Monthly Archives: April 2021

Broken Horizons – Vol 8, Ch 30

It probably didn’t count as bloodlust when the things you were fighting didn’t possess any blood in their withered undead bodies. Right? The funny thing was that it wasn’t Tessa who asked that question of herself. 

“I mean, its good that we’re enjoying ourself,” Pillowcase said. “I’m just wondering if the chuckling is entirely healthy?”

“Oh, this isn’t healthy in the slightest,” Tessa said. “Damn fun though.”

“Should we be more worried about that?” Pillowcase asked as she pinned one of the [Cursed Walkers] that Rip had blasted full of holes against two others that Matt was in the process of tearing apart on a spiritual level. 

She didn’t need to parry anyone for a moment so she took the opportunity to draw more attention to herself by bashing the first Walkers shoulder into pulp.

Several of the Walkers who were struggling to tear Obby apart, pivoted and joined the crowd that was seeking to devour Pillowcase’s juicy stuffing? Their motives were sort of questionable, but puddings had more brainpower than the Walkers – literally.

The one she’d de-shouldered, by virtue of being at the front of the horde continued its attack with the maw of teeth edged with necrotic energy its undeath had gifted it with.

“I think that’s why this is so fun,” Tessa said, watching as Pillowcase hit the Walker with enough force to spin its head around backward. “Can’t worry. No time. Zombies will eat us if do.”

“Can’t run either I guess,” Pillowcase said. “Just have to give into the mayhem.”

“It’s not how the Consortium fights is it?”

“Not even close. It’s odd too. I don’t have viscera but there’s a visceral thrill to this anyways?”

“I think it’s cause we feel safe,” Tessa said.”And we’re getting to cut loose. It’s like primal scream therapy but with more xps and loot.”

“Leveled again!” Rip shouted on the party channel, the sheer glee in her voice making the quasi-zombie apocalypse they were fighting the most joyful thing in the world.

“Me too!” Matt said, his usual quiet restraint cast aside to join Rip in her delight.

“Amp it up then!” Obby said. “If you’re resources are full, run ‘em down. You’re not going to pull hate off Pillow and me.”

“Sounds like a challenge!” Illuthiz said.

“If they attack you, I am not saving you,” Hermeziz said, as though anyone present believed that was even vaguely true.

The farming run had seemed like a potential disaster at the start. The first pull from the [Barrows] had drawn a force twice as large as the one Rip and the damage dealers had blundered into. Tessa and Obby had been ready to pick up the incoming horde but it was quickly apparent that even using every ability they had there was no chance they were going to be able to hold the attention of more than half the enemies against them.

And the rest of the team surviving over a dozen even leveled foes was laughably unlikely.

So Glimmerglass stepped in and erased half the enemies.

It didn’t take long, and it didn’t take a particularly high level spell.

“[Casting spell: Solar Rays],” she’d said and a dozen bolts of light had sprung from her hand and reduced the [Cursed Walkers] she’d targeted to dust.

Then the fight had continued.

The remaining Walkers made no changes to the absolute lack of strategy and were entirely undeterred by the instantaneous obliteration of their compatriots. There were living people. Living people were to be killed. Try to kill them. Processing complete, no other inputs requested or needed.

A wave of a dozen Walkers became a rolling sea of them as others Walkers shambled or raced in, ambulating however they could, to fill the spots as the previous ones fell and discorporated.

Pillowcase wasn’t afraid during the melee. Combat was the environment she’d been made for after all. Either as a result of integrating those memories better, or because of Glimmerglass’s presence, Tessa hadn’t been afraid either and hadn’t pulled back as she had in previous fights.

Pillowcase executed a beautiful shield block and swept a Walkers feet from it to send it stumbling back onto Obby’s waiting blade, and Tessa cheered. She could feel how light and easy Pillowcase’s body was to maneuver and knew that was far more a reflection of Pillowcase’s growing strength than of any lack of mass in their [Clothwork] body.

If Pillowcase had been as light as she felt, the Walkers would be overrunning her with sheer numbers, but no matter how many piled up on her shield, the [Soul Knight] didn’t give an inch of ground.

“You seem to be having fun,” Lisa said on their private channel.

“Kind of hard not to,” Tessa said. “This is a really good party.”

“Having Glimmerglass around is making a big difference,” Lisa said. “But I think you’re right. We brought these folks in here with no prior experience at working together and they’re doing a shockingly good job. Like, I’ve seen guild teams that are more disorganized than this.”

“It’s because we’ve got a good leader,” Tessa said.

“Yes, you are,” Lisa said.

“I’d just in front, you’re the one they’re listening too,” Tessa said.

“It’s because Glimmerglass and Yawlorna are telling them too,” Lisa said.

“Sure, that helps, but you’re working with them,” Tessa said.

“Have to, screaming at people just makes them rage quit,” Lisa said.

“That’s something I seem to recall only the really good leaders seem to understand,” Tessa said. “And wow do I remember a lot of bad ones who didn’t.”

“Yeah, those ones tend to stick with you,” Lisa said. “To be fair too, this really isn’t all on me. The dps seem to be following Rip’s lead well and she’s watching the two of us to coordinate who they go hard on.”

