1.09 – The Wandering Inn


At some point, Erin slept. At some point, Erin woke up. These were minor details. What mattered was the sound.

Knock. Knock.

She tried hard to ignore it. But it kept going and going, waking her up from her peaceful oblivion.

After a while, the knocking was too much to ignore. Erin opened her eyes and sat up. It was far too bright in the world. And noisy.

Someone was knocking at the front door. The locked front door. Erin thought about going back to sleep, but the knocking hadn’t ceased for the last few minutes. It was the kind of knocking that said the person on the other side knew there was someone to bother, and they would develop the cadence and volume to be annoying if they did this for an hour straight. So, at last, Erin reluctantly got up and opened the door.

She greeted the knocker with the world’s hugest scowl, like she would her mother waking her up early after a late-night study session.

“What do you want?”

Pisces the friendly mage gave her a brilliant smile.

“Greetings, good Mistress. I was wondering if I could impose upon you—”

Erin shut the door. After a few seconds, she opened it.

“Fewer words. Get to the point.”

The [Necromancer] looked haughty—but then caught himself as an audible little growl escaped his stomach. He coughed delicately into one sleeve.

“Um. Very well. Are you open today?”

The [Innkeeper] actually turned around blankly.


“You. This establishment.”


Pisces blinked a few times. He spoke very carefully, pointing at the ground and enunciating each word clearly.

“Is this place open? Do you provide sustenan—food? I pay, I eat?”

Erin finally caught on and glared blearily at him. She thrust the door open further.

“It’s early. Yes, I guess I am open. Come in.”

She stomped inside. After a moment, Pisces followed.

“I would like to peruse your menu if I m—”

Erin’s glower cut him off. She came back with four blue fruits and tossed them on the table. Pisces stared at the fruit and opened his mouth. He looked at Erin’s expression and amended whatever he was going to say.

“If I might trouble you for a knife and fork—”

She slapped them down on the table and walked away. 

“And a plate?”

Erin’s service came with a huge frown. But he did get the plate. She would have liked to go back to sleep, but the sounds of Pisces shifting and the clink of silverware on pottery was too distracting. Instead, she got her own blue fruit and started a fire to warm up her pasta. She munched on the sweet fruit in dour silence.

Outside, it began to rain.




Rain. Rain fell down from the heavens like hail. Well, actually it fell like rain, but these were bigger drops that fell a lot faster and harder than normal. The hammering of rain against the rooftop was nearly deafening.

Nearly. Behind her, Pisces set down his knife and fork and sighed loudly. Erin wished he weren’t here. It wasn’t that she disliked company; she was starved for it. She just wished her company wasn’t him.

“That’s a lot of rain.”

She was talking to herself, but he seemed to take it as an invitation to speak.

“It happens quite often. A natural weather phenomenon, you know.”

Erin turned and glared at Pisces. He raised both eyebrows and held up his cup.

“Another drink if you would. My cup has run dry.”

“Where did you find—stay out of my kitchen.”

“I would be only too happy to. But I fear I was quite parched, and if you would be so good…?”

Erin’s eye twitched. But she went and got a cup for herself as well. She didn’t pour his drink, but rather set the pitcher of juice on the other end of the table so he had to reach for it. She glanced out the window and saw, well, nothing.

Even the darn mountains had been obscured by the kind of rainfall that made you hope your gutters were clear back home. Erin could barely see ten feet into the downpour. She shivered; that kind of onslaught was one thing in her home or indoors, but this inn felt a bit too—fragile. Pisces, for himself, seemed quite glad he was here, not anywhere else. Erin turned to him and gestured outside.

“Does it rain like this a lot?”

He took his time replying, and when he did, his voice was distinctly self-satisfied, lecturing. Almost like a pompous college professor—not that Erin had ever gone to any classes, just been accepted.

“Seldom. It is a seasonal weather pattern to rain like this in the spring. Fall downpours like these are an aberration. Normally, I would not hazard a guess at how long the rain would fall, but someone has been interfering with the weather. So we’ll have a brief storm, that’s all. Hardly anything as memorable as magical rain.”

That statement was loaded. Erin took the bait because she had to.

“Interfering with the weather? How? And what do you mean—magical rain? Like what?”

He smirked at her. She noted with displeasure that he was already on his second cup of blue juice.

“With magic, how else? Some shortsighted fool must have cast a localized weather control spell. Impressive, I suppose, but clumsy in execution. As for magical rain—have you never observed glowing rain in any color? Magical typhoons? Ah…raining toads?”

Erin glanced back at the furious downpour—it did indeed seem to be lessening already.

“Raining toads? Doesn’t that only happen when a tornado picks them up?” 

Pisces hesitated. Erin turned back just in time to see his look of surprise covered by an attempt at banal amusement. He made a show of taking a sip from his cup.

