Cut and Dust
When Jason woke up, he felt different. He’d never really enjoyed mornings and it usually took him a while to fully wake up. However, the first day he woke up as a mage, he was instantly alert. His body felt like it was coursing with energy, like he’d just drunk ten energy drinks. He wasn’t jittery or impatient, though. He just felt like he could jump up and run a marathon without being tired. It was weird but it also felt good.
He glanced over at the guest bed that Henry had been sleeping on and wasn’t surprised to see his friend was already gone. It seemed that new abilities or not, Henry would always be more of an early riser than he was.
He walked outside and found Henry sitting down and staring at a small stone knife. He didn’t even look up at Jason when he said, “Come back and talk to me after you piss. We definitely need to have a chat before George comes back for the last few things in the house and we start traveling with the villagers.”
“Okay,” Jason answered and started moving away.
“While you’re going, think about the fact that the conversation we just had wasn’t in English,” Henry called after him.
Jason missed a step but kept walking. Holy shit, he’s right! Dolos wasn’t lying! Jason did his business, making sure to wash his hands with the crude hand soap, a bucket of water with a spout, and use a splash of moonshine as disinfectant. Despite the fact he hadn’t seen any technology on Ludus so far, people still obviously knew about bacteria and sanitation.
When he got back, Henry was still staring at the little stone knife. “Watch this,” he said. The he cut himself on the arm.
“What are you doing?” gasped Jason.
“Shut up and watch.” Henry held his arm up so Jason could see better and right before his eyes, most of the blood was sucked back into the wound and it healed. In seconds.
“Wow,” breathed Jason.
“Yeah, I haven’t had the balls to make a bigger cut than this. I’m still not sure that what I’m doing now is such a great idea; I might be using up energy or something. But damn is this is cool.”
“Yeah, I can’t argue with you. I also get what you meant before. Not only need to talk in private, but we probably shouldn’t let any of the villagers see us do anything like this right now,” said Jason.
“Well, I thought about that,” said Henry. “I don’t think we should hide that we took orbs.”
Henry smiled without humor, “Mainly because we’re fluent in whatever language we are talking in right now, Luda I guess. Yesterday we didn’t speak a word of it. That’s a pretty dead giveaway that something major is going on with us. Maybe we should just try hiding that our orbs were special, not that we used some.”
Jason nodded, “Yes, you’re right. So I’m assuming you saw the same purple cartoon cat in a dream last night?”
Henry looked at Jason in confusion, then pity, then explosively laughed and said, “Cartoon cat? Man, I was talking to a Victoria’s Secret model in my lucid dream. What the hell is wrong with you? A cartoon cat…”
Henry kept laughing, sputtered off and then started again when he saw Jason’s face. Jason was not amused, which was probably obvious and was what kept the abuse coming. He loudly cleared his throat, “Okay, whatever. You got Ludwila or whatever and I got Eek. It doesn’t matter right now. We need to figure out if we both had the same general choices.
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop,” said Henry as he wiped tears from his eyes. “I had 10 points to spend and three general categories to spend them in; physical abilities, magic, and utility. There were a few abilities that had prerequisites like the “Self Healing” skill I bought, which is why I bought “Endurance, Rank 1” first. Those two skills used up half my points.”
“Okay, the setup was the same for me,” said Jason. “What else did you get?”
“Well, there’s something I have to say before I tell you the rest of it. I found out that since I kept thinking of metal yesterday, I’m actually specialized in metal magic, not earth.”
Jason raised his eyebrows, “Metal? How did that happen? I thought you were set on earth?”
“Well, the thing is I kept wondering about the corroding steel on this world and how our crappy machete and the Swiss army knife are still in perfect shape. I checked the rifle that Dolos gave us too, by the way. George wasn’t kidding, all the steel turned to dust. It took me like ten minutes this morning to beat all the nastiness out of the bag.”
Jason held up a hand, “Okay, I think we’re getting off track here. What all did you get again?”
“I used up all 10 points. I got Endurance (Rank 1, 2 points), Self Healing (Rank 1, 3 points), Enhanced Senses (Rank 1, 1 point), Magic Perception (Rank 1, 1 point), Magic Power (Rank 1, 2 points), and Dungeon Locations (Rank 1, 1 point). Magic Power was a no-brainer and Magic Perception seemed like it might be kind of like an identify skill and sense-magic-skill rolled up into on.”
“Okay, that makes sense, but what about the Dungeon Locations? That was in the Utility section, right?”
“Well, I originally planned to get earth magic so we could explore dungeons, and luckily we are overpowered freaks so I can still use earth magic despite specializing in metal. Anyway, we’ve already found out this whole world is engineered to force people to go into dungeons, there is treasure in dungeons, and we’ve already decided that going into dungeons is probably the only way we will have to make money. Well, unless you want to be a prostitute. I won’t judge you, but I personally would prefer not to work in a brothel. Do they have brothels on this world? I bet they do.”
