"Yeah, the story goes that elves are only so long lived because they use baby blood in bread to steal their youth... It's a scary story as a kid but as an adult, it's pretty obvious what they were trying to do, doesn't even make sense since at one point there were way more elves than humans and they still lived just as long, longer actually".
Edric explained, apparently he knew a decent bit about history, perhaps he could read and found books or just had a decent teacher willing to show explain things that might not make humans look the best.
"No idea about the teeth thing... But the pictures they showed us all had really not human looking teeth so I'm not sure how that was supposed to be bad... Hunters take trophies all the time".
Edric didn't even know much if anything about potential magical uses and even he could come up with valid reasons for the stories, perhaps this farm boy was smarter than the stereotype.

"Not really, I doubt our extended family are looking for either of us, we kinda burned those bridges when we left".
Edric admitted, seemingly not too affected by it, the family ties must not have been very strong in the first place to be burned so easily and with so little emotional upheaval.
"There's my sister but... I have no idea where she might be, she fled our home when the church set up a new local group and started getting.. Uhh, inquisitive".
Gora added, it seemed at the very least his sister was probably alive.
"Yeah... Honestly the church healers are capable enough but they didn't know anything about dealing with pain, or fevers, or childbirth, or how to help old farmer Grisha get to sleep when his dreams got out of his head".
Church healing was very practical it seemed, sew up a wound but not stop it hurting.

"Yeah, those are a good idea, especially the axe, if we want to get any decent sized patches down we will need to cut a few trees, I hope the elves don't mind that, I've spotted a lot of dead ones so I'd start with that area, probably easier to dig up the stumps on those anyway... If we are to grow grain I'd also like a winnowing basket or ten, but I'm sure there are some folks around here who can weave a few of those from reeds and the like, eventually a light plough would be good too but that's long term, probably won't have enough trained up folks to use it till next year".
Edric happily displayed his farming tool knowledge, it also seemed he had begun thinking of long term training, at least up to next year.

Gora looked over his arm and nodded.
"Yeah, I had a healer fix a pretty big gash on my leg when a plough broke once, it hurt really bad, and itched like a bastard for hours after... But I can't really feel much of anything in this arm now so it won't be too bad, plus if it gets too much... We do have the soldier's aid".
He reached into the bag at his side and produced a strong smelling yellowy liquid, alcohol, and very concentrated alcohol at that.
"Honestly... It's how I didn't go mad from the pain before getting healed, I was blissfully unconscious when the Uhar were cutting out the bad bits, but they said they're out of that herb now".
 
It apparently bore repeating: these two guys were just a wealth of useful information, up to and including what could be considered an introduction to the local standards, if they weren't already proving themselves capable of far more than that. The rat listened, fascinated by the answers it was getting regarding tall childrens' tales and the habits of the church. The creature's ears flickered when Gora said the word inquisitive. What it sounded like he was alluding to, it almost seemed just a little too on-the-nose, how it paralleled with what the ratling knew of churches. Another curious detail worth noting was the charitable list of shortcomings when dealing with church's holy handiwork: the creature was certainly no doctor in its past life, but its symbiote had done a fair job of bridging that gap the day before. Were they truly operating on equal levels of efficacy as the church? Able to compete with an entire organization of healers, with what was more or less an open-book exam with twenty minutes of study-prep? Small wonder there were suggestions to keep this talent hidden!

"Ah, further condolences," the rat said after a moment, "I left my first family too." Not that one needed to relate to the situation to see the value in having at least one decent family member around. Really, this family's outcasts were starting to sound like the metaphorical equivalent of finding a diamond vein, even if it meant that, if it came down to it, there would be no hesitation in intervening between a talented herbalist and pursuing church-people. Learning how to make a defense against a sacred fire, or to twist it into something more profane, was less of a priority.

"And those healers have their limits too.. Not surprising they have trouble with mental dilemmas, but what's..." Childbirth? Prodding at the source of its knowledge got a response this time: a curt ("don't worry about it right now, and let me sleep.") Typical void-mind, keeping its secrets hidden. "No, that can wait. Sounds like I'm not as far ahead of the curve as I thought. Probably a... healthy mindset to have." This was a tough call: the ratling felt it probably knew something from its old life that could help with pain management, but dialing that up meant doing experimental things, and experiments and trying to be fancy with magic caused a mishap before. Besides, its other-self seemed... not very agreeable?

The creature winced and covered its nose when the alcohol was brought out. "Whew! What fortune, that that was not lost to the fire last week. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do." Cue a blink. If nothing else, maybe the herbs in the rat's bag might prove useful for this operation. If so, the remainder could be left for the tribe afterward. The rat prodded at its nose for a moment. "Hey, meet me in our room later, and I'll see what we can do. There's just a couple of things I need to check on first, and, getting everything started at the nest might be a big project, but it'll be worth it." It looked toward Edric, grinning. "If you're thinking of staying a good while, keep thinking of things we'll need, and I'll try to make it happen. Except... maybe getting a big composting bin will have to wait a bit. Small steps~"
 
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And to think, Edric and Gora were just a pair of perhaps slightly above average farmers, yet their knowledge of local customs, religion and stories was proving valuable, the Uhar and Syol were very detached from the world outside the forest, and Lizzy had effectively been isolated within a mage guild from a young age, imparting no doubt valuable information, but little of the average person's experience.
Of course they lacked any information on the real inner workings of the church or high society, it might be worth pinning down a priest or noble in the future to question them... Or finding a book, either or.