“Ahem. Of course, that is how the phenomenon actually occurs. But the impetus is largely magical…I see you know your way around some natural events. This particular storm will not be raining any creatures, however. It truly was someone simply sending unwanted rain our way. It may be a scandal, although given how the Drake cities squabble—I detected it from the south. Perhaps as far as Pallass.”

Erin had no idea what Pallass was, but other cities of Drakes? She leaned too-casually on the table, now giving Pisces her full attention.

“Wow, that’s far, right? Wouldn’t you have to be a pretty powerful sorcerer to do that?”

“The term is mage, good Mistress.”

“The name is Erin, idiot.”

He smirked, already cocky again.

“Aha. Accept my apologies. But if you are referring to one of my exalted brethren, mage is the best term to use.”

Erin stared at him. He didn’t appear abashed in any way.

“You don’t have wizards or sorcerers or…warlocks? Witches? You’re all just mages?”

Pisces flicked his fingers haughtily, then decided to wipe them on his robes instead.

“I did not say specialization is absent from the magical world. Rather, shall we say that those are titles for mages who meet certain requirements? A [Wizard] is an arcane researcher and true student of the arcane arts. Such individuals are similar to myself, but prefer to study the mainstream branches of magic. [Sorcerers], on the other hand, are quite simplistic and refer to those who use no spellbooks and have little formal education. [Warlocks] obtain their powers from other sources such as summoning, while [Witches] practice alchemy along with specialized schools of magic. Their…very peculiar magic, which is so rooted in folklore. Nevertheless, [Mage] remains the generally accepted title to refer to all those who practice magic as a catchall moniker…”

He trailed off. Erin was staring at him. Pisces gave her a confident smirk. She raised her eyebrows.

“Okay. So you’re saying [Mage] means anyone who uses magic. Next time, just say that.”

His face visibly fell. Pisces moodily stabbed at a piece of blue fruit.

“You asked. I was merely fulfilling my role as a guest.”

“Good. For you. So what, a—mage did this?”

He shrugged.

“Yes. And it’s not as if this is a particularly difficult task. I realize it may look so to the uninitiated, but a spell like this could easily be cast by a level 30 [Mage]. Less, I suppose, if the individual were specialized.”


“As I said, not that impressive. Many mages could cast a spell like this.”

“Can you?”

Pisces paused. He chewed slowly, looking past Erin.

“My specialization lies in other areas.”

“Like dead bodies.”

The young man’s jaw tensed ever-so-slightly. Erin saw his thin frame—and he was thin and hungry, judging by how fast he’d eaten her blue fruits—shift in his chair. Pisces glanced at the door and avoided Erin’s gaze and drained his cup.

“Merely another branch of magic, good Mistress Erin. I note you don’t have the same aversion as a less-informed fool. Let me assure you—”

Erin stared at him. She opened her mouth, but then the door slammed open. Both Erin and Pisces turned as a wet, dark figure sauntered into the inn and threw his arms wide.

“Good morning everyone! Weird Ant behind me, friendly Human, and—oh.”

Relc strode into the inn, beaming, then visibly did a double-take when he saw Pisces. The [Necromancer] jerked in his seat, then froze. Klbkch closed the door and bowed slightly at Erin.

“Please pardon our intrusion. Is this establishment open for business?”

“What? Oh. Yeah.”

Erin scrambled for words. Relc was still staring at Pisces, who studiously ignored him as he refilled his cup. She smiled at Relc, glancing at Pisces.

“Hey, you two! Klb—Klbk? It’s been a while. I guess. But come in. Or come in more. Have a seat. Want something to eat?”

“If you would be so kind. Thank you, Miss Erin. It is Klbkch, but you may refer to me as Senior Guardsman if that is simpler.”

Klbkch wiped his feet and stepped over to a table. Relc was still staring. He frowned at Pisces then jabbed a claw his way before eying Erin suspiciously.

“You multiplied. Can Humans do that?”

“What? Oh no, that’s just Pisces. He’s annoying, so ignore him.”

Erin waved Relc over to a seat as she went to the kitchen for plates. Relc kept staring until Klbkch kicked him and motioned him to a seat.

“I believe staring is considered rude in most cultures. Sit down and cease your rudeness.”

Relc glared and sat, rubbing his leg. Klbkch turned and nodded to Pisces.

“Please excuse my companion’s lack of tact.”

Pisces waved his fork airily, but Erin, poking her head out of the kitchen, realized the young man was no longer smiling. He had pushed his chair back from the table, and he kept glancing her way. It didn’t stop his mouth from running, though.

“I paid no attention. The plebian masses are a burden to be endured; I bear no ill will to the misinformed or ignorant for their rudeness.”

Klbkch and Relc exchanged a glance.

“Indeed. It has been nice to make your acquaintance.”

Humans. They’re so—”

Erin reemerged from the kitchen, trying to hold a pot of hot noodles and several plates with only two hands. She interrupted the two.