“Starchild’s doing some solid work too,” Tessa said. “Obby and I have solid hate on maybe half these things at any given time. The rest are a bit shaky and she’s doing a stellar job of picking them up with they get interested in someone else and buying Obby and me time to grab their attention back.”

“Oh cool, I didn’t even notice that,” Lisa said. “She’s got enough self buffs and self healing that I’m not needing to tend to her much. I think Lady Midnight is helping her out here and there, but, honestly, this is pretty easy on us.”

“Should we be pulling more in then?” Tessa asked.

“I don’t think so,” Lisa said. “We’re not target starved at the moment. If we roam around any faster we’re just going to increased the crowd you and Obby are facing without adding to the number of them that we can take down.”

“Matt has a bunch of crowd control abilities he can bust out still though,” Tessa said. “Should we push more so he needs to use them?”

“That’s be good training,” Lisa said. “We know we’re going to get hit with hordes that are bigger than this in some of the dungeons, and we’re not going to have Glimmerglass there to thin them out if we need.”

“Or she’ll be there but sunk down to our level,” Tessa said.

“Probably not good to risk her like that right?” Lisa said.

“Probably not, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess she’s going to want to see the new dungeon at some point,” Tessa said.

“Yeah, I’d be the same,” Lisa said. “Maybe after we’ve cleared it the first time and we know what to expect?”

“I’m sure she’d be ok with waiting for that,” Tessa said. “Or we could pull her in if the dungeon divides into sections for teams of four. Matt will need to know how to handle crowd control even more if we run into things like that.”

“I’m still iffy on putting that kind of pressure on him though,” Lisa said. “Grabbing up another twenty Walkers is going to mean if he messes up it’s going to be real obvious.”

“We could ask him, but he’s having so much fun now, I’m afraid he’d either just say yes to keep the fun going or say yes because he was afraid of disappointing us.” Tessa said.

“What if we don’t add more Walkers, we just have him focus on controlling the one’s we already have?” Lisa said. “That’ll help you and Obby keep them locked down right?”

“That and we could switch to an offensive stance. Starchild probably can too,” Tessa said. “It won’t be much extra dps, but every bit helps right?”

“We’ll have to see if you three can match the loss from Matt switching to less damage dealing spells, but even if you can’t, I still think it’s worth it,” Lisa said.

“Agreed, want me to talk to him or do you want to handle it?” Tessa asked.

“Will it be too distracting for you?” Lisa asked.

“I don’t think so,” Lisa said. “Pillowcase has got this handled.”

“Not a lot of surprise tactics to worry about here,” Pillowcase said.

“Okay, go ahead then,” Lisa said. “From you it can be a question. From me it’ll probably sound like an order.”

Tessa did the mental gymnastics needed to set up a private channel to Matt and send him a quick, “Congrats on the level, got a sec?”

“Sure,” Matt shot back, a trace of panic in his mental voice.

“I’ve got an idea we could try out,” Tessa said. “But I wanted to see what your thoughts were on it first.”

“Oh, okay. What is it?” Matt asked, panic ebbing into a mix of curiosity and confusion.

“[Soul Knights] have an offensive stance,” Tessa said. “I can add a bit more damage with it, but I’ll lose control of some of the Walkers I’m holding if I use it.”

“You need me to kill those too?” Matt asked.

“Not kill them, control them,” Tessa said. “You’ve got a couple of spells that shut down enemies now right?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a [Sleep] and a [Disorient], but the [Sleep] stops working if they get hit, so I didn’t think I could use it here. And the [Disorient] is just for like ten seconds or so,” Matt said.

“The trick with those is coordination,” Tessa said. “In any other party I wouldn’t be suggesting pulling them out, but we are doing so well here, I think it’s worth a shot.”

“Cool! Okay, so tell me how I should use them,” Matt said, confusion falling away to reveal a renewed excitement.

“The [Sleep] is pretty simple; just target one of the ones at the far back of the pack and let the effect spread inward from there,” Tessa said. “Some of them will probably get hit and wake up but as long as some other stay asleep that frees up some room for me and Obby to  cut back on our defenses a bit.”

“That sounds easy.”

“It is. It can also be super frustrating when the tanks ignore it, or when the other dps blast the enemies at random and wreck the spell before it does any good.”

“I can tell Ro…Rip. We’ll be able to focus on the one’s she’s targeting so the others stay asleep,” Matt said.

“Having a good relationship with the other dps can be a huge help,” Tessa said. “Don’t worry though if people mess things up. You can always recast, and we can handle it if they wake up.”

“How about the [Disorient]?” Matt asked. “That one doesn’t break but it’s really short.”

“That one’s the opposite in a sense. Target the nearest enemies with that one and let us know when you’re casting it,” Tessa said. “Obby and I can save up our heavy hitting abilities for the windowa you provide. If everything near us is staggering around useless for even ten seconds? We can totally unload and then turtle back up. Sound good?”

“The sounds amazing. Thank you,” Matt said.

“Thank you, I’m so glad you and Rip chose to join us, you two make this team so much better,” Tessa said.

Matt didn’t have an answer for that, but the silence glowed with the happiness of an honest affirmation received by someone who definitely needed it.

As Tessa pulped another [Cursed Walker], she smiled. This was how the [Fallen Kingdoms] was supposed to be.