"Churches are... Quite conservative, they resist change and innovation".
Lumina commented by way of explanation.
"If they see healing as a miracle, why would they seek to change it? To improve it?... It would be blasphemous to even attempt..."
Lumina was basing this opinion off admittedly little information, mostly scraps from it's host and some of it's own shattered memories, but the churches did seem similar in structure in both worlds, with the exception of the gods being worshipped and the existence of magic of course.
There was also the little fact that they had a document not only showing the exact anatomy of goblinoids, but even some details on how they were created, definitely an advantage over the average church healer.

"You did?... Do you guys umm, just normally go from one group of large talking rats to another?"
Edric asked, he wasn't sure how rats structured a community, and it may have been his own biases talking but the fact that this rat kid could take on human form and speak a language he could understand somehow made him think there must be something akin to at least a tribal setup...
"It's not so bad..."
Gora admitted with a shrug.
"I still have Eddie, and my sister is out there somewhere, plus these local folk are... Pretty nice now that I'm not running all the time".
His smile was only a little forced, losing even a bad family stung but he was in an alright place now.

Both Gora and Edric gave the 'soldier's aid' a somewhat distasteful look once it was produced and commented upon.
"Yeah this bottle is thick, it's... Usually used for folks who aren't coming out the other side of their hurt, but my sister liked to keep some on hand for the more painful cleaning and treatment, the glass is thick".
He tapped on it as an example, it did seem unusually thick, likely that had kept it intact and it made sense if it was designed for a marching army.
"Yeah uhh, I guess I will, the faster this arm is back at full strength the faster I can start helping around here... I just don't feel right if I'm not doing something, especially when I'm being fed, ya know?"

Edric grinned at that request.
"Don't worry if I need something I'll let ya know, anything worth doing is worth doing right after all... Though actually the Uhar already have something like what I need, turns out they put all their old plant scraps in a big bin to grow mushrooms in... I'll just ask them to make a few and set em aside for other crops".
The Uhar at least seemed to know the basic idea of cultivation, if not of standard crops and herbs, at least of mushrooms.
 
Blasphemy. What a fun word. It brought with it a little titter and its own jolt of amusement. That it stirred a rodent to, in colourful terms, try something to spit in the design of a god, or defy some greater design, might suggest an eagerness to improve upon the craft. Still, that sort of thing demanded practice, and it just felt a little odd that the local branch of humanity lacked interest in discovering how a task was performed so that it could be repeated. Then again, supposedly gods were willing to lend direct aid here: why go to such trouble when an expert on the subject was standing by?


Edric's question brought the rodent back from its little mental journey. The creature glanced in his direction, then toward the kitchen's exit, and closed it eyes. Was that a normal thing, to go from one rat-warren to another? Its earliest memory was just being cold and alone in the night, before being found, and other rats found younger rats from time to time. "In... conclusive," came the spaced out reply, Memories did not confirm the existence of another nest, but they did provide an absence of other rats making efforts to leave. It was a big jungle though, so there might be others out there. That's why the ratling had put so much effort into befriending the two settlements here. It was trying to move too many pieces of a plan at the same time, and going nowhere quickly due to either the inefficient nature of multitasking, or the abrupt emergencies demanding attention. "Errm, no, not normally," it corrected itself, "we have our little groups, but we still look out for the nest as a whole. I should return soon, but-"

Right, the mission. Get a syol scout to the old nest so they can scour the forest for other nests. Food and lodgings were next on the priority list if their numbers increased, but there was still the diminishing power supply to deal with and- "keep getting distracted by things to kill. No progress with the mission." Except, this fortress most likely had its own power source too, right? Maybe a quick look was in order, if it wasn't buried too deep.

The creature blinked and stared when Gora spoke up about wanting to lend a hand, and slowly nodded in understanding. "You will have plenty of time to return the favor when you are feeling better. But, I understand. Even in a disaster, these folk are excellent hosts. It's hard to not lend a hand. Take care on your way back, I shouldn't be too long, but it will be a little while." Thank goodness the rat's social tactlessness didn't extend to performing healing magic in the middle of a kitchen, but the creature did abruptly continue its escape from the kitchen, scurrying out into the halls and searching for the stairs back down.
 
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"I think I heard that word somewhere once... And I know what it means sorta, I think you also mentioned you're not uhh, not exactly normal for your kind? It might have been one of the other folk who mentioned it though..."
Edric admitted, he had sorta guessed from the start that this particular rodent was very different from normal ones, and had suspicions that they were even different from whatever race they were a part of, after all, the outside world knew of the Uhar and Syol, so they would surely have at least heard of a race of sentient rats running around causing terror and destruction, it seemed like the perfect race to make up scary stories about after all.

"The dead one likely used any available power source".
Lumina reminded it's host, there was no way someone like that wouldn't have used and abused any magical relics within his reach, if there even were any left in there.
At least now things seemed calm enough and progress was starting to be made, and two new allied nations had been added, making it a lot easier to build a society than just starting out with a bunch of newly enlightened rodents.
"More power can come later... For now, the basics should come first".
Lumina added, they were stable, no longer in danger of falling asleep and not waking up, and while more large sources of power WOULD be useful, all current threats had been dealt with for now, so there was no rush.

Kitchens were definitely not the place for healing of any sort, totally unsanitary, and probably had a chance of ruining people's appetite... Or at least causing some shock if the rat ended up passing out from exhaustion again.
The stairs back down were found easily, there seemed to be several flights of them scattered about.
 