“Do you guys want pasta or blue fruit?”

Relc broke off, coughing.

“Ah. Eh. Um, what I meant was—”

Klbkch raised one hand politely as he kicked Relc subtly again.

“I would be delighted to try the blue fruit. I believe my tongue-tied partner would like some as well.”

“Right. Food. I’ll have some.”

Pisces waved his fork again. 

“And me. A second plate and a refill of my drink, if you would.”

There was something so presumptuous about his tone that Erin scowled. She slowly walked into the kitchen, put the pot back down, and then came out. She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder.

“You want pasta? It’s in the kitchen. Get it yourself.”

Pisces’ outraged sniff at the discrepancy in service was ignored. Turning her back on him, Erin smiled at Relc and Klbkch.

“So, um, hi again. It’s been a while. Klb…Klbkch and…?”

Klbkch nodded while Relc looked expectant.

“Um. Uh…”


Klbkch murmured softly. Erin beamed desperately.

“Relc! Right, right.”

“What? How come you remembered this idiot’s name and not mine?”

Relc looked aggrieved. Erin blushed.

“Um, sorry.”

The Drake leaned over the table, frowning. He looked bigger today, or perhaps it was being able to contrast him with Pisces. Relc was over six feet tall without the long neck spines that ran from the back of his head like a thin mohawk. He was also, Erin realized, wearing all-leather armor, and today, he’d leaned his spear against the table. 

He even had a shortsword at his side and a dagger and a belt with two glowing bottles and a few pouches.

Belt pouches seemed like a style in this world, because Pisces had them—and so did Klbkch. Although—Erin noticed now—the Antinium had two swords sheathed at his waist. And two daggers.

Wow, they were armed. Was this the level of police in this world? Then again—if that was the case, Erin supposed they were just regularly armed. But it might be why Pisces kept glancing at them. He had no weapons, she noted, just a stick at his side.

Wait, was that a wand? Erin turned and stared at it, but Relc tapped the table, interrupting her train of thought.

“Aren’t I the better-looking one here? What gives?”

Erin turned and gave him an embarrassed smile.

“Sorry. It’s just—uh, you know. I’ve got a bad memory.”


“…No. Sorry. It’s just been a busy two days.”


He looked deflated. Erin tried to cheer him up.

“Relc! I’ve got the name, now. And I’ve got more pasta. Well, it’s old pasta, but it still tastes good! And more blue juice. And blue fruit! It’s, uh, not poisonous if you only eat the outer bit.”

“Ooh, pasta!”

Relc perked up instantly. Erin went to fetch the pasta and placed two steaming plates in front of the two.

“My thanks.”

Klbkch nodded at Erin, and both began eating. Around mouthfuls, Relc eyed Erin and then Pisces.

“So, how’re you doing? Level up again?”

“Actually, I did. Right after you two left.”

“Ooh, congratulations! Did you get a new skill?”

“[Basic Crafting]. It helped me make a basket out of grass.”

He chuckled knowingly.

“That’s quite useful! Most craftsman and artisan classes get that early on. I guess [Innkeepers] are sorta like that, right? Got to take care of the inn, repair windows, fix tables, and all that.”

“I guess. I haven’t ever tried that, and besides, I don’t have a hammer. Actually, I’ve never swung a hammer in my life.”

“Well, you’ve got the Skill for it, so it’ll be a breeze. And you can buy a hammer no problem. Just head down to the city, and you can get a good one for only a silver coin or two. Tell you what, if you’re ever in the area, I’ll help you get one at a discount.”

“Really? That’s really generous. Thank you.”

Erin smiled hesitatingly at Relc, who grinned back at her as he slurped down a noodle. Klbkch set down his fork and nodded at his companion.

“Not entirely. I do believe my companion would earn a small fee for directing any business to his associates.”

Relc glared at Klbkch. He tried to kick him, but the Antinium had scooted his chair back too far. They were both sitting fairly wide of the table, Erin realized. Oddly so.

“Shut up. Do you have to ruin everything I say?”

“I am merely pointing out the truth.”

“Well…stop it.”

Erin had to smile as the two began bickering. However, she was the only one amused. Across the inn, Pisces drained his mug and plonked it down on the table.

“If we’re done with the lovely chatting, my glass is empty. Isn’t attending to one’s customers part of my service?”

Erin glared. Relc glared too. Klbkch—well, she still couldn’t read the ant man’s expression, but he definitely gave off a silent air of disapproval.

“Nice customer you’ve got here.”

“Yeah. Hey—shut up!”

Pisces raised his brows.

“How discourteous. I believe I shall bring my business elsewhere next time.”

“I don’t want it anyways. Besides, you tried to rob me last time. You’re here on sufferance because I feel bad for you.”

He sighed and rolled his eyes heavenward. Erin sniffed and debated whether she should refill his glass anyways, but felt a sharp poke in her side. She screamed and jumped.


