,” Hermeziz said.
“Not to interrupt your research,” Lost Alice said. “But I think you’re missing the biggest data point about all this; leaving aside how the skill works, no one has ever done this before. That skill, none of the [Adventurer] classes grant this. You’ve learned something that’s not supposed to be learnable.”
“Yes, but that was because being able to breath [Hellfire] was something our analogs on this world were capable of,” Illuthiz said.
To which Lost Alice replied with four simple but also magical words.
“Have you tested that?
Balegritz had a ready comeback because of course they…his words caught behind his teeth before he could voice them, barred by the dawning awareness that, no, they had not tested for that.
Hadn’t even thought of it.
“How would we go about testing that?” Hermeziz asked, abashed by not having thought of it either.
“We attempt to replicate an ability the local variation of the [Gothmorn] didn’t possess,” Illuthiz said shaking her head in disbelief.
“But that could be anything,” Hermeziz said, his eyes darting back and forth as he scrambled over the idea that had almost escaped him.
“That’s the wonderful part,” Lost Alice said.
“That we’re clueless about what we can do?” Illuthiz asked.
“In a sense, yes. I know exactly what I can do, which mean my abilities are highly dependable. We can make battle plans that take into account my strengths and weaknesses. The downside is, there will be situations where I know I can’t fix the things that are broken. There are problems I can deal with and problems I definitely can’t. With you though, those limits aren’t there. We don’t know the limits of your abilities, but we already know that they occupy a different space than the ones I or the rest of the [Adventurers] have.”
“I get it,” Balegritz said, nodding in agreement. “Whatever we can do, it might be the answer to the situations where your abilities come up short.”
“Right,” Lost Alice said. “You don’t need to be able to heal like I do. I’m a [Grave Mender], I’ve already got my kind of healing covered. Maybe you’ll be able to reinforce people so they don’t take damage in the first place, or cover them in ice so attacks will slide right off them.”
“There must be some limitations on our abilities though?” Illuthiz asked.
“I’m sure there are,” Lost Alice said. “But I’m willing to be they’re far broader than you might guess. Which I blame [Adventurers] for.”
“Why?” Illuthiz asked.
“I think our abilities are a lot broader than we know. It’s easiest to use them within the published specs for them though, and breaking out of those molds would destabilize our whole grasp on what we can do. If we were setting a better example though, you’d see just how wild powers here can be.”
“What makes you think that could be the case?” Hermeziz asked. “If everyone sticks to the proscribed limitations of their abilities, what makes you think there anything beyond the levels you can see?”
“Because we’re not the only ones who have powers and abilities,” Lost Alice said.
“Oh!” Illuthiz said. “The monsters.”
“Yeah. The rules for monster abilities are that there are no rules,” Lost Alice said. “If you’re not an [Adventurer] you can have whatever abilities you need to make an encounter interesting.”
“An interesting, but not necessarily winnable encounter, unless I’m mistaken?” Illuthiz said.
“That’s true. Nothing is ever a guaranteed victory. [Adventurers] do tend to lose against unexpected abilities though. At least the first time we see them. Go into the same fight over and over again though kind of helps you work out what the strengths and weaknesses of a new ability are.”
“So what should we try next?” Balegritz asked.
“If we want to be systematic,” Hermeziz said, “we would choose a species similar to our own, where there might be overlap, and then progress outwards to more and more divergent life forms until we reach a point where we can’t manifest the abilities we’re experimenting with.”
“Or we could try something like this,” Illuthiz said.
Balegritz turned to find a cloud of vapor standing next time to him. A cloud with nonetheless defined features.
“What..how…smoke?” Hermeziz struggled to find the right question to start with.
“Not smoke,” Lost Alice said, her voice quiet with surprise. “You’re [Ethereal]?”
“I think so. I hope so,” Illuthiz said. “It came up half a dozen times in the books of lore we’ve been going through, and it seemed like such a useful ability.”
“And not one the local [Gothmorns] ever showed evidence of,” Hermeziz said.
“What does it let you do? Aside from camouflage yourself?” Balegritz asked.
“She can walk through any mundane surface, walls, floors, ceilings. In fact she’s not really bound in three dimensional space at all anymore. She’s basically flying now,” Lost Alice said.
“It’s a defensive ability,” Illuthiz said. “Only [Multi-Dimensional] attacks can affect me while I’m in this state.”
“It can also let you pull things from the [Ethereal Plane] back to the physical one,” Lost Alice said. “That’s…it’s mind bogglingly powerful. We don’t normally see it on monsters either. That’s usually a special condition that we have to figure out how to collect to solve specific puzzles in the higher level dungeons. And it never lasts outside those environments.”
“I can’t believe you can do that,” Balegritz said, wanting to hug his mate and swing her around in joy, though also aware of how impractical that would be at the moment.