Walking downstairs, and reminded to come up with an excuse to snoop around that wouldn't shred faster than a slice of cheese, the rodent did in fact find nothing resembling a power source throughout the sub-basement. Still, whether the creature did find people just cleaning up the mess or mages still working on the curse-related equivalent... maybe venturing back down so soon wasn't the best idea. Sure, observing the cleanup crew might come in handy if there was another lich lurking underground in another ruin, but what were the odds of that being true? In the... forest where there were so many skeletons that even the relatively benign ones still needed to bother the living?

Well, Lumina was right: all immediate threats had been taken care of. Danger-prep could wait until nobody was exhausted, injured, or overworked.

Just a quick poke around the corridors was all the rat took before walking back upstairs, and then further up toward the surface, unless another of the Syol scouts or one of the elders could be found sooner. Given how many people were gathering upstairs, that might be a better place to start.
 
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Was an excuse really needed? It wasn't like anyone would question Ratty wandering around checking on things, and honestly just admitting to searching for forgotten bits of magic was completely valid! After all the last bit of forgotten magic they didn't know about caused quite a bit of chaos to put it lightly, it was lucky it didn't activate until after Ratty arrived in the forest, much like the shroud.

The physical cleaning had mostly been done, the various bits of debris either removed or reused, even the hole was cleared and having what looked like stairs and flooring built out of wood, in fact there was a decent bit of reinforcing going on, the workers were mostly too focused on work to give ratty much attention though.

One part of the cleaning that was still ongoing judging by the smell was the magical side, though the air did feel lighter somehow, perhaps the magic was taking effect? Or it could just be the lack of dust and rotting corpses.

Upstairs was much busier, there were many more Uhar, hundreds in fact, with many tents already set up, and even what looked like the beginnings of more permanent foundations...
It seemed there were quite a few groups who had headed to the fort to see what was going on... If they had arrived to meet the Lich... What could have happened? It wouldn't have ben good, that much was certain.

There were still a few Syol about, though less than before, they seemed to be leaving in a slow trickle, one familiar face was visible, leaning against a tree restringing his bow was Hin, had he perhaps stuck around to see Ratty? Or was it just chance?
Either way the act of caring for his bow mixed with the myriad noises of so many Uhar were enough that the elf had yet to notice Ratty.
 
Maybe an excuse wasn't really needed to go poking around given the circumstances, but it did seem a little off, how far the locals were trusting their rodent guest to not go breaking things that didn't need to be broken. It just seemed like security was... loose? Then again, these were the people an alliance had been struck with, and for all they knew, this rat had no ill intentions beyond what could be reasoned away as collateral damage, in both the intended sense of a wall getting destroyed, and the slightly less pleasant sense of somebody's life being cut short because they were working for a bad person. But, on the subject, the new stairway was looking pretty nice! One might wonder just how the story surrounding the staircase might go. Perhaps something like, our guest had decided that floors and ceilings were but suggestions, and not to be taken seriously? No, probably not. Knowing the way these people had reacted before, they would probably spin a tale about trying to avoid hurting too many people. It wasn't far from the truth, after all.

Still, seeing so many people gathered on the surface was unsettling in its own way: sure, it was no secret that things would have taken a very different turn without a rodent vanguard at the front of the assault, but seeing so many people camped out and building put a visual reference in place. The kids, cooks, wounded, and caretakers were inside the keep, and others were likely out hunting, so those who remained were still a fraction of the local population. It was a lot to take in, without a cozy little corner to bundle up in.

While scurrying about, the little ratling chanced upon its friend! And also the opportunity to sneak up on him! For just a moment the creature considered it, before reminding itself that Daoin was the one to revenge-ambush, not Hin. Plus, Hin was probably dealing with more stress than he needed right now. Never mind just having two jobs, with one of them involving long forays into the jungle and the other involving the protection of a local hero of the people: the guy kept placing more importance on others before himself, and several of those people had been dragging him into danger.

All the more reason for a rat to take a break from terrorizing the major powers of the area.

It stepped forth, brushing the cloth of its dirty robe against the opposite side of the tree before leaning against it and stretching hard enough to warrant an audible groan.

"What a week," it commented aloud, glancing aside, "how fare thee, comrade?"
 
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Something perhaps more frightening than the potential catastrophe of all these people trickling into the undead trap... Was the revelation that the Uhar were clearly much more than one small tribe, and with the elder undoubtedly extolling the achievements of Ratty and the common Uhar spreading tales of heroism, it was entirely likely that a not insignificant population in the region now viewed Ratty as some sort of grand hero to whom they owed their very lives... And realistically, many of them probably did owe their lives or at least homes.

Truly young elven man must have been off in his own world, as he did not notice the rodent's approach until the moment they spoke up, alas he did not react in some overly exaggerated fashion or launch into the air...
Instead he tensed for a moment before his mind processed the greeting and he was able to reply with a polite nod.
"I don't remember you being so stealthy... Then again things were less busy when we last spoke".

"Well... Daoin has been well, eager to see you again, i think you made an impression on them...".
He led by stating Daoin's status rather than his own, and didn't seem sure how to feel about Ratty making an impression.
"As for my own well being... I suppose i cannot complain, the elder has been keeping me close, i accompanied her here when we all felt the presence of the Lich... But you had already dealt with it before we arrived, thank you for that, none of us wanted to fight the Uhar and i doubt arrows are effective against bone".
 