“Don’t—don’t do that!”

Erin rubbed at where Relc’s claw had poked her. He looked startled at her reaction and actually apologetic.

“Sorry. Again. But…you said rob? As in, that guy over there tried to rob you?”

Relc’s voice was a low hissing whisper as he glanced over at Pisces. He needn’t have bothered, though. Pisces was still engrossed in his cup. Erin grinned maliciously and whispered back.

“Yeah. Last night, I was visited by a scary monster. But when I hit it with a pa—pot, it turned out just to be him. So I got him to pay up for scaring me. That covers all the food he ate, I guess.”

“The fee was extorted under duress.”

“Shut up! You’re lucky I didn’t just toss you in the stream and let the fish eat you!”

Klbkch and Relc exchanged a glance. Relc gave the Antinium a slow nod, and Klbkch returned it. Relc turned a goggle-eyed gaze back to Erin.

“And…you let him come back for breakfast?”

“Well, it’s not like he’s dangerous. Just annoying.”

“And you didn’t think to report him to anyone?”

“Like who?”

Erin stared blankly at Relc. He stared at her. Klbkch finished his plate of noodles and set down his fork. Then he stared at Erin too. She looked at the [Guardsmen] and slapped her forehead.

“Oh. Oh. I forgot. And besides, you weren’t here yesterday.”

Klbkch nodded.

“Very true. Our absence was most lamentable. But allow us to perform our duty now. Incidentally, Mistress Solstice, the pasta was delicious.”

“Yeah, it’s great! Hold on.”

Relc grabbed the fork and started shoveling the pasta in his mouth. He was able to cram nearly half the plate down his throat in one huge gulp and munched down the rest in seconds. Erin stared with fascinated horror and a tiny bit of envy as he gobbled.

That done, Relc exchanged a glance with Klbkch. Then he turned to Pisces.

“Hey, you!”

Pisces looked up with a scowl. He glared at Relc and made an irritable harrumph.

“Do you want something? I don’t do magic upon request. If you seek a certain spell, I would be happy to discuss my remunerations…later.”


Relc grinned in his seat. He shifted, exposing one huge bicep, as he moved his right arm towards his spear. Erin felt a prickle run down her spine. Wait. What was…was what she thought about to happen? No way. No—

“How about you do the magic spell where you turn into a monster? I’d love to see that. Or better yet, do you have a spell to get out of trouble? Because you’re going to need one now.”

Pisces’ face went blank. His eyes flicked to Erin and then back to Relc and Klbkch. Erin saw his jaw tense, and then he smiled at her. A glassy, empty smile. She felt a pang in her chest, and she didn’t know why. Only that the slightly supercilious look in his gaze had turned to something blankly hostile. No…resigned? As if he had expected…

The young man made a show of standing up, dusting off his robes.

“Ah. I see the good [Innkeeper] holds a grudge. Well, I’m not sure what she told you two, but I assure you, I have compensated her more than adequately for my…mistake. It’s nothing two soldiers need concern themselves with.”

“Oh, but it is, it is! And you’re wrong, by the way.”

“About what?”

Relc exchanged a glance with Klbkch. He grinned. Or rather, his mouth opened and he showed Pisces his teeth.

“We’re no soldiers. We’re [Guardsmen]. And we’ve been looking for the bastard who’s been robbing homes with illusion spells.”


For a second, Pisces was very still. Then, with a surprising burst of speed, he sprinted for the door. Erin saw his legs move—then he flickered forwards.

It was like he teleported! One second he was there, the next, five feet away, lunging for the doorknob! But he stumbled, nearly falling over himself, arms flailing. He would have still gotten out except for how fast the two [Guards] reacted.

Relc kicked himself back from the table as his right arm snatched the spear. That was why he had been sitting so far back—he whirled the spear up and threw it in one motion. Erin was only aware of a blur of movement and the whoosh of air past her face. She screamed, and his spear blew past her ear, but it didn’t strike Pisces. The spear flew between his legs as he tried to grab the doorknob and tripped him up. He sprawled to the ground as Relc pushed his chair back. 

Klbkch was already on his feet. Like Relc, he’d given himself plenty of space. He didn’t draw his swords, just strode over to Pisces and put one arm in a lock. Another of Klbkch’s arms held Pisces’ head down.

“Do not move. You are under arrest for intimidation and attempted theft. Remain still. Any sudden moves will result in bodily harm.”

With one arm, Klbkch dragged Pisces up. The mage didn’t struggle as Klbkch deposited him back in his chair. Relc grinned at Erin as he picked up his spear. Pisces was panting, looking from Klbkch to Relc with clear unease.

“Good throw, huh?”

She tried to answer and croaked.


Relc’s eyes widened slightly.

“Oops. Sorry, did I scare you? I forgot normal people aren’t used to that. Don’t worry—I never miss when I throw.”

