Chapter 11 – Gather
Although she originally followed Lotus because she wanted to steal her skills, Dawn stayed with her because she started to enjoy being around her. Having spent a week training together, they had found a good rhythm together and could gauge each other’s intentions fairly well. Despite her tendency to act like she was some kind of nature lover, Dawn knew that lotus was very mercenary. Not that she thought that was a bad thing. The way she pretended interested in helping people while taking the valuables around them was quite cute.
It was also surprising to see how bad she was at holding her liquor. She might have thought that her poison resistance would work against it, but as they found out, it really didn’t. During her drunken ramblings, Lotus let it slip that she thought the voice skill was her best ability Dawn had. It seemed she had thought of a lot of way to use it and was waiting for her to figure it out for herself. To test out a theory, she used voice to command Lotus’s scythe to strengthen, which caused it to enlarge slightly and turn a sinister shade of black. Furthermore the blade’s edge hooked more sharply, giving it a look like a hungry bird of prey, out seeking blood. It was far from a weapon that a hero would use.
The next morning, as lotus was dealing with a hangover, they heard the sound of some people approaching. From what they could hear of the voices, they seemed to be an overly affectionate couple. The man’s voice was deed and calm, a strong mix that built a reassuring aura. The woman’s voice was soft and joy filled, energetic without being tiring. Without seeing them, they seemed to be the ideal couple. Hearing them flirt so early in the morning put Dawn in a bad mood and she sent Lotus a look that said, “Let’s kill them and take their stuff”.
Responding with a determined nod, Lotus disappeared into some bushes. Dawn had noticed that plants seemed to really like Lotus, and would often move out of her way to avoid making sound when sneaking and covered her when hiding. When that was combined with Lotus’s abilities and practice, she was as close to invisible in woods as a person could reasonably be.
As Dawn readied a pair of daggers and took a position behind a tree, where she could wait for them to pass by. She was met with a strange sense of betrayal, or maybe disillusion, when she saw what the couple looked like. It wasn’t an ideal, beautiful couple at all. It was like an abominable snowman taking his pet tree for a walk. Or maybe it was a coat hanger and a polar bear. Either way, their appearance and voices left a huge gap. The difference was enough that Dawn forgot to attack. She just stood there blankly and they went on their way.
Almost a minute after they left, Dawn and Lotus started to prepare for the day, not mentioning what they saw and pretending that it never happened. Some small part of Dawn wanted to go chase them down, but the greater part saw them as unnecessary trouble. Instead they ate breakfast and packed their camp.
At around lunch time they made it around the small mountain range and stood at the border between the mountain, the desert and a glacial lake. They had come to that spot intentionally, as Lotus was aware of some powerful plants that grew in that strange environment. As they searched the once again came across the strange couple. It seemed they looped around the other way and approached from a different side.
For a few seconds the four stared blankly, before the tree-statue started to speak.
“Um, I’m The Spirit of Blooming Oak Volk and this is my darling husband Dima Volk. It’s nice to meet fellow travellers after not seeing anyone for some time.” Her voice stilled sounded out of place with her appearance but a hint of worry, maybe fear of strangers, could be heard from it. It also seemed that she was very proud of her apparent husband.
“I’m Lotus and this is Dawn, we’re traveling healers. If you have anything you need treated, feel free to tell us.” While Dawn tried to pull her thoughts together, Lotus brought out a practiced smile and began her sales pitch. Dawn had heard it a few times already, but she was always surprised by how genuinely concerned she sounded. Despite the concern, Dawn knew that Lotus was only really thinking about the contents of their bags. “Even if it’s only a minor thing, minor things can make the difference between life and death in the woods.”
While they talked, the bear that was apparently called Dima looked away with a slight blush to his face. Dawn couldn’t think why that was the case, but immediately after Oak pulled herself closer to him. Giving an understanding nod to Oak, Dawn similarly moved closer to Lotus.
As the conversation progressed an agreement to travel together was somehow reached. Unknown to Lotus and Dima as to how, Dawn and Oak seemed to really get along. When the agreement was reached and their stats were revealed, Oak suddenly seemed shocked.
“Eeeeeh? You’re a 13th World’s Druid? Amongst my tribe, there’s a story that the 13th world hates all people and would never favour anyone. What did you do to get the world’s attention like that?”
Lotus simply shrugged it off and said that she hadn’t noticed the world being particularly cruel. In fact from her perspective, the world seemed quite kind, almost motherly. Furthermore, she shifted the conversation by pointing out that Oak was a NPC and started to tease Dima lightly about that. Dima, that was having a hard time interacting, started to respond to that and warmed up to them when the prodding forced him to participate in the conversation.
Truthfully, Dawn wasn’t sure why Lotus wanted to join up with them; she had assumed that Lotus would be against it. The reasons she gave, that more people would lower the workload and traveling with more people was more enjoyable, seemed to ring hollow. Dawn really couldn’t think what her real motive was, but whatever it was it probably wasn’t anything too bad. At the very least, Lotus didn’t want one of the bounties she’d read about on the forums, placed on her.
After lunch, the four of them finished searching for the plants Lotus was after and they made their way towards the tallest ice mountain. Dima had heard a rumour that the glazier had a flat section near the top were a number of rare materials could be found. Furthermore, the materials were protected by some unique creatures. The creatures and materials appealed to both Lotus and Dima so they pushed their respective partners along with them.
By working together Lotus and Dima made a potion that stoped the cold from affecting them, and gave them some protection against frostbite. It wasn’t surprising that alchemists and apothecaries worked well together, and they made a potion that was better than either could have made by themselves and the research time was greatly reduced.
With a warm feeling beneath their skin, the party moved through the snow, climbing towards the top of the ice.