The thing about word spreading of heroic exploits was, given the rat's nature and habit of solving problems like a lich waking up directly, this sort of thing was inevitable the moment it started heroing about. But, what else was the creature to do? Make nice with the lich when it proved itself a stronger neighbor? Maybe if the creature was lucky these tales would stay contained within the uhar tribes and the syol settlements... and maybe the human villages? Word of a monster-hero protecting the tribes in times of desperation probably wouldn't upset the retired adventurers. Probably. Unless adventurers had a problem with sapient overgrown rats... Hmm. Really, this wasn't such a big thing to worry about compared to outsiders learning of the nest, and the world learning rat-people exist. Given enough time with nothing happening, rumours tended to lose their value.

Well, perhaps a decision should be made on how to play it off in the future: Lizzy seemed to believe that a victory against the lich was a foregone conclusion, but the rodent felt it had just gotten lucky, and that this was considered by some to be a weak lich was alarming in itself. Sure, claims of being a lord-slayer were fun and cool, but being known as somebody who can throw down with a lich could attract hostile company on the same power-scale. Even Hin had simplified the matter to the point of dealing with it, like this was just some form of hazardous pest control.

"We lived a different life before the shroud hit," the creature explained about its quiet nature, "one does not become an old rat by chasing every carnivore in the jungle, but growing has made hiding its own challenge."

Closing its eyes, the ratling smiled a little at the mention of Daoin. Even facing away from Hin, the scout might notice it in the creature's tone. "We... did not intend to postpone our visit, but then this," the rat gestured outward with a hand, "happened, and, well. What are neighbors for?" With that, it walked around the tree and toward a more polite position for conversation, looking up to Hin. "Apparently, a lich can shed its physical body and persist as a spirit, visible to the eye but untouchable by physical matter. They cast large spells very quickly, and like to keep a power-source nearby. A caster who knows their trade can use the power source against them, but the lich will identify them as a threat and target them first."

The creature glanced down to its side, patting the farming sickle at its hip, and then the head of its hammer. "Perhaps it is a habit of battle-mages to favor elementalism in a fight. Maybe adrenaline surges when one is hurling fire and lightning? Still, if you've pushed a lich into shedding its physical form, you need magic to slay it, and you may only get one chance: they are fast. Keep a knife handy. Or anything made of metal. Something you can throw or shoot. Maybe an arrow enchanted to absorb all lightning around it into itself. When they are angry, they get sloppy, and might waste time mocking you for using a physical weapon against their spirit."

Cue another aside glance, and a frown. "We hope you never need this information, but we would be remiss to not share what we learned. The strange part was that he seemed to mark those starlight-stones as the only threat in the room. Possibly could have trivialized the entire ordeal with them, but it was a bad time for experimenting. At least when you put the spirit down and it retreats back to the source it's projecting itself from, it just takes a good hammer-swing to break that. Enial has some fine artisans running the forge, by the by."

This was certainly the long way to convey that the rodent was glad it didn't bring Daoin along for the adventure, and that maybe if this was the sort of nonsense it got up to, maybe it should keep its visits brief. Maybe the rat could complain, if Hin could not? In retrospect, this really did sound like it was a job for a small army with the expectation of significant casualties, and tackling it with just two companions could be considered a form of insanity. However cheap it felt to be absurdly strong compared to the populace at large was overshadowed by the threats posed by entities that could compete with the rodent: this jungle didn't play around, and it was possible that the lords and churches did not either. But hey, Pellinta, Hin, the uhar elders, and the not-so-elders all survived a lich attack! Even if they had said to leave some of the dangers of the jungle to them, the ratling might have taken it a little hard if some of them met their end at the hands of Saur.

After a quick breath, the ratling got back to the topic of small talk. "We need a rest from this, and are heading back soon. Is the elder still about?"
 
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Something about adventurers having problems with overly large rodents did seem like it made sense... Though it 'made sense' in the same way as all the other half remembered bits of knowledge from the 'other' world did... So might not apply here, unless it was just a human thing, as humans seemed very similar in both worlds.
At least it wouldn't be TOO hard to keep quiet, how many terrifying threats could there really be within one forest? Even if it was incredibly massive despite the bordering kingdoms, if there WERE more threats... Maybe the vast size of the forest could be enough that no one would notice them being eaten.

"Wise words... They apply to just about anyone I suppose, I know Elder Pellinta always approaches things with a plan if it all, and she's well, an elder, which is doubly difficult for us".
Elves like the Syol did indeed have the natural long lived nature in their corner, but it made sense that since becoming their version of 'old' took many more years, they would inevitably encounter many more chances to cut their lives short.
In a most unusual moment, Hin actually laughed, it was low and sardonic, hardly the sound of someone who found something truly amusing or pleasing, but still out of character from what Ratty had seen so far.
"Indeed... You do seem to be rather cursed with arriving at places just as 'things' happen, I thought I was the one with the most consistent bad luck, though you do always survive and win, so perhaps it isn't all bad".

Hin listened to the information being fed to him by Ratty, genuinely wanting to learn, a Lich was a rare threat, but still one that was clearly worth learning about, and he was even able to lend a little information of his own at the end of it!
"I can answer that, on the topic of elemental magic... I might not have a shred of talent myself, but I sat through the same classes as my peers, I believe magic is easier to use in simpler ways, shaping it in unnatural ways is more draining, on one hand a skilled mage COULD weaponize raw energy or perhaps even medicinal spells... It is much easier to rely on the innate destructive force of a large amount of fire, less shaping needed there".
He certainly repeated the information as if it was learned from a teacher with a somewhat droning tone, Hin must have been a good student though and it made sense that a culture so linked to nature and to a lesser extent magic, would have some form of lessons concerning both.
"Though... An arrow enchanted to absorb lightning spells?... I feel like I have heard of things like that, it certainly sounds like it could be useful in the right battle".