Erin kept looking at Pisces. His eyes darted around the room, but Klbkch was standing right over him. She nodded slowly—what were they going to do with…?

“I’m sure. I’m sure. And I’m not scared. Just—surprised.”

“Good, good.”

Relc patted Erin gently on the back. She nearly fell out of her chair but caught herself on the table. He didn’t notice. Relc sauntered over to Pisces and grinned down at him.

“Gotcha. Tried to run from me, did you? No one ever gets away.”

He looked over at his companion.

“Klbkch, got anything to tie him up with?”

Klbkch shook his head.

“Alas, I did not anticipate an arrest, and my gear is signed out at the barracks. I am without manacles or spell-bind rope. We shall have to be attentive with its lack. Unless Miss Solstice has anything to bind him with?”

Klbkch looked at Erin. She spread her hands. So there was a prison? In the city she’d never been to?

“Uh, no. No, sorry.”

“A pity. But we shall do without.”

“Indeed you will. This is an affront!”

Pisces tried to push Klbkch away. His face was pale and sweaty, but he still maintained his haughty tone, if slightly strained.

“I am completely innocent—utterly so. These baseless accusations are false and—”

“You are lying.”

Klbkch said it flatly and without a hint of doubt.

“[Detect Guilt] is a basic Skill most [Guardsmen] get. I can sense your guilt, which is enough for me to justify this arrest.”

“Plus, we already know all about you and your crimes.”

Relc folded his arms and grinned even wider. His teeth were yellow, and very, very sharp.

“We’ve been looking for you, Mister Mage. Or should I say, the scary creature that threatens travellers and people living by themselves? You’ve been stealing food and money for nearly a month. There’s even a bounty on your head, which I’d love to collect.”

Erin stared at Pisces, who’d turned a paler shade of white, but Relc wasn’t done.

“Okay. Here’s what I’m thinking. Me and my friend here will drag you out back, beat you with sticks or rocks for a while, and then drag you back to the city for a reward. Then we’ll give half to our lovely innkeeper here. Sound good?”

Pisces’ smile was strained by now, and he shifted, but Klbkch was leaning on his shoulder, pressing him down in his seat. 

“Actually, I would prefer—”

“Too bad!”

Relc cracked his knuckles. Erin, who had been staring in fascination and horror, raised a hand.

“Um. Isn’t that wrong?”

“Wrong? Why would it be wrong?”

Erin searched for words as Relc stared at her blankly.

“Aren’t there rules? Like, rules against police—guardsmen hurting people once they’re caught? Like…like no beating someone once they’re on the ground?”

Relc stared at her. He turned to Klbkch.

“Do we have rules like that?”

Klbkch let go of Pisces to scratch at his head. He stepped back, but kept one hand on the hilt of his swords as he talked, keeping Pisces well within range.

“I believe that may be a Human standard.”

“Oh, good. I got worried there for a second.”

“Yes, we wouldn’t want to ruin the enjoyment of mindless thugs like yourself.”

Pisces sneered at Relc. He seemed incapable of keeping his mouth shut even when it was for his own good. Relc made a fist, and he flinched. 

“Hold on, hold on. We don’t need to beat up Pisces. Like I said, he only tried to rob me. And I already hit him with a pot. What’s this about beating him up?”

Erin grabbed Relc’s arm. It was instinctive, but once she touched his scales, she nearly jumped away. His skin, or rather, scales, were surprisingly cool and easy to grip. But it felt so alien to Erin that she was quite unnerved. It made everything seem frighteningly real.

Relc glanced at Erin and peeled her off gently. He was so strong that he broke her grip effortlessly with just two of his fingers.

“Don’t worry, miss. We’ll do the punching outside where you don’t have to see.”

“Or—or you could not. Isn’t that what nice guardsmen do? You could just arrest him and skip the punching, right?”

The Drake nodded with a blank, uncomprehending, cheerful look on his face.

“Yeah, but he called me a common thug. I want to punch him for that.”

“Well—he’s a jerk. But I mean, you’re a guardsman. Insults like that are ten a penny.”

“Ten a what?”

“I believe she is saying insults to our position are quite common.”

Klbkch clarified. He looked at Erin, who shrugged awkwardly and gave him a sheepish smile.


Relc seemed slightly hurt. He looked at Erin with his eyes narrowed slightly. But rather than angry, that somehow made his face look sad.

“No one insults me regularly. Except Watch Captain Z and Klb, come to think of it. People like me. Everyone likes us. We’ve got a special job.”

“But one you sign up for, right? I mean, sure, it’s a great job, but—it’s just a job, right?”

Erin faltered. Relc was staring at her in disbelief. His tone rose in indignation.

“It’s not just a job. It’s a highly prestigious job! Not just anyone can be part of the city guard, let alone a Senior Guard.”

Erin blinked.

“Really? I thought you just…signed up.”

