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Jul 05, 2020 6:26 AM
a Cameron is the demon lord
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"Well I'm terrified of getting it all wrong! Nobody else can be trusted to do the accounts, you know. Nobody double-checks anything!"

Codri laughs. "I've been to Caldu, too. They tax the hell out of us* to sell there and there's guards just about everywhere, but it's better than being cheated by a merchant."

 

*Literally: 'Fully clear the dungeon level'

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"Caldu? Where's that and what's it like there?"

Ame does in fact have the necessary tact to stop herself before she says something like, "oh, they don't tax whores where I'm from, the cops just rape them instead."

She follows them onward.

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Caldu is a big city, they say, and famous for something or other! It does lots of trade, it has lots of blacksmiths. It's very clean, they throw you in jail for littering. The noble lady in charge is supposedly disloyal to the King. To get there you have to walk for a week or ride in a carriage for three days and pay a bunch of tolls to every minor lord or whoever in the way.

The village is centered around five large longhouse-type structures, and the Savoi brothers head for one of them. A good number of people are wearing elaborate colorful cloaks. Ame attracts attention, but most people mutter and shrug and get right back to their business. A few stare, gratifyingly.

Everyone seems to know each other at least in passing. It doesn't smell as bad as a real medieval village might. "Welcome to Savoi Clanhall. You'll need coin for... Well, just about everything. Want to put out the word that you can do healing? Maybe meet Raz and whoever else is in at this time of day?"

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The tolls thing is a bit ominous. Ame makes note of it.

The village sure has an aesthetic. Neat. She ignores completely anyone who seems disapproving and offers a smile to anyone who otherwise stares at her.

"I should probably meet Raz," Ame agrees. "Go ahead and tell everyone I'm willing to offer healing." She needs to level up her Skill anyway. "Also sex," she adds, mostly to tease Gale, but it's not like she's lying.

 

As soon as Gale goes to do that, Ame turns to Codri and smirks. "So, who's Celera?"

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Codri sighs. "Fairsol clan girl, 'bout his age. A potions genius to hear him ramble on about her. Just go and ask the clan about adopting her, or them him, I say, but that'd be selfish apparently."

He pokes his head into the clanhall. It's surprisingly roomy. A kid is poking at some kind of arts-and-crafts. "Hey niblet, where's Raz?"

"Butcher house."

And he turns around again, pointing at one of the outlying buildings.

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To the butcher house then.

"Potions, huh? And 'clan adopting'? That's new to me. How does that work?"

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"If a man loves a woman and wants to fuck her all the time and have kids, they need to either be in the same clan or start a new one."

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"Ah, so, he's outright pining for her and fantasizing about them growing old together, then? Oh dear. Have they even kissed?"

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"Like I would know? They spend time together."

His mood is dropping rapidly as they approach the butchery.

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Ame stops herself from asking her next question and just offers him a kind smile.

Into the butchery they go.

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It's surprisingly clean! No blood at all except for the one table, where a very large pig is halfway disassembled. Three people crowd around it.

One of them turns, and with a phrase and a gesture her bloody hands and arms are clean. She's middle aged, but has aged more than gracefully, and is startlingly toned and fit. There's a strange presence to her. Greying hair kept in a simple bun.

"You know you don't have to watch this, Codri. We can take care of it. Or - Hm, who's this?"

She walks out and looks Ameron up and down doubtfully.

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"Ameron I-still-don't-remember-my-family-name-actually. Professional slut, hopeful Healer, and as of like twenty minutes ago, wanna-be adventurer. Nice to meet you."

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Raz raises one eyebrow. "Raz Savoi. Many things. Former adventurer, most relevantly, apparently. Can't say I've seen that combination before, and I saw strange things."

Codri shuffles a bit. "Codri, you've had enough of a day already. Why don't you go take a nap and have something to eat, hmm?"

"Yes, Raz." She watches him go.

"You're young and confident. Being an adventurer gets people killed, Ameron. On a regular basis. Do you know how rare I am, to have both eyes and all four limbs?"