"Those stones? Really?"
He seemed a little incredulous, brow furrowed.
"I don't know anything about those, other than that they glow and all the ruins have them, you'd be better off telling some more magical minded types, because anything that could potentially harm the undead just by existing is complex magic, even I know that much".
Hin nodded in answer.
"Yeah, Elder Pellinta is resting in the tent with the big brown cloth patch on it's side, I am technically here to act as an escort when she finishes with cleansing the ruins and meeting the other elders, I am sure she would be glad to speak with you though, she might even appreciate speaking to someone she likes".
 
The rat grinned, enjoying Hin's laughter. With a wave, it signaled for its elven friend to follow as it strode toward the tents, absorbing the tidbits of imparted lessons. "Would that bad luck were a competition. I suppose the winner of that would be our late adversary. Guy woke up chained to a cellar, got ready to claim vengeance upon the lands of those who've defeated him long ago, and the people he'd pressed into servitude lured the worst rat into his evening banquet before he could even leave his bedchamber. That is a cursed existence,,. Then again, if he wasn't doing what he was doing..."

Wait, was that a small amount of pity, or sympathy? Was it strange to relate so much to a creature of unfathomable evil? Was what drove someone to become a lich a fear of death, or an embracing of it? In any case, it seemed a rather uncouth area of study, regardless of whether the subject was philosophy or practicality, so these questions would go unasked.

"Well, there is only so much I can share that isn't speculation. Metals conduct electricity and heat, so an enchantment specifically for that might be redundant in most cases, but not when you're up against a spellcaster. You don't have to shoot through the spell and hit the caster with the same arrow to buy a few seconds, but against the boneheads..." Cue a shrug. "Something about the glowing rocks made them falter, and when I threw a lit one, the shambler fell on contact. Just stopped moving. Wasn't enough time to run proper tests."

The ratling flicked its ears upon arriving at the tent in question. Truly, it needed more than just the syol elder present for voicing its plans and seeing where everything would go, but as things stood, the creature did not foresee any trouble: heroic certainly had their advantages.

"Still, as much as I prefer boredom to this kind of excitement, I'm just glad everything's.... mostly working out, and that we are able to live this close together. If word of me or my people reaches outside of the forest before we are ready, that might be the end of our quiet days. Still, I thank you for your company. You, Daoin, Nulyth, Pellinta, everyone. Not just for your friendship, but because we are soon to compound everyone's headaches. We feel the majority of people out there would lack the patience that you all have shown in meeting with us."

The elders seemed to be aware that a big change was looming nearby, but it couldn't be appreciated more that at least one of them seemed ready to embrace that change, rather than go to a certain extreme to stop it.
 
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Hin followed along with a nod, he didn't really have anything else to do, not until Pellinta decided it was time to go home, then him and the three other Syol from his village would escort her, he may as well follow his... friend? It was probably safe to assume Ratty was a friend, they had fought together and eaten together after all.
"He lived a cursed life, at least, I would assume so, working with the undead always takes some manner of horrible acts, just disturbing the dead is enough on it's own... So it makes sense he would wake to a cursed fate".
There was a rare note of disgust in Hin's voice, it seemed undead were not well liked, or at least, the process of making them was considered foul, though as knowledgeable as he was, compared to Ratty anyway, it was unlikely that Hin would have more detailed information on liches and undeath, that definitely seemed more like the forbidden knowledge or at least scholarly type of subject.

"Hmm... I might have to broach the subject of acquiring a few of those stones, if they hold well under carving, it might be worth trying to craft a few arrowheads, as a reserve against any undead roaming about, I feel after that lich's awakening, we will encounter more than the usual amount of shambling corpses".
Considering how well they held up against the wear and tear of sitting in an underground ruin for gods knew how long, they might actually work as arrows...
"Enchantments that focus on enhancing natural abilities... Are far simpler and often stronger".
Lumina piped in randomly, perhaps having felt left out and wanting to contribute some of it's random magical trivia knowledge?

"Don't worry about word spreading, the Uhar and Syol have learned to be good at keeping secrets from the outside world, we have a culture of taking in escaped slaves and those who free them, so hiding fugitives is... Almost a cultural norm now".
It was phrased almost like a joke but with a core of seriousness, and held a reminder, those who fled slavery or aided those fleeing such oppression, were considered the criminals amongst much of this world...
"Besides... I think most humans still believe the stories of our ancestors commanding armies of magical beasts, so who knows if they would even care?"

Hin shook his head.
"Patience? My... friend?"
He struggled with the word a little, pausing for a moment to test the word before continuing.
"You appeared from nowhere, saved us from losing our homes... Twice might I add, and rather than abuse your status as a hero and demand outrageous rewards... You simply asked for basic help to become a good neighbor, good neighbors are hard to find for us, and... I think Pellinta probably has more to say on this matter".
They quickly reached the tent in question, it was smaller, and the shadow of one figure was vaguely visible within, Pellinta was alone it seemed, and if the barely visible posture was any indication, she was waiting.
 
The rodent's ears flicked: more confirmation that liches were distasteful (to put it lightly!) in the public eye was one thing, but Lumie's interjection about magic enchantments was very good information to have! No wonder the hammer took so well to being charged with lightning. To know that more shamblers were likely to be encountered in the future, however, was less welcome news: more opportunities to science out some weaknesses without consulting the professionals who should know a thing or three about putting corpses back in the ground, but a dire and depressing task nonetheless.