No horror of lives disrupted and real death chasing their heels. No trauma of violence shattering their lives. No interpersonal feuding. No misery heaped on to of misery.

Fun.

The [Fallen Kingdoms] were supposed to be fun, and while there were problems out there, terrible, horrible problems, she didn’t have to face them alone. 

Broken Horizons – Vol 8, Ch 29

All hell very rarely breaks loose. If it did, whatever problem that was occurring wouldn’t be able to get worse. All the hell would already be there, and if there’s one thing that’s universally true, it’s that things can always get worse.

Tessa had her mace drawn and her shield ready as she, Lisa, Obby, Starchild, and Lady Midnight charged over the first hill outside of [Dragonshire]. In the game, all the characters ran at the same rate, regardless of size or athleticism. In the real version of the [Fallen Kingdoms], Tessa could see that Lisa was only staying with them because she was sensible enough not to charge into a melee first when she was a healer.

That bit of well earned wisdom meant that the tank team managed to slam into the dozen  [Cursed Walkers] with Tess and Obby in front to start collecting the mobs attention properly. Unlike the damage dealing team, who’d been more or less instantly overrun.

“[Bastion of Blood],” Tessa called out, invoking one of her newest abilities.

An aura formed around her and wrapped dark tendrils around everyone in range that she recognized as a friend. The tendrils shielded the damage Rip and the others were taking at the cost of nibbling away at Pillowcase’s health. As tradeoffs went it wasn’t terribly enjoyable, but it was quite effective since Pillowcase took only a fraction of the damage that the others would have. 

“[Stalwart Shout],” Obby called out, her [Guardian] ability magically demoralizing the enemies to reduce their damage even further and lock the Walkers attention away from anyone who didn’t have a tanks enmity skills.

“What part of ‘wait for us before engaging’ wasn’t clear?” Lisa asked over the party channel as she and Lady Midnight began patching up Baelgritz, Rip, and Matt, each of whom was doing to less than half their health.

“We didn’t!” Rip said. “These things weren’t here two seconds ago!”

“They were, you just couldn’t see them,” Tessa said. “We’ll explain after the fight. And I’m going to lodge a complaint with the beta testers. They never mentioned the Walkers were ambush mobs!”

“The screaming has stopped. Are they okay?” Yawlorna asked. Telepathic conversation was a new things for space travelers, but they were adapting to it as quickly as Tessa and the rest of her team had.

“We’ve got the Walkers under control,” Obby said. “This is a big spawn of them, but I think we can manage it without Glimmerglass’s help. Maybe.”

“I’m watching you’re health bars. So far so good it looks like. I’ll hold off on tainting the fight unless you or Pillowcase drops below a third, or if anyone get knocked into critical health,” Glimmerglass said.

“Tainting the fight?” Yawlorna asked.

Tessa wanted to answer but six [Cursed Walkers] who were all equal level to her had decided that she was obviously the tastiest treat on the field. Their numbers were a serious issue, but their mindless ferocity was less a problem, largely thanks to Pillowcase’s reflexes and calm demeanor.

For Tessa, having a monster growling with rage six inches from her face was unnerving. For Pillowcase it was day that ended in ‘y’. The one’s she couldn’t block, she parried, the one’s she couldn’t parry, she trusted her armor to save her from, and the one’s her armor didn’t deflect managed to rip bits of her apart, but nothing so significant that Lisa couldn’t put her back together before the cumulative destruction became a problem.

“If Glimmerglass joins the fight, any enemy she touches will yield experience as though someone of her level had beaten it,” Obby said, unperturbed by the eight Walkers who were menacing her. 

To be fair, Tessa observed, [Guardian] abilities tended to reduce or eliminate damage to the tank, which probably made it much easier to fight and hold a conversation. It also sounded like a much more pleasant form of tanking than the one Tessa had chosen for Pillowcase. In theory that was balanced out by Pillowcase doing more damage than a [Guardian] would but neither tank really compared to a true damage dealing class.

“You’re holding up great,” Lisa said on their private channel. “Not much difference between you and Obby and she’s got five levels on the rest of us.”

Tessa knew Lisa was just being kind, but that kindness still gave Tessa a warm sparkle in her heart.

That she got to keep her heart firmly anchored in her chest was a pleasant surprise too, one that was largely driven by Rip rallying their damage dealers so that the [Cursed Walkers] began having a very bad night and would have regretted their life choices were they not both already dead and incapable of even basic sapience.

Lightning arrows, deadly illusions, and an enchanted oak staff were joined by the spears Baelgritz, Illuthiz, and Hermeziz wielded and all of them proved devastating to the Walkers.

Tessa was particularly impressed with the demon spears. She’d seen a fair portion of Rip and Matt’s growth, but watching Hermeziz fight was like meeting a new person.

The space travelers were big, not as tall as Yawlorna, but still impressive physical specimens. In their natural form, they moved with the surety that great strength brought. With levels to back their natural abilities up they’d gained an alarming amount of speed and a starkly beautiful sort of grace.

“Is it bad that watching Herm plunge a spear straight through someone’s head seems kinda pretty?” Tessa asked Lisa privately.

“I’m trying to tell myself that this feels great because the [Cursed Walkers] are definitely not people, and not because I’m losing it to blood lust,” Lisa said. “And I really hope I’m not lying to myself.”

