Sydney had once had a very strange dream, that Randidly had appeared before her and effortlessly overpowered both her and the representative of the Skeleton Knight who was visiting with her. That was prior to her deciding which of the Champions she should throw her support behind.
In the wake of that, Sydney had experienced a wake-up call. Sure, when she founded her Village, she was undoubtedly the most powerful of the forces of East End. But in the few months following that… she had somewhat let herself go.
Which was why, unbeknownst to most of her people, she had arranged to have a Dungeon installed in the room off of her study. That was where she spent most of her time, stretching each day into almost a week. After a prolonged period of this, she began to experience Aether Sickness, as explained by the Village Spirit, so she laid off somewhat, but she never forgot how easily he had overpowered her.
That would not happen again.
Now, 20 Levels later and with Skill Levels almost double her previous highs, Sydney was confident. Even when, with an eerie similarity to her dream, vines and roots erupted out of the ground twisting towards her.
She dismissively slashed with her hand, and Cone of Frost blasted forward, stopping the advance of the plants dead. Although the System could empower things, that didn’t mean that the Skills didn’t still follow reality’s laws. Plants were weak to cold. Combine that with the fact that she was almost Level 90 in the Skill, and his plants were easily dealt with.
“If that’s all you have, you don’t-” Sydney began, but she threw herself to the side at the last moment, a bolt of molten metal ripping through the frozen plants and blowing a hole in her wall. And after she examined the trajectory of the attack, Sydney could only grit her teeth. Randidly had missed on purpose, taking it easy on her.
“Fine then, Coldsnap.” Pointing, Sydney activated her most powerful Skill. She was partially relying on Randidly actually being powerful here because if he wasn’t, his body would be ravaged by the abrupt change in temperature.
Randidly didn’t even move. Eyes glowing, he allowed the Skill to hit him, his bone cloak abruptly covered in a thin layer of frost as he simply stood and took it. Then, with exaggerated slowness, he lifted his hands and grabbed his hood, and then drew the hood of the bone cloak over his face.
Instantly, the light from his emerald eyes was snuffed out. There was only a strange shadow, and then his whole figure became blurry, before fading into the poorly lit room.
Sydney froze for a second, then pointed towards where Randidly had been standing, and also towards the fireplace. “Fireball.”
A moderately sized ball of fire ripped forward, only smashing harmlessly into her stone wall, another igniting the wood in the fireplace. However, the fireplace was deeply set into the wall, and Sydney’s own body and her wooden chair continued to cast long, dark shadows across the room.
Randidly remained hidden. There was a knock at the door.
“Is everything alright?” Drake asked, concern and tightly controlled anger clear in his voice. Sydney wanted to rip the man’s eyes out. Now, of all times for him to get jealous…
“Yes,” Sydney said simply. The room became quiet once more. She could hear Drake huff and back away, then drink something.
There was a creak on the floorboards behind her.
“Zone of Frost!” Sydney shouted, spinning and bringing her hands up, the ice bracelet shifting into a dagger made of ice. Of all of her training, most of it focused on Dagger Mastery, to the point that it was her highest leveled Skill. It was only by a few levels, but it was more than enough to overpower most individuals who expected that she would be easy to overcome because she was a mage.
But Sydney just gaped in shock, because standing in front of her, its weight on the creaky floorboard, was a strange creature made entirely of roots and vines, shaped in a vaguely human shape.
A cold, metal blade pressed against her neck. “Is this acceptable as proof?”
Sydney said nothing, but her hands dropped to her sides. How was he so strong…? This… this wasn’t how this reunion was supposed to go at all.
“So, he’s gonna be the representative of East End?” Dauntless’ female secretary asked, looking at him with curious eyes. The Ghosthound just grunted, looking up at the rain clouds overhead.
Drake crossed his arms. He wasn’t any happier about this than the Ghosthound was. But both Coppernicus and Vandal were away on other matters, so Drake was the only person who was near strong enough to keep up with the crew of elites, and also Sydney trusted enough to represent her interests.
“What’s your Class and Level? And any special Skills you have. You’ll also be given access to the information that everyone else provided, so it can be considered a net gain for you.” The woman, who introduced herself as Rose, said. “And don’t bother holding anything back. My Skill will allow me to see what Skills you use, and based on the difficulty we are expecting… we don’t have the luxury of holding anything back.”
Drake considered for a long moment, before nodding. After the Ghosthound had stomped out of the room, his face studiously blank, Drake had gone into Sydney’s study to speak with her. She was also curiously devoid of emotion and calmly informed him that he would be going with the group into the Raid Dungeon. In addition, she had ordered him to cooperate fully with them.
After all, Sydney had said, “We aren’t at war with them, yet.”
In his heart of hearts, Drake locked that yet away and made it a priority of his to examine the strengths and weaknesses of this group. And part of that was baring his own abilities.
“Level 34. My Class is Guard Captain…. But I do have a Soul Skill, called Haunted Armor. It gives me bonuses to Endurance, Strength, and Resistance. Plus, I learned an extra Skill called Bone Exoskeleton which gives me a huge armor boost but takes forever to activate… and cuts down on my mobility a huge amount.”
“Good news, Ptolemy,” Rose said, her eyebrows rising. “39 isn’t the lowest Level anymore. Well, Drake, you’ll have to stay sharp, because you’ll probably be outclassed by most enemies for a while, but that means you will grow more quickly.”
Drake just grunted, then realized he probably made the same noise that the Ghosthound had a minute earlier, and flushed with annoyance. Trying to change the subject, he looked around and asked, “So? Where’s that big bone centipede of yours?”
Randidly’s face darkened. “She… is otherwise occupied.”
It was midnight, and the group that would descend into the Dungeon tomorrow were gathered around a fire, introducing themselves, talking about strengths and weaknesses, polishing their weapons, and saying small prayers.
Randidly sat a small amount of distance off, feeling his connection to Neveah. She continued to sleep, the forces of… whatever happened still transforming her. It didn’t appear that she had moved from that ravine where she had locked herself after Randidly had obtained his Class.
In more positive news, Randidly’s Soul Skill had finished its transformation, and seemed altogether, unchanged, except for the increased presence of energy in that world. It made Randidly frown because he could feel that something had shifted at the core of the world, and some of that clockwork, based on the work of the Creature, was shuddering into motion…
But Lucretia was also back, even though she largely was silent, examining every inch of Randidly’s Class, keeping her opinions to herself. She seemed…. profoundly disappointed about something, and honestly, Randidly didn’t want to press her for the details. They were strangely connected but that didn’t mean that he wanted to be an integral part of her life. Hopefully, at some point, Randidly would return to Shal’s world and just… let her out.
Well, perhaps not, she had done a lot of evil things in her time there…
Shaking his head, Randidly turned his attention to his Paths screen.