Relc scoffed. He turned to Klbkch.

“Signed up? Can you believe this? Humans.

Klbkch was unimpressed. He carefully munched piece after piece of blue fruit.

“Perhaps if you explained our function more properly there would be no need for outrage. Clearly, the nature of guardspeople differs culturally. I thought Humans did it quite similarly in the north, but…elaborate, Relc.”

“Right, well. It’s still not—okay.”

Erin crossed her arms. Pisces sneered and took another swallow of juice from the table. He began mumbling to himself, but Erin, Relc, and Klbkch ignored him.

Relc sighed. He scratched the spines at the top of his head.

“Look, I’m not sure what Humans do, but in our city, the city watch isn’t like mercenaries or personal bodyguards. We don’t just sign up. We have to be voted in.”


“Really. See, we’ve gotta get at least fifty ordinary citizens to vouch for us before we’re sworn in. And to become Senior Guardsmen like us, you’ve got to get at least four hundred. Impressive, right?”

Relc grinned and pulled something out of the belt at his waist. He showed Erin a crimson badge edged with gold and striped twice with purple. It was shiny. It had the logo of a city, well, a stylized city, over…Erin squinted. Was that water? Little wavy lines. It was quite beautiful, and she had to guess it was costly.

“Nice. So that’s your official badge?”

The Drake polished it on his front as he placed it back in his belt pouch.

“Yeah. We’ve got to keep it on us at all times. Some guys wear it on their chests, but it can get ripped off. Besides…”

He tapped his scaly arm.

“Doesn’t stick so well on scales. Anyways, we’ve gotta pay a fine if we lose it, so why risk it, right? I only need it when I want to prove who I am or pull rank, anyways.”

“Fascinating. But it’s still the elevated status of a common enforcer when all is said and done, isn’t it?”

Pisces sneered at Relc. He seemed full of confidence all of a sudden. Relc glared, making another fist the size of a brick.

“You’re still under arrest. I can hit you. It’s only because I’m being considerate of Miss Solstice here that I don’t. But I will. If you don’t shut up.”

Eyebrows raised, Pisces drew a finger across his lips.

“Pardon me. I would not dare to interrupt such august personages such as yourself. Please, proceed.”

Erin sighed, and Klbkch made a sound that sounded quite similar. Relc, on the other hand, just scratched his head.

“Right. Good. Anyways, we’re the ones with weapons, and you’re just a [Mage]. Not a high-level one either or you’d be teleporting away.”

Klbkch nodded.

“Or destroying us in a number of ways. The lack of lightning falling from the sky or [Fireballs] confirms this.”

Erin, suddenly quite nervous, edged behind a table. Her wooden table and the wooden inn.

“You sure about that? Really sure, I mean?”

Relc grinned at her. It was a grin with entirely too many teeth.

“Don’t worry, Miss. He’s no threat or we’d have taken him out when we first realized who he was. He looked more dangerous than he turned out to be. You see, both of us can tell if we’re in danger or the enemy is strong. This idiot couldn’t even use [Flash Step] properly!”

The [Necromancer] turned beet red, but Erin was fascinated.

“You can do that? Like—sensing each other’s power levels? Really? How?”

The Drake’s mouth opened, and he eyed Klbkch, who scratched at his antennae. However, Pisces interrupted with a huge sneer of his own.

“A keen observer would discern his opponent’s weaknesses and strengths and make assumptions based on their actions and ability. These two, on the other hand, are just using a Skill.”

Relc eyed him. So did Klbkch, but it was more subtle. The Drake shrugged, unperturbed.

“Well, he’s right. We do have Skills. They’re part of our classes, although in my case I’ve got [Dangersense]. But I’m also a former soldier. And Klb? He’s the Slayer. We can tell you’re not hot stuff, Human.”

Slayer? Erin glanced at Klbkch, and the Antinium’s mandibles lowered and came together as he stared at Relc. The Drake lifted a claw, wincing apologetically. What did that mean? He hurried on; if anyone reacted, it was Pisces, who turned dead white as he stared up at Klbkch.

“My scales aren’t itching, so your Human friend here isn’t that good at magic. They always itch when I’m in danger. That’s not a Skill, either. But your friend can’t even trigger my [Dangersense]. Not even a little ring.”

Erin held up her hands, hesitating between Pisces and Klbkch. Slayer. Did that mean he slew…?

“He’s not my friend.”

Relc shrugged.

“But he’s Human.”

The Drake said that like it meant everything.


Erin struggled for a response. Meanwhile, Pisces’ sneer deepened, and he curled his lip, oblivious to the danger.

“Spoken like a truly ignorant fool. What would you know of magical mastery? My powers may not lie in mere confrontation, but I assure you, I have more power in my fingernails than you have in your entire brutish body.”

Relc stepped forwards, fist raised.