“Are you starting to get hungry again?” Tessa asked, remembering Lost Alice making a meal of Mikkonel.

“Oh, this has nothing to do with me,” Lost Alice said. “I’m still nicely full. This is just my battle experience being a little corruptive. I think?”

“Or not,” Lisa said. “Alice makes this tolerable, but it’s not like I was all about the mass slaughter as a player.”

“Right there with ya,” Tessa said.

“Heh,” Pillowcase laughed. “You should see what the Consortium’s live combat exercises are like. Trust me, you’re all angels by comparison.”

It was darkly amusing that one of the Walkers left them open enough for Pillowcase to punctuate her point by crushing its head clean off its head with blunt force.

“Be not afraid, indeed,” Lost Alice said, repeating what angels seemed to say fairly often when they showed up. On reflection, Tessa felt like she was beginning to understand that sentiment, being both largely benevolent and terrifying at the same time.

“Was that the last one?” Rip asked.

“I think so,” Matt said.

“Stay still,” Obby said.

“How still?” Baelgritz asked, as he and his partners froze in place.

“You can relax,” Lady Midnight said. “Just don’t walk any farther away from town. You could trigger another ambush.”

“Okay. Good to know,” Rip said. “Could anyone explain what the hell that was. You know, for those of us who don’t want to get eaten again.”

“It was an ambush,” Starchild said. “It’s not something you usually see outside of dungeon areas, or exceptional monsters though.”

“Ambushes just appear out of thin air like that?” Illuthiz asked. 

“Unless you have special perception abilities, or you can bait them into revealing themselves before you’re within their perception radius,” Glimmerglass said.

“That will make this hunt a bit more challenging,” Obby said. “We could easily wind up engaging one group and triggering another one in the process.”

“It’s weird that the beta testers didn’t mention anything like this,” Tessa said. “Ambush zones aren’t unheard of, just rare, and they’re big news since they can turn into either great grinding spots or horrible murder machines.”

“Fortunately, we seem to be strong enough to weather the added challenge,” Starchild said.

“Oh, I bet that’s it,” Lisa said. “Most of the beta testers who do the low level content play through it solo right?”

“Yeah, but what does…oh, damn, you’re probably right,” Tessa said. “The beta testers didn’t see the ambushes because they probably only spawn for bigger teams like ours is now.”

“Does that mean we should break up?” Rip asked, a crack in her voice betraying her unhappiness with the idea.

“No. Not in the slightest. This is a good thing. Great even.” Tessa knew she should fight to keep the evil cackle out of her voice, but under the circumstances it was hard to deny the manic glee bubbling up within her.

“You’re thinking we turn this into a proper farm run, aren’t you?” Obby asked, delight bubbling in her eyes as well.

“I mean, we’ve got two tanks, two healers, a high level backup with healing, and a bunch of dps who are clearly unafraid of charging it devouring maws at the first opportunity,” Tessa said. “Are we missing any of the ingredients we’d need for success?”

“If we’re supposed to have a clue what you’re talking about, then I’d say we’re missing that,” Yawlorna said.

“What my girl here is suggesting is that we fight in a highly aggressive manner,” Lisa said, and Tessa felt a trill of joy at the reference to herself as Lisa’s girl. “Our original gameplan was to set up a static location, a camp, outside of the range of the Walkers. We’d then send someone in to attract their attention and lead them back to where we were all waiting.”

“That’s a standard monster clearing strategy,” Starchild said. “My [Grove] did it all the time when our woods were invaded.”

“It has the benefit that a lot of monsters, especially mindless ones like the Walkers, don’t notice that they’re numbers are being steadily thinned out,” Lisa said.

“Also, there’s less chance of fighting more than want, or more than you can handle,” Lady Midnight said.

“And ‘farming’ throws that idea away?” Yawlorna asked.

“Farming takes the opposite approach,” Obby said. “Rather than trying to limit the number of monsters we fight at once, we try to pull in as many as possible, or, in this case, as many as we can take without everyone dying.”

“I notice you said ‘everyone’ and not ‘anyone dying’ there,” Hermeziz said.

“Farming is more dangerous, at least when you’re doing it for xps like this,” Tessa said. “If we were all Glimmerglass’s level and just killing these things for their loot, then it would be safer than riding a bike.”

“More dangerous but the rewards are higher because you’re defeating more foes in less time?” Yawlorna asked.

“That and, in the game, and maybe here too, there were bonuses for killing monsters in quick succession,” Tessa said. “Those can be worth more than the initial defeat if you string together enough of them.”

“And if things go wrong?” Yawlorna asked.

“Then I’d have to step in,” Glimmerglass said.

“Okay,” Yawlorna said.

“Uh, what?” Balegritz said. “You’re fine with this idea?”

“You’re not?” Yawlorna asked, as though even the possibility of Baelgritz turning down a chance at mayhem was unthinkable.

“Oh, we’re all for it,” Baelgritz said.

“No. Not all of us,” Hermeziz said.

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep you safe,” Illuthiz said.

“Not if I keep you safe first,” Hermeziz said, scowling  but moving closer as Illuthiz mussed up his hair.

“Then, as I said, I’m in favor of the idea,” Yawlorna said.

“Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but weren’t you really worried about us getting Ill and her guys killed?” Rip asked.