"We've eaten a few. The stones themselves can store magic cast into them, so it's more a matter of replicating the magic cast into them. But if both components are vital to the end result.... Well, I'm no expert on magic, but I should get another look at them with my teachers. The starlight-stones we collected here are all sitting in the room I'm borrowing, unless somebody has come to retrieve them. I left them in a pile. It's been a long week." That said, those were still the Uhar's magical stones, so it would make sense that Hin might be a little uncomfortable retrieving those. Part of the sentiment amused the rat: for a society that sheltered criminals, there just seemed to be an honorable and honest air about the elves this rat had been speaking with.

Or maybe that was just these two with their innate lie-detector senses. For all the awkwardness having such insight could cause, it made miscommunicating difficult. Not impossible, apparently, but still difficult. The ratling tapped at its chin: perhaps patience was the wrong word.

"Demanding outrageous rewards... So there is a precedent, then." Yes, these elves and goblins were definitely the rodent's people, in that it might have some difficulty respecting neighbors from radically different cultures, or possibly even other heroes from the sound of it, but one of the potential threats the rat was concerned about was all but confirmed with this statement. "Hold onto that thought, for we have outrageous demands to make, but it's nice to know we have the same ideas in mind for our relationship. Anyone else, we suspect would try to arrange our untimely demise the moment they learned of our power. Strength and confidence make the funny-hat people uncomfortable."

Needless to say, one probably didn't need Hin's keen senses to detect a trace of humor in the rat's claim of an outrageous reward: yes, it was going to ask something slightly more significant of the uhar and syol people this time around, but in the end it could be summed up as the minimum to get the nest established and renovated, arranged in a way to help the uhar as well. The creature leaned into Pellinta's tent, waving hello toward the shadow.

"Hi-yaaaaa, good to see you're still here. Got a moment? We have a plan we'd like to discuss with the uhar, but we also feel you should be included in the conversation. I'd say.... sliiiiiiiightly less urgent than our usual discussions." - In other words, probably work-related: Mother Syol might not be too amused with the subject.
 
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"Right... I'd say that eating rocks is unhealthy but... Clearly you're built differently to most people... I'd say that honestly if any part of you was going to truly frighten me... It's that power of eating rocks".
It was just so strange, that Ratty could not only eat magical rocks but somehow gain benefit from them, he had usually only heard of eating rocks as an insult to particularly slow people, or sometimes, rarely, in reference to a certain kind of magical creature.
"Well either way, I doubt we have anyone who can replicate that kind of magic, I admit I'm... Not really an expert, but the elders magic seems to be a lot different to that kind of thing".

"Oh about that... I doubt the Uhar would have removed anything you left in the room you had, even the stones, there are plenty more in the fortress storage judging by the way they're stringing them up".
He gestured at a small group of Uhar who were in fact attempting to tie a rope of stones to part of the wall.
"If anything... They're probably relieved you chose to claim some, might make them feel better about you retaking their home for them".

Hin raised an eyebrow at Ratty mentioning the potential of future 'outrageous demands' he didn't really think this person was the type to truly ask for something impossible or crippling... But decided not to point that out.
"Well, you're not wrong there, and not just power, the types to wear big hats tend to get... Upset, if anything upsets the status quo".
He spoke from experience... Growing up hearing about the pure and morale actions of various churches, only for them to take up arms to beat down slaves or pretend to give them shelter only to call in the slave catchers had firmly shaken his belief in higher powers, the nobility went without saying as quite often they OWNED slaves and raised armies to put down any change.

Seeing that there was about to be some serious, possibly magical or political based talk, Hin decided to wait outside the tent, better for Ratty to feel free to speak freely to Pellinta without his company... Also he didn't really want to be too deeply involved in such talks.
"Of course, I had been expecting you might wish to speak with me".
Pellinta assured the rodent, gesturing at a rather comfortable looking pillow in case they wished to sit, she herself was already on an equally comfortable looking seat.
 
As Hin's acknowledgment of the rat's rock-eating habits went more or less unanswered, the rat pondered on just what that meant: it had no desire for the glowing stones piled up in its borrowed room: its own nest had plenty, and even if no other friendly mage could activate the stones' magic, then it was probably up to the rat to do something about learning the replication process anyway, because limitations like mana inefficiency and not knowing where to even start just weren't effective barriers when it came to the ridiculous little creature. It also sounded like time would provide it ample opportunity to science out the intricacies of the magic and its effects on the shambling corpses, but that wasn't exactly something to be happy about. Well, maybe if it meant that sharing knowledge with the locals would let them tackle a future infestation without being in nearly as much danger.

Another unpleasant task to put off for another day, then. As for the stones, it wasn't like they wouldn't be useful: the ratling did have two renovation projects in dire need of starting. On that note, it plopped into the seat offered by Pellinta.

"Ahahah, yes. I plan to depart soon, so finding you here is more efficient than waiting elsewhere. Again, nothing urgent. My new... huh, what to call them." Cue a chin-tap. "Our acquaintances wish to share their farming knowledge with everyone, and to that end I've gone and promised supplies while having no coin to make good on that promise. Normally a non-issue.... but I'm still tired, and would rather avoid making several trips everywhere just to get started. Enial has good artisans. We're just uncertain whether this is something I bother you with, or if it's a request we put through your assistant."

Logistics, chain of command, proper channels... whatever one called it, this wasn't exactly a talk about payment, even if it involved currency and services.