“If she can do that though,” Hermeziz asked. “What does that mean the rest of us can do?”
Claire had almost been so swept away by the prospect of meeting even more of her other selves that she’d missed the concern brewing in Wrath Raven’s twisted frown.
“If there are worlds beyond worlds, why are you on this one?” Wrath asked, staring into the flagon of ale in front of her rather than at Lady Midnight, who was sitting across from her at the makeshift tavern the cooks converted a section of the [Great Hall] into.
“I don’t know,” Claire said, which was true, but not the answer Wrath was looking for.
“When will you leave?” Wrath asked.
“I don’t know that either,” Claire said. “We don’t even know if it’s possible.”
“Would you?” Wrath asked.
“Go back to Earth? If someone found a path back?” Claire asked. “I don’t know. I guess I might have to. I have a life there that’s probably falling apart without me.”
“So you are not here because you want to be?” Wrath asked. Her voice was flat but Claire was paying attention. She heard the deliberate lack of emotional undercurrent in the question.
“I spent so many days and nights wishing for this exact thing,” Claire said, putting her hand over Wrath’s. “I’m a nurse. A kind of [Healer] but without anything like [Healers] in this world have. I help people there, but it’s a tough job. It hurts sometimes. A lot. This world, being with you, its been the only thing that kept me sane more times than I could count. I love it here. I love the time I’ve spent with you. If I have to choose between the two worlds, it feels like I’d have to choose to go back to the Earth because there’s no one there to fill the me-shaped hole that I left behind, where this world’s got you and Lady Midnight and about a dozen others.”
“I see. That is true,” Wrath said, meeting Claire’s gaze.
“The thing is though? I don’t want to have to choose,” Claire said. “I could accept the life I had on Earth before because I didn’t know this place was real. I didn’t know you were real. I thought our time together was all about my having fun. I imagined your life but I thought it was only my imagination, not an actual window into what was happening with you.”
“It was always real to me,” Wrath said.
“Even all the times I made you stand in fire?” Claire asked.
“That wasn’t you,” Wrath said. “Sometimes the rage makes it hard to notice cuts, and stabs, and, you know, being on fire.”
“I do,” Claire said. “Just like I know that choosing between the worlds would probably break me. So I’m not going to. If I’m needed back on Earth, then so are you, and Lady Midnight, and everyone else too. Maybe before we could pretend the worlds were separate but that’s not an option anymore, and I for one plan to embrace that fact as much as I can.
Lost Alice’s twin was not particularly forthcoming about her plans to ‘take Lost Alice home’, so Vixali was obligated to play host for their meeting in order to learn the details of the sisters’ odd relationship.
That this played into the twin’s desire to have Vixali standing between her and her sister wasn’t lost of the [Vampire Queen], but it didn’t matter. If Lost Alice had the desire to destroy her twin, Vixali would be just as happy to watch that as any other course of events.
“Queen Vixali,” Lost Alice said as one of Vixali’s minions showed her into what passed for Vixali’s throne room. “You had an urgent matter to discuss?”
Lost Alice did not appear to be moved by any special urgency but neither was she insultingly delayed. She moved at her own pace, which Vixali could respect, even if she would have broken part off one of her minions had they shown the same lack of abject respect.
“Not I, so much as a guest of my court,” Vixali said and gestured for the twin to step forward.
A moment of confusion passed over Lost Alice’s face and was swept aside as her staff appeared in her hand and a shielding spell flared to life.
“Is this your work?” Lost Alice asked, the calm in her voice the herald of mayhem and death.
Before Vixali could answer, the twin spoke. She did so on a private telepathic channel, but Vixali was a [Vampire Queen]. The powers of the mind came as naturally to her as breathing did to mortals.
“Wait! Lisa! It’s me. Rachel!” The twin slammed the words out as fast as thought allowed.
“What? How?” Lost Alice, or Lisa, asked. For all the storm of confusion in her telepathic speech though, Lost Alice’s focus never wavered.
“You let me play in the beta remember? Deadly Alice was my character there,” Rachel, or Deadly Alice, said.
“But, that doesn’t make any…you weren’t playing when the servers got locked,” Lisa said, her voice turning to a growl as she asked. “Who are you really?”
“Rachel! Really! You’re right I wasn’t logged in when they closed access to the main servers,” Rachel said. “When we heard about what had happened to people though and when you weren’t picking up your phone, I tried logging into the beta server again. I figured I could send you an in-game message if you were still on. The second it connected though I wound up here. Or, not here. On the beta server’s version of here.”
“Oh no. No, no, no! You’re trapped here too?” Lisa asked.
“No. I’m not,” Rachel said. “They never locked the beta server down. We can travel in either direction there. If you’ll come with me, I can take you home!”