“Yes. And I’m not necessarily looking to test out our supposed immortality, there not enough control measures in place for a proper experiment, but I’m satisfied that we’re in potentially less mortal peril than we were previously.”

“Yeah, that’s not the only reason though boss, is it?” Baelgritz asked.

“If this should give me a chance to study our new friend Glimmerglass in action, I admit I would not be disappointed,” Yawlorna said, and on her crimson demon skin, the blush was virtually unnoticeable.

Broken Horizons – Vol 8, Ch 28

People puzzled Tessa. It wasn’t confusion, or irritation, at least not in this case. 

She could see why Yawlorna would want to have Glimmerglass’s powers. Tessa had spent years working on developing those powers and while Glimmerglass had progressed beyond where she’d been the last time Tessa had played as her, Tessa was still quite proud of Glimmerglass’s achievements.

She wasn’t upset that Yawlorna had chosen to join them either, or that Yawlorna was basically taking up all of Glimmerglass’s time. Okay, the last bit was slightly irritating. In theory, Tessa should have gotten her fill of talking to herself when she was alone in her apartment after her breakup with Crystal. And it was a little weird to talk with Glimmerglass after they’d shared a mind space when Tessa had bonded the three of her selves together to rescue Lisa. Despite all that though, the idea of chatting with her favorite character ever still seemed kind of awesome.

“No offense,” she said, speaking to Pillowcase, who laughed in response.

“I am horribly offended,” she said. “How terrible, that I like me, rather than myself, or I.”

“I guess I haven’t gotten my fill of talking to myself yet have I?”

“I mean, we are pretty awesome.”

“We’re just saying that because we’re in love aren’t we?”

“Probably. My brain doesn’t have happy juice to bath in like yours does, but it seems like love transcends bodily limitations.”

“I know this stage doesn’t last forever. Or at least it hasn’t before.”

“All the more reason to enjoy it, right?”

“Yeah. I think if I’d been just myself I would have sabotaged the hell out of this.”

“I’m surprised adding me into the mix helped. I mean ‘emotionless soldier drone’ doesn’t seem like a winning ingredient to add to a relationship from what I can see in your memories.”

“It’d be terrible. Thankfully you are neither emotionless or a drone. And the soldier bit is kind of misleading too.”

“How so?”

“You’re not following orders at the moment, or living by any particular code except the one you choose for yourself.”

“How am I helping then?”

“You’re brave. So much braver than me. I’d mess this up because I’d pull away rather than risk being hurt again. Some of my breakups sucked on an epic scale. Okay, may not epic. I need to recalibrate basically everything to a new scale given all of this stuff we got dropped into. But they’ve still sucked, especially where I exposed myself.”

“Am I brave then, or ignorant? Maybe I’m just luring you into repeating previous mistakes because I don’t know any better?”

“Sure. You are. But the thing is they’re mistakes that should be repeated. Because they weren’t my mistakes. I trusted Crystal, and she hurt me, and it is so very easy to feel like that was my fault. Seeing my own memories through your eyes though? It’s incredible. It makes all the difference! Could I have done things different so she couldn’t have hurt me so much. Sure. It’s easy to wall yourself off. I could have kept her at a very comfortable distance, and been very safe from her doing more than lightly bruising my feelings.”

“But that wouldn’t have been love. You would have gotten nothing out of being with her beyond there being a warm body in the room.”

“Yeah. And that can work for some people. Sometimes emotional openness isn’t what a relationship is founded on. Heck sometimes it’s just sex and that works for everyone involved. And sometimes there’s not even sex in the equation. Everybody finds their happiness on their own path.”

“Yours takes an open heart though, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. Lisa’s probably going to hurt me too. And I’ll probably hurt her. We’ll make mistakes, and get careless as we get comfortable. It’s inevitable. I know it is. But, in this moment, I still want to take those hits. And I want to make amends when I make those mistakes too. What we’re feeling now is delightful. I’m still buzzing from the fact that we’ve slept together! But that’s the sexy, mind blowing kind of love. It’s fun and wonderful and a lot more satisfying than I remembered. But the kind that comes after – the kind that I hope comes after – the kind based on making the choices to hold together even when it’s not fun, even when we’re not at our best? I think, I hope, that kind of enduring love is what will help us both become stronger, become who we want to be.”

“I can see why you reach for it.”

“It’s a nice dream isn’t it? I think it’s the dream I’ve been chasing my whole life. As Tessa, and as Glimmerglass. I don’t even really know if it’ll work out. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on what any relationship could be. Maybe it all needs to come from me. Maybe I believe love can help change me because I’m afraid to try on my own.”

“Maybe. I don’t think so, but what do I know? The only introspection I was build with was a self-diagnostic routines to make sure all of the spells woven into me were functioning properly. I shouldn’t know anything about love, or relationships, or even what I want. I wasn’t supposed to want anything. Or have a relationship with anyone. Or love at all.”

“Oh wow. But you did.”

“We did. You. Me. Glimmerglass. We’re all the same. I mean even when we’re separate and limited to just our own memories. I didn’t have the words to understand what I needed, I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts on what was missing, or what the constraints on me were holding me back from pursuing. Through your eyes though? It’s so easy to see. I needed the same thing you’ve fought for. You took blows I couldn’t even conceive of and you’re willing to take more. So I stand by my original assertion. We’re awesome.”