"On a related note, the elders did approve of our previous agreement, to show a scout our old nest so that others can be located. Should I just find somebody in town for that job?" Sure, this settlement wasn't far away from the syol town, but the creature didn't know if Pellinta could afford taking anyone out of her escort. "Either way, the new nest needs some repairs before I can have proper guests over. We've need of a builder to make the walkways less perilous for everyone. So, it's a little more involved than funding a few errands. You've seen the chasm."

Come to think of it, this was pretty dangerous work too. It wasn't an angry lich hurling thunderstorms and explosions at everyone, but slipping in the chasm probably meant a high-speed collision with one of the walls down there.

"Oh, right. Any new developments while I've been... downstairs?"
 
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"If you eat more of them... Perhaps... I could recreate the enchantment?..."
Lumina suggested with a fair amount of caution, it was certainly possible to recreate spells, but enchantments were new to it, and the stones were already so damaged and aged, the fact that more than one was needed should be enough to single the fact that this would not be as easy as the other more notable power sources that had been consumed so far.
"Though... You may not be able to enchant more very often... Your own power is still weak".
Was Lumina a little frustrated?... Maybe, they did regularly have to do the magical rock equivalent of an induced coma whenever Ratty used too much energy, which was often... Even with the improvements made to Ratty's... Well everything.

Pellinta seemed intrigued by the mention of farming knowledge, definitely a good start to the topic!
"You were right to bring this directly to me... I am sure you have seen our... Rather limited cultivation attempts?"
She was of course referring to the small patches of mostly herbs that were scattered around the village when Ratty visited.
"Many of us did farm work before arriving here... But we usually did the purely menial labor, there was nothing about properly creating large scale farms... I do feel that your acquaintances will find their expertise in demand not just within the Uhar, but also among the Syol, I am sure some of the other elders may require convincing, but rest assured, I will ensure they have all that they may need".
Right off the bat it seemed Pellinta was more than happy to handle all the complicated logistics and that the Syol too would benefit from some real farming knowledge!

"Ahh, of course, take anyone you like, really there is no actual danger to me here now, really I only had such a large escort due to the potential presence of undead... But I am hardly some helpless old lady".
She grinned, not feeling the need to explain exactly how she could defend herself.
"I will admit I am not sure where to begin with such repairs in your new home, we have not a single stone worker among the Syol or Uhar, certainly not one who would be able to take charge of such a massive scale of repair and construction".
That checked out, the only stone building in sight was a the fort, and it was being repaired mostly with wood or by crudely shoving fallen stones back into place.
"We may be able to construct a wooden bridge at least temporarily, and perhaps shore up some of the weaker points with wooden beams..."
She did offer that much at least, a few bridges had been built in her time, usually over water rather than a terrifying drop though.

"Ahh... There has indeed been one rather major development... The Uhar have decided to for the most part, settle down, I am sure you could tell as much from the construction currently being done, but they have decided after this latest incident, that being scattered and nomadic, without reliable ways to communicate, is ultimately a detriment to them all, especially with their numbers having grown over the decades, they are converting this fort and their other winter homes into more permanent year round settlements".
 
Lumina may have been the only entity capable of keeping this rodent's ego in check: if the expert on magic had anything to say about power relativity, they'd be the one to know. It's just too bad that things have been so busy of late, but maybe with some time off from heroic forays the two could run some experiments and discussions with Lizzy on magical theory, capabilities, and whether the method of strengthening one's potency was a measure of going all out and recharging, or tempered exercise with periods of rest to avoid burnout. Really, a smarter rat would plan around its own weaknesses to take advantage of its strengths, but it looks like the human nature was showing through with its direct approach to solving problems.

Or, maybe a magical feast was in order? The little ratling had been averse to overeating so far, even when offered up celebratory dinners from the hosts. Was that just learned behavior from the nest's general scarcity, or something else? Either way, if it was upsetting Lumina, they could always sit down and force themselves to go a little overboard: the creature was already a little bit chubby and unhappy about that, so there wasn't much to lose by eating heavier. And hey, maybe if they found another significant power source, that could prove useful.

As it stood, though? Yeah, bothering Pellinta with the current task was the right call. She was here, among friends, and had enough social standing and experience with people to get an already stressed out bunch of tribesmen to divert staffing for an extra project. Everyone present had everything to gain from this proposal... and to be frank, the passing week was enough time to accept that the creature did just address a large group of people to yell at them, while naked. How embarrassing.

"Yes, it's... daunting. As unpleasant as the answer is, the place to begin in either of these projects is anywhere," the rodent admitted, "anything at all to get started, and then we can work on improvements with time. Structural repairs and a bridge should be enough to keep the littler ones from falling or being swept away, but I still need beds and food before I can host guests at all. Truth is, it's a heavy workload we're asking to share, and I lack almost all the necessary tools to do my own part."

Cue an aside glance. If the tribes were converging upon central points, then agricultural developments would be necessary for everyone: wild herds simply couldn't sustain a population of this size for long, and the two teachers would probably have their hands full for many, many seasons with new students. And, once again, the rat was showing up to a situation with the solution to a forthcoming problem, even if this one wasn't a solution by its own hands. Well, not directly. It still needed to fix Gora up a little better first.

"We wouldn't dream of calling you helpless. You came here personally to engage a foe I had trouble with. with proper backup and resources, and it sounds like you're soon to engage the other syol in one of the more dreaded arts: diplomancy." The rat grinned. "The uhar are making drastic changes to their lifestyle after two major disasters in the span of a week: one could argue that is more harrowing than our late adversary. If anyone thinks any of you are feeble or incapable, that is their own foolishness showing. Best of luck, by the by. We are counting on you for your part in everything, but what should I tell the craftsfolk I make requests of in Enial? That it's a request from you?"

