At first light the following day the Draconian of the town lay down in a clearing next to the tower and the farmland. True to her word Loralei woke Daniel up and they made their way out together. Her mother never married and instead mated with Loralei’s father out of respect for his strength. With that wasn’t a rare occurrence, the father was who she inherited her colour from. For a white scale to have the kind of strength that was involved in a power mating, that was rare. From the stories Loralei told, it seemed that he had been a member of the team that conquered the lowest level of the fallen tower. Her mother, being the local trader and a member of the town council, had seen up close just how strong he was.
As they basked in the morning sun, he noticed that some soldiers were pushing a Draconian prisoner out. She was in a cube cage made from tower glass on five sides, leaving the top open. Her scales her bright pink and her long bent wings were chained down in the cell; her scales seemed far more vibrant and dangerous with their contrast to her pure black skin. Letting a Draconian prisoner warm up was generally a bad idea and a pink variant in her mature stage could break tower glass with her claws. He noticed that under the cell was a crystal powered generator, a device that hardened the glass with magic. He wondered why she warranted such strange and expensive precautions, so he asked Loralei who was absorbing the morning light beside him.
“The guards caught her a few days ago. She’s a fighter for the Southwest Den and she made a fuss after refusing to give her word that she wouldn’t cause trouble. The city leader was only able contain her by using an old-world stun rifle. Since she clawed some guards to death, they’re sentencing her to death by exposure.”
Even the young girl could understand how strong the caged woman was. Hearing about her strength was enough to start his blood boiling. There probably wasn’t a man in that field who didn’t feel the mating urge when they saw her. Using his lonely feelings as a basis, Daniel managed to supress the drive. Once clear headed, he noticed something strange about her. She had wings, indicating she was in her mature stage, but her horns, which stuck out from her shot hair, were too short and straight. For her to have reached the mature stage at her age either she was the product of perfect breeding or she had conquered a tower and selected a skill that aided wing growth.
The Glass Tower system not only monitored existing abilities, it also allowed the user to purchase new ones. Each time a level was gained, the person earned 20 skill points that could be used to purchase new abilities. He had acquired ‘Fast Healing’, which made his injuries heal at an unbelievable rate, for 20 points when the system first triggered in order to save his life. ‘Unnatural Accuracy’ was also useful to him as it made corrections to both bullets and spells. It was really effective for its price at 30 points. The list of skills was more than 400 pages long and there wasn’t an option to read about a skill without buying it.
With his curiosity in full flight he approached the cage. The guards seemed to tense up as he got near, but didn’t draw their weapons. When he stood at the edge of the cage one of her snakelike yellow eyes stared at him, looking at him with a gaze that sent a chill through him. Locking eyes with her the best he could, he gestured to her wings with his eyes and asked, “So, which skill is it.”
That seemed to warrant a small chuckle, and her deep voice filled him and drove up the breading desire once more. “Look up ‘Rapid Growth’. I thought it would make me level faster but that happened instead.” Her eyes had lowered the pressure slightly. A strangely distant smile moved across her small red lips and her golden eyes seemed to become distant. After a moment of apparent indecision, she eventually asked, “You’re not a local, right? Which den are you from?”
He wasn’t sure why she was asking, but didn’t see any harm in telling her, “The Southernmost Den. Though a tail-bitter like me can’t go back if that’s what you’re going to ask.”
Hearing his status, she made another light chuckle. “Well, that makes two of us. Though, I think I can top just losing my kin. The Southwest Den has been overrun. The survivors have been seeking other dens to take them in.”
That time it was his turn to laugh, “A destroyed den tried to enter other dens? What are they, humans?”
The guards around the cage looked annoyed at that comment but acted like they didn’t hear anything.
“That’s what I said. Turns out, tradition isn’t as strong as the need to live. The elders died protecting the den and the youngest generation has no problem living in shame.” She pause for a moment then added, “Watch yourself, Red; this town isn’t as simple as it seems.”
With that, the guards pushed him back and he returned to Loralei, who was starting to get a little red around the scales. Warning her, that she’d been in the light too long, they headed inside. Once back to the inn, he set to work cleaning his scales. With a real pink in town, last thing he wanted was for people to get them mixed up. As he cleaned he looked through the skill list and got ‘Rapid Growth’ for 20 points. He could feel movement and growth on his back, but didn’t think it would implead his business at all.