“I can’t tell you how scary it feels to try to agree with that.”

“We should probably try to work on that too.”

“Probably.”

Tessa felt a hand on her shoulder, and found Lisa nodding towards the road ahead of them where Rip, Matt, Baelgritz, Illuthiz and Hermeziz had formed a little mini-party that was steadily increasing the distance from the others.

“Think they’re a little eager?” Lisa asked on their private channel.

“Can you blame them?” Tessa asked. “This is the first time they’ll get to use their new abilities in a real fight.”

“Well, sort of a real fight,” Lisa said and nodded back towards Glimmerglass and Yawlorna who were still deep in their own private conversation.

“Is it weird that I’m kind of jealous of Yawlorna for talking with my other me?” Tessa asked. She felt a twinge of embarrassment to even ask that, both for claiming someone like Glimmerglass as herself – Tessa was still convinced she’d never been as cool as her old character was – and for revealing that she was even ‘kind of jealous’ which seemed petty and silly.

“It’d be weird if you weren’t,” Lisa said. “I’m resisting the urge to chat up your other self just to learn all I can about you.’

“Aww, that’s sweet. On both sides,” Tessa said.

“A bit stalkery though. I mean if I want to know something, I should just ask you right?”

“If you want to know something, you are always welcome to ask me. I like sharing like that with you,” Tessa said. “But I know it’s not always easy to just believe something because I say it. I mean I have biases too. Even if I want to tell you everything, I’ll probably forget things, or leave them out without thinking about them, or color things so I don’t look entirely terrible. So if you want to talk with Glimmerglass, please do. At the moment she’s got a different perspective on things than I do, so she can probably give you a good sanity check on anything that seems too out there about me.”

“It seems unfair though,” Lisa said and Lost Alice added, “You’re always talking to both of us when we chat, and none our other selves seem to be available like Glimmerglass is. You don’t have the same ‘second source’ to fact check the things I say.”

Tessa’s first reaction was to downplay the problem. She didn’t need to fact check Lisa. She loved Lisa. She would just trust this wonderful, beautiful, amazing woman and everything would work out fine because Love Conquers All!

A single breath in was all it took to dispel that particular nugget of love drunk lunacy.

To accept that inequality wasn’t fair.

And it was unnecessary.

“How about you introduce me to Cease All then?” Tessa said. “You two have been friends for a while right?”

“Sure, but it doesn’t seem quite the same,” Lisa said. “Cease didn’t mind meld with me, and, you know, isn’t another aspect of me.”

“At the moment, Glimmerglass is basically just a really close friend,” Tessa said. “The memories we share are a bit dim since we don’t have immediate access to the same mind space Pillowcase and I share. Plus Glimmerglass will probably share more of my biases than Cease will with you. So I’m getting a better deal here in a sense.”

“Might want to wait till you meet Cease before you feel to sure about that,” Lisa said.

“What’s she like?”

“Probably a little different than I remember,” Lisa said. “I’m used to dealing with Michaela. You’d be chatting with her and with Cease.”

“You’ve talked with them both several times now though right? Is Cease much different than Michaela?”

“I suppose not? Or maybe not with me. I think Michaela basically patterned Cease after herself pretty much. She can be a bit sarcastic though, especially with new people.”

“Oh no, not a sarcastic gamer girl!” Tessa said. “I can’t imagine running into one of those.”

“Oh great, you two are going to get along. This is terrible,” Lisa said.

“Better start pumping Glimmerglass for info then, or Cease and I will get ahead on the ‘conspiring with each other’ curve.”

“Think I can get a word in edgewise between her and Yawlorna?” Lisa asked.

The two had drifted far enough back from the main body of the party (defined as the group that had both of the tanks) that they were officially lollygagging.

“Glimmerglass always loved helping train up fledglings,” Tessa said. “I know it’s weird to think of Yawlorna as a newbie but if she’s serious about leveling up as a healer, then she’s basically level 0 at the moment in terms of what she needs to know about the role, and I’m guessing Glimmerglass hasn’t gotten to train anyone since I quit playing, which was like a century or more for her. Huh, I hadn’t done that math till now. I owe her such an apology.”

“She hasn’t seemed like she’s holding a grudge,” Lisa said.

“She might not be. But I bet it still hurt to be without her [Inspiration] for so long.”

“Talk to her then,” Lisa said. “After we get back obviously. We should be getting out of town in what, a minute or two?”

“Sooner if Rip manages to find trouble and we’ve got to run ahead and save the five of them.”

“Didn’t we promise we’d keep Balegritz and company safe?” Lisa said.

“That was before we knew that we could rez them,” Tessa said. “I mean, we should still try to keep them alive, but if I lose aggro I’m not going to have a melt down like I would have before.”

“That’s good. I can kind of picture you having a Tank meltdown. You actually care about the job.”

“Perils of working with people you like,” Tessa said.

From farther ahead than they had any business being came the inevitable cries of surprise and sounds of combat that set Tessa’s feet into a full out sprint.

“People you like and people you’d like to strangle,” Lisa said.

“Were we any better when we were starting out?” Tessa asked, feeling charitable largely because she’d foreseen the moment coming from the instant Rip’s crew starting pulling away from the pack.