“Okay, that’s it. Close your eyes, Miss—”

For one moment, Erin wasn’t sure if she wanted to get between Relc and Pisces or duck out of the way. Klbkch made the decision for her. He grabbed Relc, and pulled him back. Not easily; but there was more strength in those wiry ant arms than Erin would have guessed.

“Relax. I would prefer not to damage this establishment. Nor would the owner or even you, I suspect.”

Relc hesitated. He looked at Erin, who decided to add her support of denial.

“Yeah, let’s calm down before someone gets hurt. Like me.”

Erin grabbed the jug of blue juice and began filling cups. Relc accepted a glass, drained it, and then sipped at the refill.

Erin went to fill Pisces’ glass, but he shielded it with one hand.

“No—no need, good Mistress Solstice. I am quite satisfied at the moment.”

Relc was still glaring daggers at Pisces.

“Peh. You should drink. It’ll be the last tasty thing you eat for a long time. Actually, what am I saying? This stuff’s way too good for you. Just remember what you’re missing when we lock you away.”

“If you can.”

Erin eyed Pisces. He was still sneering, and she wasn’t sure why. If she was any guess, Relc was two seconds away from turning his face into raw beef.

Relc scowled. He closed his hand, and Erin watched his entire arm ripple. She’d seen ripped guys before, of course, which wasn’t that impressive, but this—

“Last I checked, you were within arm’s reach. That means your fancy spells aren’t going to do a thing before I hit you hard enough to make your brains pop out. Trust me. I’ve done it before.”

Again, Pisces didn’t seem affected by Relc’s threat. At least visibly.

“I am a powerful [Mage] far beyond your capabilities. Even if your paltry Skills cannot detect my—capabilities—you would do well to be wary of my hidden…capabilities.”

He seemed to have forgotten synonyms for ‘capability’, like potential, talent, ability, and so on. Erin had the unfortunate desire to laugh. But Klbkch didn’t twitch.

The Antinium moved his head slightly. His expression didn’t change, but then, there wasn’t much to change. He lowered one of his four hands to his side, and Erin saw the hand rest casually on the pommel of his dagger. More sweat beaded on Erin’s lower back.

“Such as?”

Pisces drew himself up in his chair slightly.

“I have studied countless schools of magic. You see before you a practitioner of the elements, a weaver of illusions, a refined chanter, a master of alchemy, pyromancy, aeromancy, geomancy—”

“And necromancy.”

Erin helpfully chimed in. Pisces choked on his next words. He glared at her. She shrugged.

“What? You told me yesterday. Oh, and were you the one who stole the skeleton upstairs? I just realized that was probably you.”

Pisces lost his sneer and now looked uneasy. Relc, on the other hand, grinned again.

“Well, well. Theft of a corpse and reanimation, no doubt. That’s another big mark on the list of charges. But necromancy, well, that also means we don’t have to bring you back alive anymore.”

Erin opened her mouth, and Relc waved a hand. He looked exasperated as he glanced her way.

“Yes, yes. But we’ll just hit you and drag you back so Miss Erin doesn’t see anything nasty. But you’re in serious trouble now, Mister [Necromancer].”

“Oh, really?”

Pisces sat back in his chair. He was still pale, but he looked far more confident than he had any right to be.

“Regardless if you know my identity or not, I still believe you will find capturing me no easy task.”

Relc blinked. He scratched the spines on his head and then shook his head gently.

“Humans. You’re so arrogant and crazy. It’s almost funny. If you’re so full of powerful magic, dodge this.”

He swung his spear forward, the butt of the spear first. Erin shouted and tried to grab the spear, too slowly. But where the spear should have cracked Pisces over the head, Relc’s swing met nothing but air. Pisces was suddenly gone.

“What the—”

Relc blinked. Erin gaped. Klbkch instantly swung his swords in an arc, slashing the air around the chair. But he touched nothing.


Relc swiped the air where Pisces had been with his spear and growled deep in his throat. Erin stared.

“He’s not invisible? He did that once.”

Relc shook his head angrily. 

“No. I’d be able to sense if he were within a few feet of me. This was an illusion spell. A damn clever one, too. He pretended he was here and walked off while we were busy chatting. Most idiot spellcasters aren’t that stealthy or…when did he creep off? Klb, it was when you let go of him! I didn’t even see the chair move—damn, the chair’s an illusion too! Normally I can hear idiots skulking around even on the battlefield! This bastard tricked me! Me!

He kicked a foot of the chair, and Erin gasped as the chair vanished and reappeared, further back. Klbkch looked to the door.

“I am unsure of when he left. He may have escaped only a few minutes ago. We may still catch him if we hurry.”

“Right, right.”

Relc cursed and swung his spear angrily. It made a terrific whooshing sound as it cut the air. Erin held her breath, afraid he’d let go and accidently cut her.

Klbkch turned and bowed his head to her.