Once he was done, he noticed that Loralei was sleeping softly at the counter with a contented look on her face. Knowing that she would have to retain her heat for a full day and night, he wrapped her in the large coat he had taken from Louise. At the time he thought he would keep it as a reminder, but it wasn’t used to wearing coats and found anything more than a shirt or vest to by stifling.
When he made his way up a floor to the general traders, he was met with by a Draconian woman with a sly smile. She was in her matriarchal stage, complete with wings and scaly tail, and her silver scales were a sight to behold. Humans didn’t seem to be able to tell the difference but to Draconian, white and silver were like heaven and earth. Where white meant a lack of tolerance for sunlight and a frost breath, silver meant super hardened scales and a powerful electric breath. Silver and Gold Draconian were the only variants that also had pure anima breaths. A silver Draconian was considered to be a gift to any den, for her to be living in a human town, there were very few situations that could bring that about. After he recovered from the shock of it, he realised who she was.
“Might the lowly I be speaking to the illustrious Miss May.” He started to speak in overly respectful tones, entirely on reflex. Even after noticing, he didn’t stop, since it would seem strange to change midway. Thankfully, she stopped him.
“Enough with that; I’m not from your den and I don’t want someone who’s been looking after my daughter talking like that.” As she said so, she pointed to a monitor that was displaying the counter in the inn, complete with a little girl sleeping in a coat. “If you’re good with children, you should just have one.” The provocative and sly look on her face hadn’t left for a single second since he entered. He normally didn’t like that look, but he had to admit that it suited her, made her seem devilish and charming.
“Putting that aside, there were a few things I was hoping to sell. Would you mind walking with me to the parking area, I’d rather not have to carry it all down stairs without selling it first.”
A few minutes later they were in the parking area and he dispelled the force-field. May gave a nod on seeing the field, as if agreeing to something in her head. Shortly thereafter, she was looking through at the scrap.
“Do you know how much there is? What does the system say?” Her voice seemed less playful as she asked, as if she had started to work.
“The system just says, ‘Assorted Metal (112 kg)’.”
“And that bottle of whiskey…”
“…is not for sale. Sorry, it’s my sister’s favourite and I need to find some way to have shipped to her safely.” He could hear he click her tongue with his reply.
“Aren’t you a tail-bitter? How do you have a sister, then?” It wasn’t a very tactful question as she seemed to realise moments after asking, but he answered anyway.
“It’s my younger sister; since she had only just passed the Rite of Ages after my kin had departed, she hadn’t been assigned there yet. At the time she complained that we could have just wait around for her to finish, but since you never know how long the rite can take, we were just going to pick her up afterwards. I guess she ended up with a different kin name after all.”
“Err, sorry for asking about that. Old prejudices are hard to get over.” She seemed a little relieved to hear what he said. The fact that his sister was alive meant that some dens would rule that he wasn’t a tail-bitter. It wasn’t as cut and dry as being branded for life; some dens even said that if they married or mated they were no longer tail-bitters. “For the metal, I can give you 11.2cc.”
He was annoyed by that price, it was way too low, but he didn’t let that show on his face, “That’s a little too low for my liking, especially when I’ve said I’ll move it down stairs for you.” He paused for a moment and pretended to think about how much it was worth, despite already knowing how much he’d accept. “How about for 30cc.”
Within a second, as if she had anticipated his response, she countered with, “I can offer 22.”
They both knew that was about fair and ended the game with that offer. With the deal made, they moved onto the next point. “I have two hundred and forty 7.62mm bullets, do you have any 5.56mm, 9mm or .32 special to trade?”
She thought about it for a while and responded, “It may not be the best deal, but the company only sells bullets as one for one trades, and only in situations where they get the better side of the deal. If you can live with that then I have seventy 5.56mm, sixty 9mm and thirty-five in .32 special. I can buy the rest for .1cc each.”
It wasn’t a great deal, but it would do. He ended up trading away all except for one of the 7.62mm bullets. It was a wasteland superstition, the moment use get rid of all of one type, is when you need that type to save your life.
With the deal done, he used a simple wind and force base spell to float the traded scrap down to May’s shop. After the goods were exchanged he then spent 10cc on food that could survive travel and more water bottles. The food he ended up getting were a locally made product called, ‘travel cakes’ that seemed to be a sweet hard-bread with some kind of oat smell to them. Though they seemed to be hard to each, May assured him that they were fine if you dipped it in water.
When he was done reloading the buggy and the force-field was re-applied he suddenly felt his head get light. Unable to keep himself standing, he fell to the soft sand beneath him.