“Oh I was much worse,” Lisa said.

“Same here,” Tess said. “Come on, let’s go pay forward some old favors.”

Broken Horizons – Vol 8, Ch 27

People are always capable of surprising themselves. In Tessa’s case, being surprised by Glimmerglass was a little weirder than usual.

“You can bring them back?” Tessa asked. “But they’re…”

And she stopped herself right there.

Yawlorna and her people “weren’t [Adventurers]”. That was true. Or it had been. But then they’d started gaining levels. Like an [Adventurer] would.

“I was working with Kellsgrith,” Glimmerglass said and then raised her hands in a calming gesture as Yawlorna’s shocked expression. “Nothing dangerous. Don’t worry. Just some analysis spells and a few very tiny wounds. Which Kellsgrith was fine with. I had her administer them to herself so that there wouldn’t be any danger of someone overdoing it.”

“You had her wound herself?” Yawlorna asked as though the question was so far beyond believable that it shouldn’t have been able to surprise her.

“Only a little bit,” Glimmerglass said. “Just a few small cuts on her arm. And a tiny little stab into her leg. We stopped before we tried the throat cut or the heart stab.”

Yawlorna drew in a deep breath. And then another. And then a third.

“Do go one,” she said at last, her face assuming a chiveled expression of only mild interest.

“Thanks to Kellsgrith’s help, I’ve been able to prove that our healing magics are more than superficially effective on your people,” Glimmerglass said. “I’m not sure if landing here converted your basic biological processes to be compatible with this world or if they always were, but your bodies follow all of the same physio-arcane laws as an [Adventurers] does.”

Yawlorna stared at Glimmerglass, waiting for her to continue. Tessa though recognized Glimmerglass’s pause for the anxiety Tessa knew all too well.

“I think you’ll need to break down what you mean by that,” Tessa said. It was so much easier to keep the gears in her head turning when she wasn’t the one who was on the spot. She wished she could bottle the feeling of clarity she had and guzzle it the next time she went too in depth on something technical and her brain froze up.

“Ah, right,” Glimmerglass, shooting a smile at her other self. “The short form is our spells that raise the dead should fine on you folks. Did you want to hear the longer explanation?”

Though she was vastly more powerful than Yawlorna, there was still the same nervous hesitation in Glimmerglass’s voice that Tessa knew must have come from her input to Glimmerglass’s personality. 

Or maybe self-esteem was something that didn’t necessarily increase as you improved?

“This may surprise you, but yes, yes I would,” Yawlorna said. “Especially since I was able to get one of these from Mister Pendant.”

She drew a notebook and a fine quality stylus from her pack and leaned forward on the chairs they’d assembled into a cozy circle, a (Mad?) scientists gleam in her eyes.

“I’m not sure how much you’ve worked out or what people have explained about the basic nature of our world, so just tell me to skip forward if I’m covering ground that’s old news to you,” Glimmerglass said.

“Oh I find listening to primary sources worthwhile no matter what topic they’re covering,” Yawlorna said.

“Okay, well to start then, this world has magic, obviously. That isn’t something that’s true of all worlds though, which is something we’ve only recently learned, thanks to Tessa and the other alternate selves who’ve joined us recently,” Glimmerglass said. “I could go into the theorycrafting that’s been spawned by that particular revolution for the next several years if we had time, but for the purpose of this topic the important thing is that we’ve been able to make some significant leaps forward in our understanding of the core rules that govern magic here because we now know that magic’s not a requisite part of reality.”

“And who is ‘we’ in this context?” Yawlorna asked.

“I can directly speak for the high level casters who are working with Penswell and the [Grand Coalition] focused on the mystical defenses of the [Fallen Kingdoms]. I’m sure other high caliber casters and scholars are reaching many of the same conclusions we have but with the world being under existential threat there hasn’t been much time to put together conferences and write up the proper academic papers.”

“I believe I have some notion of what that’s like,: Yawlorna said. “I would sell body organs for a chance to publish even one damn paper on the things we’ve found here.”

Tessa noted the wording and wondered if Yawlorna was limiting herself to her own organs or whether she’d offer any that were on hand that didn’t seem to be sufficiently needed by their present owners. Probably the former, but “publish or perish” was possibly a real thing in places other than Earthly academia.

“The principal insight that’s relevant here is that we always believed [Adventurers] responded to healing spells, especially life restoring ones, differently than regular people because we’d been switched on a separate magical paradigm,” Glimmerglass said. “Since magic is everywhere in this world, we believed that normal people must have their own set of magical rules they were bound by, while [Adventurers] worked under a different and disconnected set. Learning that it’s possible for people to exist without any ties to magic lead to several of us investigating whether [Adventurers] might not simply have some extra enchantments that allow things like [Resurrection] spells to work on them where they fail on normal people.”

“That sounds nice than presuming that the regular people lack souls,” Yawlorna said.

“That was a theory that was floated for years a few centuries ago. One of the good thing of encountering soul stealing demons though is that is proves very quickly that everyone has a soul, no matter how mundane they might be.”

“If you already knew that mundane people had an <eternal aspect>,” Yawlorna said, the word ‘soul’ translating oddly from the Nezzparin language Yawlorna was speaking, “what stopped you from simply fixing their bodies and reclaiming it?”

