The Malefic Desert was especially harsh. Some members of Skyland Knights perished during the journey and the group as a whole barely obtained the piece of treasure involved with going back home. Spyte was crestfallen. As leader of the guild, she took the losses very hard. She didn't know what happened to them, either. Were they genuinely dead? Did they disappear to some other part of the game, that one might consider 'limbo'? Or, perhaps, they were sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the remaining guild members to free them!
Oh how she hoped it was the third idea.
As of now, she was coiled beside a gigantic book shelf, flipping through some pages of spells. The book was of no interest to her, honestly. It wasn't even relevant to her; she was a Druid, these were spells for a Cleric. She just wanted to distract herself in some way and the book she happened to choose was a spellbook of someone else's.
With a sigh, she pulled her hood over her head and went to actually read some of the descriptions. A snake-like tongue poked past her lips every so often as she read on. Now, she knew more about Clerics than she initially wanted to. Really, she should be plotting her next move from here. Spyte was in need of rest, though. The couple days ago, when they went through the desert... It fatigued her.
"We'll go to the forest next. That should be easy, and it's totally my element," she said aloud, to herself and anyone else who was listened. That someone being Alchemilla, probably. He--well, she--was the only one still in this insane quest with her.
The silence in the empty guild hall rang like a dirge in Alchemilla's head. Things had gone poorly in the desert, and there was nothing that she could have done to save the group. It had taken all her powers and potions just to keep Spyte and herself alive.
Alchemilla closed her eyes, memories of the horrific battle replaying themselves in her head. It had all happened so quickly, and before she knew it over half the group had perished. Back before they had been sucked in to the game, death was a slight inconvenience which could be remedied like a common cold by talking to a spirit healer or waiting for a resurrection. But after the battle ended, the bodies still lay there, eyes cold and unmoving. Nothing she tried could bring them back. The realization that those people, no longer just pixellated characters in a videogame, could be dead, struck her like a ton of bricks. Guilt wracked her body, and her once vivid and cheerful face was now lifeless and pale.
That wasn't the only thing on Alchemilla's mind. What had seemed like a cool aesthetic touch to the character now had very real consequences: the cracks in her hands had spread further up her arms each time she cast a damaging fire spell, the feeling in her hands slowly drifting away. She had to limit her spell use or risk turning in to a lump of fiery coal.
She sighed. Spyte was the only other member of the Skyland Knights willing to continue with the quest, which didn't surprise Alchemilla in the slightest. With only the two of them left, the task ahead of them was nearly impossible. But it had to be done, and if there was some hope of reviving the dead guild members by completing the quest, then Alchemilla owed it to them to see this through.
Alchemilla listened as Spyte suggested they go to the forest next. It was a good idea, especially if the area was easy, and Alchemilla felt that the sooner they moved forward and continued with the quest, the quicker they would get over the loss of their comrades. That and she didn't like sitting around wallowing in her failures, it only served to sour her mood and lower her confidence in her abilities.
"Good. Let's get on with it then," she said with resolve, "but we should probably pick up some more supplies first."
The book held in her cold hands was put back on the shelf after she decided that reading on would be a waste of time. They had things to do, places to be. If she was going to spend time reading, it would be better spent on something more related to her class. With enough time to rest, she was feeling more rational. Perhaps a stroll through town would help, too. They could get away from the guild hall, which had constant reminders of their now gone members. With luck, maybe they'd come back to find some of them alive. The Skyland Knights were tough as they were smart. For all she knew, they could have been resurrected by a generous being and were now wandering someplace else.
Spyte straightened herself up and uncoiled from her resting position, rising her to full height. An arm reached out, taking hold of her staff. They were in need of more supplies, just like Alchemilla said. She thought she may as well go now, rather than later. What reason was there to wait?
"Let's get to the town, then. Once we're prepared, we'll head to the forest and see what's there for us," Spyte said with a nod. With that, she hunched forward and began to slither towards the large pair of doors used to enter and exit their domain.
Spyte paused when she was only a couple feet from the doors, though. She felt that she should say something more to her friend. The naga turned her head so she could see Alchemilla. Spyte showed a genuine smile, silently telling the woman she had faith in their abilities, despite all that's happened so far.
"Though we are only two, I believe in us, Alchemilla. Don't doubt yourself for a minute. And I fully intend to find out how we can save our friends. There has to be a way, you know?"
Even in times of great sadness, Spyte was every the optimist.
Alchemilla watched as Spyte slithered towards the exit, eager to move on. Alchemilla couldn't fathom how badly Spyte must feel right now, after all, she was the guild leader and it was at her behest that the guild embarked on this quest. It was a testament to Spyte's courage and determination that she was willing to continue this quest, to continue being optimistic despite their losses, and Alchemilla admired that. She would follow Spyte to the bitter end.
"Thank you." A smile cracked Alchemilla's stony expression as Spyte provided encouragement. The difficulties that they had both gone through had brought them closer together as friends, and it amused Alchemilla that Spyte continued to call her by her full name. It also wouldn't hurt to let Spyte know that she still trusted her. "Spyte, I have faith in you. Where you lead, I will follow. And please, call me Alch."