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"Just today I've been beaten, nearly stabbed, crushed in half by a large vehicle, kidnapped, offered tea, and then dumped in a foreign land I know nothing about," Ame deadpans. "Notice how I'm here instead of in the dungeon over-estimating my healing Skill right now."

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Raz gives a short, sharp nod. "More sensible than the average idiot, at least. Former adventurers with all their eyes and limbs are rare. I am a vain bitch and spent a lot of money on some very good cosmetics, so you don't see scattered across my body the twelve times I very nearly died, but for luck or fate. The final straw* was a swarm of giant spiders injecting paralytic venom into among other places my eyes. They dissolved. I survived because our wizard panicked and burned himself alive along with enough of the spiders that the other two could drag me away, and I got my vision back because alchemists are wonderful people when you pay them four years' salary in cash."

 

*Lit. "I'm not fighting a dragon"

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"That is impressive, but none of that is particularly surprising, you understand. I have a vivid and pessimistic imagination."

"But, it was, in fact, Tea Lady who saved me from the thing where I was ripped in half by a very large wheel crushing my hips earlier today, and she made it clear I won't ever see her again. That was, in fact, extremely unpleasant, and I'm not going to rest until I've improved my own healing enough that I could survive that without help. As I understand it, I can't actually do that just by hanging around in the village healing everyone's wounds and fevers or whatever, but I'll gladly start with that."

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It's possible to advance without dungeon-diving, but not quickly. That's basic common sense. Who wouldn't know that at her age? Strange. Strange generally means trouble.

She shrugs artfully. "I don't personally care if you go off and die. I just enjoy horrifying wannabe adventurers. You'll be laughed at and turned away at the dungeon entrance like that, though."

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Ame snorts. "Fair enough. Laughed at and turned away by who, exactly?"

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"The Baroness's men, of course. Dungeons don't have guards and taxes where you're from?"

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"I lived on the streets of a big city where prostitution was illegal. I've never interacted with taxes, and only interacted with, uh, guards when they were either chasing me or trying to rape me."

"So... if I can beat these men at the entrance then I'm definitely qualified to survive in the dungeon?" Ame asks impishly.

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Raz glares. The glare has weight. She suddenly feels far more sheepish and afraid than she really ought to, a sudden flood of irrational terror rolling through her.

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Ame goes perfectly still, her face freezing over as her mind slams down into pure threat-assessment mode, overcome completely by the cold clarity of win-or-die that she's only ever dipped into before, even during her escape from the Dallons. (She doesn't even notice, but this state of mind kicks her Skill into overdrive as her awareness of her own body crystallizes.)

She draws her sword.

No, before the sword has moved even an inch, her other hand lashes out like a striking snake, not even grabbing but just flinging the closest object to hand directly at Raz's face.

And then she stops, mid lunge, because she knows that she can't get the sword out in time, and she doesn't expect her fists to do much. She drops and rolls in an attempt to reach the nearest cover but adrenaline and intent aren't enough and she flubs the roll into and undignified sprawl.

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It stops just as suddenly as it started. Raz smiles at her, holding the trowel Ame tossed by the handle.

"Interesting. It would appear you're relatively well equipped to deal with terror Skills. Perhaps you have a chance as an adventurer after all, with that kind of instinct."

She waits for Ame to get up.

"I would disapprove of you killing My Lady's loyal subjects. It would invite a response. It would have political consequences. It would be very inconvenient for a great number of people, and lead to a situation most easily resolved by your summary execution."

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Ame sucks in a pained breath from her position on the floor as the unnatural fear vanishes. What the fuck just happ---oh, 'terror Skills', of course that's a thing.

"Please don't do that again," Ame gasps.

She pushes herself up and re-sheathes the sword, dusting herself off.

"I would... heal them... after..." Swallow. "And I wasn't serious anyway. I just want a benchmark for how much practice I need before I can fight on their level."

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Raz frowns. She sets down the trowel. "-I won't. Most adventurers would joke about killing an inconvenient guard or two. It's part of the culture."

Deep breath.

"I am sorry. Well. If you want an honest assessment, why don't we go outside, then you draw that blade and try to hit me?"

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