“Normal people’s souls are less bound to the material world it seems,” Glimmerglass said. “They can sometimes linger as the [Disembodied] but far more often the soul passes on down a road we can’t follow, and leaves behind at most an after-image in the ectoplasm which is what people often call a ghost. Those aren’t the people who died, just more or less distorted reflection of who they were at the time of death.”

“Why do I feel compelled to believe that your people have tried sticking those into revivified bodies already?” Yawlorna asked.

“Probably because you’ve talked with us for more than five minutes,” Tessa said.

“It tends to turn out as horribly as you might imagine,” Glimmerglass said. “The best case scenario is that the revivified person appears just like the original but fades out and ‘dies’ again in a few days as the ghostly impression on the ectoplasm of the [Dead Lands] fades away.”

“The worst cases dive right into the realms of body horror and nightmare,” Tessa said. “If those things linger they wind up as boss monsters that [Adventurers] need to destroy, and those storylines are messy.”

“But this won’t be our fate,” Yawlorna said. “If the worst comes to pass I mean.”

“It won’t be your fate if we have to resurrect you,” Glimmerglass said.

“I note that you didn’t exactly answer the question I asked,” Yawlorna said.

“If the worst comes to pass, you won’t be resurrectable because your soul will be bound in a [Torment Realm]. That’s a nightmare and a half, but until you’re fighting much higher level dungeon bosses, that’s not a scenario which should ever occur.”

“Of course. It was silly of me to assume that death was the worst thing this world might have to offer. Foolish really,” Yawlorna said, her notetaking not pausing or slowing as she spoke.

“There’s a lot to take in here,” Tessa said. “I’ve literally read the manual on this place, and all of the forum posts and wiki articles I could find, and it’s still a constant stream of surprises.”

“That’s comforting, or terrifying,” Yawlorna said. “Maybe both?”

“Well, the good news is that for as alien as this world may feel to you, you’re not intrinsically removed from it,” Glimmerglass said. “Once you started leveling, a lot of the same enchantments and metaphysical qualities that [Adventurers] possess began to manifest in you as well. You didn’t need to become something else, something like the rest of us, you just needed to have the same ‘extras’ added to you that us [Adventurers] got.”

“How sure are you that they got all of the same magical add-ons that the rest of us have?” Tessa asked.

“Oh, they don’t have all of them,” Glimmerglass said. “But then neither do you, or anyone else here. Heck I’m missing some too. The key is that they have the core set that every [Adventurer] shares no matter what race, job, or level they are, and that includes the response to restoration spells.”

Tessa could see the magic in her head as code. There were method calls like “pass through a level 50 gate” that she couldn’t hear or answer yet. On the other hand “pass through a level 20 gate” was a privilege she’d gained without even being aware of it.

“So you can resurrect us. Maybe. Probably. Does that mean you know what happens to us if we die here?” Yawlorna asked.

“In general terms, yes,” Glimmerglass said. “When you die, you’ll find yourself in the [Dead Lands] standing over your corpse. It’s a little surreal the first time it happens, but you get used to it pretty quickly.”

“It helps that while you’re dead, you’re not stuck like that,” Tessa said.

“From there you’ll want to find a [Heart Fire]. That’s where you can collect the power to resurrect yourself. Or, in this case, you can wait near your body and allow one of my spells to put you back in it.”

“What happens if we run off?” Yawlorna asked.

“My spell can bring you back to your body as long as your spirit is still available,” Glimmerglass said. “Which will be true as long as the [Hounds of Fate] haven’t gotten a hold of you.”

“They destroy souls?” Yawlorna asked.

“As far as we know, nothing can destroy a soul,” Glimmerglass said. “The Hounds carry them somewhere else though. Somewhere beyond. Somewhere we can’t contact them.”

“Can they be fought?”

“We don’t have any of our abilities as ghosts,” Tessa said. “You’ll hear them well before they get to you, but if they catch up and you’re not in the safety of a [Heart Fire Chapel] or back in your own body, that’s pretty much it. You’re done.”

Yawlorna sagged.

“I suppose that means there isn’t any hope for bringing back the members of my crew we already lost then?” she asked.

“I could tell you that nothing’s impossible, but the reality is probably that they either passed on to whatever afterlife you normally go to, or that the Hounds got them long ago and brought them to wherever they bring our people,” Glimmerglass said. “There’s usually time to resurrect dead [Adventurers] but not that much time.”

Yawlorna sighed.

“I’m not the first field promoted captain to lose crew members on a mission like this,” she said. “If there ever was a mission like this.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be this dangerous, was it?” Glimmerglass asked.

“A survey mission,” Yawlorna said. “Good for the students to get some practical experience under their belts before they started doing serious work.”

“We’ll help keep them safe from here,” Lisa said, putting a hand on Yawlorna’s massive clenched fist.

“I know,” Yawlorna said. “And I’m grateful for what you’ve done for my three chief idiots over there. And for offering us a place with you tonight. I think there’s only one more thing I need to know.”

“What’s that?” Glimmerglass asked.

“How can I learn to do what you do,” Yawlorna said, looking at the healer sitting before her.

Broken Horizons – Vol 8, Ch 26

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.”

“Overleveled?”

“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.”

“Crafted?”

“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.