“Thank you for informing us of his class, Mistress Erin. Although he posed no threat to either Relc or I, he is far more dangerous than we had believed. I did not notice the illusion spell. I have grown inattentive, lax. Relc as well, but this is a critical failing on my part.”

The Drake glared as Erin hesitated, looking at where Pisces had been sitting.

“Really? I thought—he didn’t seem dangerous. I mean, I hit him with a pot, and that knocked him out.”

“Oh, he’s probably as dangerous as a frog in a fight. That’s not the problem.”

Relc shook his head.

“We thought he was just an illusionist. That’s annoying, but really all he can do is scare folks into giving him things. But a necromancer’s worse. Far worse. We could let him go if he was just a normal [Mage], but we’ve got to find him now, and he knows it.”


Relc muttered to himself. He was still looking around, and his tongue was flicking out of his mouth, as if tasting the air. It was the first time he’d really reminded Erin of a lizard from her world.

“A rogue [Necromancer] on the loose does nasty things. Even a low-level one can bring down villages if you give him enough dead bodies, and they level fast when that happens. Damn, I’m not going to be the one who let the next Az’kerash get away, Klb. We’re gonna have to hunt this guy down. If we can’t catch him today, I’ll have the Captain send out multiple patrols once we get back to the city. Erin, we have to go, but I think you’re safe if that guy didn’t do anything last time.”

Erin nodded. Then she hesitated.

“So. Does…that mean you’ll be back soon?”

Relc nodded.

“Less than an hour, but we won’t be able to stay. Sorry. I’ll try to get the patrol out faster, but you know how it is. We’ve got to shift around guardsmen on patrol, set trackers, get armed up, etc.”

“Oh. Okay. But, uh, does that mean—how long does it take to get back?”

“We should be able to cover the distance in approximately ten minutes if we run.”

Relc nodded in agreement.

“So we’ve gotta go. Why? Are you worried he’ll attack you?”

“No, not that. It’s just—the city.”

“The city? What about it?”

“Um, where is it? Is it that teensy little wall of stone in the distance?”

Relc and Klbkch stared at her silently and then exchanged a glance.

“…You mean, you don’t know? By the way, things look smaller in the distance, Miss Solstice.”

“I know that! I just don’t know what I’m seeing! Should I? It’s not like there’s a sign or anything around here. And I can’t see it at all times.”

Relc looked amused.

“Don’t be snippy. But it’s easy to spot. Look, you can even see it out the window here.”

He walked over to a window and pointed. Erin squinted. Now that he mentioned it, the viewpoint here did let her pick out that same landmark. It was just that she needed to look hard to spot the edge rising over a hill.

“…Is it that grey stuff there?”

“Well, yeah. Isn’t it obvious?”

“No, it’s really not. It could be a rock. A square rock.”

“It’s not a rock. Why are you having a hard time believing me? Can’t you see the buildings?”

“No, I can’t.”

“I do not believe she can, in point of fact.”

Relc and Erin turned to look at Klbkch. He studied her and then brought his face close to hers. Erin flinched as he did.

“Do not be alarmed. I mean you no harm.”

“Sorry—sorry. It’s just the pincers. And the eyes. It’s just—sorry.”

Relc laughed.

“Don’t mind Klbkch. He’s ugly even for an ant. But you really can’t see the city from here?”

Klbkch nodded. He seemed focused on Erin’s own eyes.

“I believe Humans have more limited eyesight than you or I.”

“What? That’s stupid.”

Relc huffed to himself. He pointed out the window at the black dot.

“Look, the city’s that way. It’s only a twenty-minute walk, and there aren’t many monsters along the way. Besides, once you get within a few miles, the area is regularly patrolled, so you won’t have any problems. And if those idiots at the gate stop you—which they won’t—just tell them you know me.”

Klbkch nodded.

“Or me. However, you should encounter no problems. Only those with past records of crime are unwelcome in Liscor.”

“And speaking of which…we’ve gotta go. It’s my day off, but we’ll report that annoying Human maggot-mage back at the barracks. If we move fast, we might get him before he runs too far.”

Relc was on his feet. He moved so quickly that Erin was left gaping. One second he was sitting down, the next he was at the door.

“Hey, Klbkch, coming?”

And then Klbkch was there too. If Erin hadn’t seen the black blur that swept past her and felt the rush of air, she would have sworn he’d teleported.

“Indeed. It is unfortunate we must leave so soon. Our apologies, Miss Solstice.”

“No—no problem.”

“Well then.”

Klbkch nodded to her. Relc waved and was out the door in a flash. Erin was left sitting with a table full of dirty plates and a state of mild shock.

She had just picked up the first plate when the door slammed back open. She jumped, but Relc waved at her.

“Oh, sorry we forgot to pay. We’re in a hurry so—put it on our tab!”

The door closed. Erin stared at it hopefully, but it didn’t open again.

“…What tab?”


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