Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Skins (Spring 898)

By the next morning, I was strong enough to move around on my own. After we had eaten our trail breakfast, I was feeling almost back to normal. I resolved to myself to take it a bit easier in today's hunting.

By mid-day, we were back in the bottom of the ravine, with another small stack of lizard skins to our name. There were a few brief moments of danger, which made me realize we had actually been extremely lucky yesterday.

At one point, Kuto-Lulu sustained a nasty gash on his arm, courtesy of a lizard's row of knife-like teeth. Garrick became poisoned during one prolonged fight, sapping his strength as the battle wore on.

I both cases, I was able to gather my energy and remedy the situation without any overwhelming side effects - just a bit of fatigue after each one. After each casting on my end, we took a short break.

"It's good to see you all better, Aspen," said Kuto-Lulu during one such break. "You really had us worried last night."

"I'm doing a lot better," I said, looking over to the Taru from my perch on a small boulder. "As long as I don't overdo it, there shouldn't be any issues."

"Let's try not to catch on fire again, then," replied Kuto-Lulu, grinning over at me.

"Aye," came the solitary reply from Garrick. "Let's get a few more of these lizard skins, then head back and sell them."

"Sounds good," I agreed with a nod. "I'm looking forward to buying some new clothes, personally. And seeing your friend, Garrick," I added with a smile. "Maybe I can learn how to control this wild talent of mine."

Within another hour, we had twenty four-lizard skins - enough to sell two groups of twelve.

"I think we should head back," was my input. I placed my staff butt-first into the ground, using it to stretch my back. "We have plenty of skins, and we can do an even three-way split."

"Aye," was Garrick's response. "Should net us a tidy bit of gold."

"I like that plan," added the energetic Taru. "Then we can buy Aspen some new clothes." He giggled, turning toward the distant rise of Bastok.

We packed up camp and began walking back to Bastok under the hot sun. On the way, we discussed the best way to get paid for the skins.

"Look, if you want, I can put the skins on the auction house, and I'll send you the money when it comes in," I suggested. "You both know you can find me at the Goldsmith's guild if things go wrong."

"Do you have the funds to post them?" asked Kuto-Lulu. "The auction house requires cash up front to post."

"I guess not," I said with a sigh. "What do you think Garrick?" I asked, turning toward the big man.

"Trouble," he replied, raising his hand over the next hillock. "Two Quadav. And they've already seen us."

I nodded, shifting my pack off my back and gripping my staff tightly. "I guess we'll have to fight it out," I said. "I'll try to heal some of your wounds if I can," I added, silently wondering if I could do more.

"Aye, don't overdo it," replied Garrick, unshouldering his bow and swiftly nocking an arrow. "If ye fall unconscious, ye're no use to anyone."

"I'll remember that," I said, gazing at the small hillock in front of us.

Suddenly, the two Quadav burst into view around the side of the small hill, rushing toward us with a speed that belied their bulk. Faster than my eye could follow, Garrick let an arrow fly, nocked another, and released it toward them.

The arrows impacted into the chestplate of the lead Quadav, staggering it slightly. The other drew ahead of it, drawing its large jagged blade as it moved. Garrick and Kuto-Lulu moved into position, trying to box it in slightly and keep it from me.

"Bind," I cried, releasing my will toward the rushing Quadav. It took a little more energy than I was prepared for, but I had the satisfaction of seeing the roots of some desert plant reach up, and ensnare the Quadav's legs.

The Quadav began to jerk against the roots, and I could see them starting to tear, but his progress was slow. Garrick began loosing arrows at the bound Quadav, and nearly all of them found their mark.

The previously staggered Quadav pulled past the bound one, rushing for Garrick and Kuto-Lulu once more. I gathered in my energy, and said, "Blind, releasing my will at the charging Quadav.

The Quadav stumbled on the hardpan, and then regained its balance, but its path to my two companions was noticeably unsteady. The Quadav removed a large, two-handed axe from its belt, and took a mighty swing at Garrick.

The axe missed by a good foot, and Garrick drew back out of range, loosing another arrow into the Quadav as he retreated. Kuto-Lulu stepped in, his fists blurring toward the unprotected abdomen of our foe, staggering the creature back once again.

I stepped into the fray, swinging my staff as hard as I could toward the blind Quadav's neck. There was a gap between its plating and helmet, and my aim was true. There was a large cracking noise, and the Quadav's eyes rolled back in its head as it slumped to the ground.

There was little time for exultation, as the previously bound Quadav finally broke free of its entanglement and rushed for our group. Garrick released another pair of arrows, and connected with both, but the Quadav seemed to ignore them, charging straight toward me.

Kuto-Lulu stepped in front of me, a wordless roar rising from his throat. As the Quadav drew into range, swinging his sword, Kuto-Lulu's fists blurred once more toward an unarmored spot, but sheathed in an intense white aura. Each impact of against the Quadav's body resonated loudly, driving the Quadav back under the onslaught.

After three hard impacts, the Quadav fell over onto its back, unmoving. Kuto-Lulu drew a deep breath, the aura fading from around his fists.

"What was that?" I asked, feeling amazed. I'd never seen anything quite like that before.

"That was a Ki focus," replied the Taru. "One of the things I've been working on mastering. It tuckers me out me to use it, so it's a last resort, but it can come in handy." He giggled, but he sounded out of breath. "Can we rest here?" he asked, abruptly sinking to the ground.

"Aye, I suppose," came the answer from Garrick. He walked over to the bodies of the Quadavs and began examining them. Apparently one was still alive, because he drew his knife and crouched down next to it. I turned away, not wanting to watch the coup de grĂ¢ce.

Kuto-Lulu sat on the ground, breathing heavily. I watched him for a moment, but determined there was nothing I could do. He just needed some rest.

Garrick came over a moment later, holding a few items. "Just the loot from the Quadies," he said with a faint smile. He spread it out before us, and stepped back.

The only items to take our pick from were a couple of blue-green crystals and a small pile of gil. I picked up the gil, intending to count it and split it evenly. Near the bottom of the pile, I encountered a few odd coins. They were made of a different metal, and had an odd edged shape.

"Those are beastcoins," Garrick offered, seeing my confusion. "They aren't used in towns, but ye can melt them down. These are made of bronze."

"I might be able to refine them," I said, thinking of my Goldsmith training. "Maybe make something of worth from them." I slipped them into my pouch, and divided the remainder of the gil.

"Are the weapons worth anything?" I asked, casting a glance to the large sword and axe on the ground.

"No," replied Garrick, casting a dirty glance at the axe. "They're too large for Hume use, and made cheaply. Best to break them, or leave them here." He took hold of the sword, and lifted it with an obvious effort, before smashing it downward on a nearby rock. The large blade broke in half, rendering it useless.

The axe proved to be to difficult to break, so we dulled the blade on a rock and left it lying in the dust.

We gathered up the rest of the Quadav items, and resumed our trek towards town, and our meeting with the auction house.

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