Alchemilla grabbed her staff and followed Spyte out of the Guild Hall. The town wasn't very far, and before long the two of them heard the hustle and bustle of a busy marketplace. How this place managed to stay so consistently busy baffled Alchemilla. Maybe it was the constant contact with other players trapped in the game that provided comfort for them, or maybe they had just given up trying to find a way out, relinquishing all hope that they would ever leave the game. Whatever the reason, Alchemilla didn't intend to linger in town as she made her way across the cobblestone street towards the massive auction house, which looked like it was bursting at the seams with people. There were certain deals that could be made there, or, as she was hoping, there were rare items for cheap that would help them on their quest.
"Should we split up, or go buy supplies together?" Alchemilla asked Spyte. "Splitting up would be faster, but if we stay together we can always decide on what items to get."
Spyte was listing items in her mind as they made their way to town. The journey there was not far at all. Under ten minutes, perhaps. However, being the sluggish creature she was, it would take twice as long. She was tempted to tell Alchemilla to run ahead so she could get a head-start on shopping.
"We both probably need different items, right?" She and Spyte were different classes and different races, so their needs differed. Since she was with only one other person, Spyte was left to tank alone. With her animal familiar, of course, but that wouldn't be enough. She wanted to look into some better armour and perhaps, a spell that could increase her toughness in combat. There was room in her spell book for one or two more. As a tank, she wanted to be able to endure more damage in order to protect her teammate. That would allow Alch to kill the enemies better, too.
"How about we split up for now, and then meet back at the potions merchant. We have plenty of gold, especially since we're the only ones left in this, so get whatever you need," Spyte suggested with a small smile. "If we need to reach each other, we have that weird, um... Thing, where we can speak into each others minds, in place of the chat windows."
To this day, she still wasn't used to that communication method. It made her wonder if the other Skyland Knights could read her thoughts! 'No no. That's ridiculous.'
"Good idea. I'll be at the Auction House if you need me," Alchemilla responded. She was about to head in to the building when Spyte reminded her about the telepathic communication method. Which was totally ridiculous way of communicating, if you asked her. It was like purposely letting another person in to your head and letting them read your thoughts, something that Alchemilla had never gotten used to. "I'll keep that in mind."
"I'll see you at the potions merchant then," she said, smiling. That would be the last stop on her item buying spree, considering she had used all of her potions up already. She wished she had chosen alchemy and herb gathering as professions, so that she could make her own potions whenever she needed to. Tailoring was helpful, and provided some interesting stat bonuses, but she had already made everything she needed and the profession was just going to waste.
As Spyte moved away, Alchemilla felt a twinge of sadness run through her. Suddenly waking up female was shocking enough, she couldn't even begin to fathom how strange it must have been to wake up in the body of a naga, forced to live as an entirely different species and deal with a completely different set of problems. Alchemilla missed her male body back home, often wondering what exactly had happened to it, or if anyone had wandered in to his apartment and found him there. Chasing those thoughts away, Alchemilla stepped in to the Auction House.
It didn't take long to find something useful. It was a somewhat rare spell, called Divine Guardian. The effects were that the party took no damage for a short period of time, but the caster's mana would deplete for every point of damage taken. The benefits were great, but she would need to find something to deal with the lost mana. She checked her spell book. Three spots left for spells. Good, hopefully I can find a mana regeneration spell. Invocation was the next spell she bought. It allowed her to regenerate mana, but her healing spells were half as effective for the next several casts. Not ideal, but it would have to do. Alchemilla contemplated looking for more spells, but she had already wasted a lot of time searching for those two. Better to leave the two empty spots in her spellbook.
Smiling, she ran out of the Auction House and towards the potion vendor. Those two spells would be incredibly helpful, and she hoped that Spyte had the same luck that she had had.
The first thing on her list was to get new armour, or some upgrades to what she already had. She slithered over to a Dwarven armoury she knew of, where they could make exactly what you wanted and needed, for a price. It was usually expensive, but it was custom and well done, so she felt it was worth the money. It was especially helpful to someone of her stature.
Gold was spent on some good fitting armour for her top half, and a new helmet. The measurements did not take very long, since she didn't grow the last time they serviced her. That then made her wonder... Was growth even possible in this universe? Aging didn't come with leveling up, as far as she knew. Spyte tried not to think about it too much. It scared her to think she could grow old here!
Her requests were complete before too long. In a world like this, tasks could be completed as quickly as one could be murdered. Spyte equipped the new armour pieces while noting the extra weight now added to her person. This was heavier, but would be durable and reliable. The Dwarves were thanked with a friendly smile and a hiss before she snaked away to purchase a spell she wanted called Improve Toughness.
As she made her way over to the potions merchant, she made her updates to her spell book. Her teammate was already there waiting for her, much to her delight. This meant they could get going very shortly.
"Find what you needed?" she asked Alch, then turned to the shop so she could buy some health potions.