That was... pretty much everything the ratling needed, if Pellinta had no requests to make. It had secured her blessing to take whoever along for another mission: maybe two or three from Enial, in addition to Hin, if Hin wanted to tag along. The next step would be finding Nulyth or one of the uhar to fill her in on everything.
 
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"You will not gain weight from magical consumption..."
Lumina wasn't sure why it's host was worried about a healthy amount of extra weight, it was useful for long term survival after all, but instinctively felt that in this situation, it was best to offer assurances that there would be no excess weight gained from magical feasts.
"All magical energy is broken down... And non digestible materials such as hard stone are removed".
It technically would be possible to simply use what it's host saw as extra weight as fuel for further growth and advancement... But that seemed unhealthy to Lumina, so they neglected to suggest such a thing.

"The temporary repairs and barriers are very much within the realms of possibility, and even some beds to an extent but... Most of our carpenters cannot dedicate themselves wholly to such tasks for the amount of time that would be needed, their skills are needed seldom enough that most have other duties as well, and the Uhar will be especially busy with their new plans".
She hardly needed to explain that part with how already the foundations of more permanent structures were being put into place in and around the fort they sat within.
"Normally it would even take time to gather the wood for such tasks but... The Periphery cancelled several of their usual requests lately and left us with a stockpile of prepared wood, I had been meaning to question one of their representatives on that before so much happened so quickly".

Of course, the aid that could be offered by the Syol had it's limits, while the existence of so many elders implied there were far more than just a single Syol town within the forest, they didn't have the sort of economy that would allow for someone to make a living purely with a single trade like carpentry, especially as the general high quality of their goods likely meant that the need for replacements was rare, unlike with their metal goods, as tools and arrows were always in demand and wearing out.

"I came in force, expecting a battle that would cost many lives... With an uncertain chance of victory, even if they were responding to attempts at contact lately, the periphery would have been too late to assist, it was more of desperation than confidence".
Pellinta wanted Ratty to be under no false confidences about the abilities of her or her allies, she was strong in magic to be sure, but very little of it was orientated towards any form of combat.
"Diplomacy however, is a battle I am MUCH more confident in my ability to wage, I know how to convince the elders to do the smart thing, most of them are wise in their own right and likely will not even need more than a simple explanation to be perfectly fair".
That made sense, you didn't usually get to be the elder if you were an idiot, failing upwards was harder to do in merit based societies.

"Ahh of course, how forgetful of me... Here".
She removed one of the several rings she wore, one that carried a simple but recognizable image of a bullcat, and offered it to Ratty.
"My signet, any Syol will know what it means and return it to me for compensation for their work, needless to say, take care with it, it may look like simple wood but there are quite a few spells upon it to ensure authenticity".
If accepted it would indeed feel oddly heavy, far heavier than any wood ratty would know of.
"Of course I am sure most would accept your word at face value, it takes a certain amount of... Let us call it boldness, to lie about the words of an elder so blatantly, but this should deal with any of the few who may not trust your word alone".
 
With a brief relax in tension in response to Lumina's assurances, the ratling considered the problems its requests presented: of course there were limits to what the syol could provide, but a supply of treated wood was still a major hurdle to clear. That mostly just left tools, transportation, and hands skilled enough to make use of it: a problem, but not an impossible one. Hearing about Pellinta's realistic expectations, should a rodent interloper have not gotten involved, was a little more disheartening.

"You expected that kind of battle and didn't invite me along," the creature confirmed. That was certainly a choice of words. "Right, because you were pressed for time, and we were already en route." A moment passed, and the rat suddenly remembered the other reason Pellinta might not be comfortable extending such an invitation: "And, it would have left a bad taste in your mouth. We do not envy you. Forgive us, it's easy to forget that not everyone has the privilege of keeping their morals without risking their survival."

What a grim subject: poor local relations compounded with disasters. Hin wasn't joking about friendly neighbors being in short supply any more than he was painting an accurate picture of how deep that problem went, but that might have been his way of suggesting to let the syol deal with some of their own problems. Really, asking for help or payment at all in this situation didn't sit right with the rat either. Not enough to refuse the offered ring, however: the creature reached out and palmed the item, looking at it for a few seconds.

"Huh. This feels heavier than it should," the ratling remarked, not quite meaning the literal definition of 'heavy' with its observation. "We will... try not to use this. As much as we would like to assume our own reputation is one of sincerity, it could just as easily be an audacious one." A signet was not something to flash around lightly, but if it was that recognizable to any of the local syol, it could be more useful as a means of verifying the rat's identity as the lord-slayer. Or a friend of the syol people. Or something. It's not like there was another talking, bipedal rat out there with a penchant for brazen and vulgar displays of power.

"Well, apart from finding a proper builder for the job, the list of expenses should pose little trouble: farming tools and some camping supplies would go a long way, We have somebody in mind for that, and we know where to grab some other tools, but would need a cart to carry all of them." The creature sighed. "Sounds like a visit to the peripherie is unavoidable. We should be able to find something to trade for the lumber if necessary."

As it stood back up, a thought crossed the rat's mind. "It's too bad there is no time for lessons in magic. Some form of long distance communication would be useful, but our paths seem to be crossing often anyway. If the chance presents itself, I'll see if I can work out what part of the glowing stones is so effective against the shambling dead that a mere touch can drop one. We don't want this catastrophe repeating."