Jason shook his head and sighed, “Whatever. Do you even know how Dungeon Locations works?”
Henry grinned, “I got lucky with that. When I was cleaning out the duffle bag this morning, I pulled the map out too and when I saw it, little red marks like you’d see on a smart phone app popped up in my vision. I could will them to disappear or reappear. It’s pretty trippy.”
Jason was impressed. Henry had made some really smart choices despite not being much of a gamer back home on Earth. He was pretty practical, though. “Okay, I guess I’ll tell you what I got. I had the same idea as you, probably because we practice fencing and since we fought the goblins, we both know how easy we can die. I got Endurance (Rank 1, 2 points), Self Healing (Rank 1, 3 points), Magic Power (Rank 1, 2 points), Magic Control (Consciousness/Space Rank 1, 2 points), Magic Lore (Rank 1, 1 point) for a total of 10 points.
“Magic Lore sounds like a lot more of an identify skill than Magic Perception, huh?”
“Yes, that’s why I got it, but I think it was still smart to get the perception skill.”
“Yeah, I just missed it. I guess I was too busy admiring how my orb took the appearance of a smoking hot underwear model. Maybe if I’d gotten a cartoon cat I’d have been more focused.” Henry started laughing again and Jason was seriously considering hitting him when Mareen walked around the corner. Henry’s laughter turned into choking coughs as he tried to get himself under control and Jason felt a grim sense of satisfaction. Serves him right.
Jason smiled at Mareen and consciously thought about speaking in the local language, Luda. “Good morning, Mareen.”
Mareen grinned, “Good morning! It’s nice that I can actually talk to my saviors now. I guess you guys took the orbs after all. Why is Henry laughing and choking, though?”
Jason rolled his eyes, “He was making a joke at my expense and he thinks he is hilarious. I guess someone has to. Nobody else does.”
Mareen laughed, “Well now that we can understand each other, maybe I will think he is funny too.”
“I doubt it,” Jason scowled. “But good luck.”
Henry finally had himself under control, “Oh don’t mind him. I’m very funny. It just takes a refined sense of humor to appreciate me.”
Mareen laughed again, her eyes sparkling, “Well, like I said, we will see. Anyway, I came by because Grandfather asked me to tell you we are about to head out with the wagons. He also asked that you bring all the remaining things from the house. We are leaving the mattresses on the beds so everything else should fit in the last two baskets on the floor of cabin.”
Henry glanced into the open door of the cabin, “You are leaving a lot of stuff, huh? Like the pictures on the walls and the bigger things including the furniture…”
“Yes, speed is important. We don’t want to lose anyone else,” Mareen said seriously. “Plus, we made all of this before, we can do it again. Food isn’t too hard to come by if we are not too picky so we should be okay. Grandfather said that food is much harder to find in that place you are from, Earth. He says we don’t have to work as hard just to survive here so we have more time to make furniture and such.”
Jason was surprised, he’d never thought about whether Ludus had more food than Earth. Based on what Mareen said, he assumed there were more animals or more edible plants. He would find out later. “Okay, tell George we will be there soon.”
Mareen turned around and walked away at a brisk pace, her task done. Jason saw Henry looking at her walk away and then shake his head. Henry said, “Let’s get this over with,” as he walked into the cabin.
About an hour later, Henry and Jason met up with the forming caravan. George was waiting for them and stowed the baskets of items from his home, “So, I heard you can speak Luda now.”
“Yeah,” Jason raised one eyebrow, “don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re actually easier to understand while speaking this language. Your accent and slang were jumping all over the place when we were speaking English.”
George laughed, “That’s because the only other two people I met for ten years after I got to this place were and Englishman and a lady from Russia who spoke broken English. I guess I picked up more from them than I thought. Those were dark times.” George’s face clouded over and his eyes looked far away but he suddenly clapped Jason on the back. “We are about to head out on another adventure, though! We all mourn Tommas,” he glanced at Perry who was securing something on another wagon, “but this is an opportunity for everyone. Who knows what will happen?”
Henry spoked up, “Where are we going?”
George smiled, “We are heading East to Mirana, the second largest city in Tolstey. We heard that Mirana is looking for farmers and just found a big new dungeon nearby so they have money. They are probably sending some of those magic power stones over to the coast to ship to the Adom country. Adom is usually in need of food too.”
Jason frowned, “I thought you said the Adom race was rare.”
George shrugged, “You still might not see any, and I say a lot of things. Either way, we can talk about it on the way. It will take us a few weeks to get to Mirana.”
Jason looked at Henry, “You ready to go?”
“Damn right,” Henry snorted. “The farther we get away from that goblin cave, the better I’ll feel.”
Jason quietly agreed with him, but had a suspicion that their trip to Mirana wouldn’t be completely peaceful. It turned out he was right.