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File 162408358338.png - (324.92KB , 1000x1000 , LFTitleCardPOV4.png )
1003639 No. 1003639 ID: 8483cf

Lazy Wiki: https://questden.org/wiki/Lazy_Fairy

Previous Topic: https://questden.org/kusaba/quest/res/994661.html#994661
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No. 1003640 ID: 8483cf
File 162408370470.png - (357.04KB , 1112x1323 , LFT4_1.png )
1003640

Wolf pelts. Single slit. Skinned, fleshed and stretched. Sold for a modest price. Fur is cheap this year. Lady Kensington’s bombs ruined some of the pack, but I slew enough myself to make the trip profitable.

No luck finding boars. Would have been nice to get a bonus for pest control.

Always enough deer to hunt, but deer aren’t worth the weight. Perhaps if Minga gets a taste for venison, it might be worth chasing a herd.

My clothes are too tight. It’s been two whole seasons and I still can’t afford a new outfit. That’s fine. Not like I’m going to need it. As long as I don’t get hurt, I can take care of myself and my gear.

I run my hands over my bow. It’s solid, with several backup strings. I could head out tomorrow if I wanted. Or I could stay here and take a day to myself. It’s my choice. Nobody’s telling me what to do. I’ve got total freedom.

If I really wanted to, I could sell my shortbow. Odds are some merchant in Minga would take it on consignment, ratchet up the price, say it was made by a wood elf, hype up the craftsmanship. I’d get a pretty penny and could go make a new one. The only things I can’t replace are my enchanted rope and my long dagger, Samhain. The rope is hard to come by in the best of times, and I can’t weave the magic myself. Samhain was my birthright, just as Imbolc was my brother’s. He can melt it down for all I care.

If I sell my shortbow, I could branch out and learn to use traps. Maybe a rifle; some upstart humans are investing in firearms. But no. Waste of money and make a racket. Why chase off the whole herd just to get a kill or two? Doesn’t make sense. Bullets and gunpowder can’t be made in the field or used when wet. How do they expect to survive if they’re cut off from civilization? Short-sighted and dangerous. A gun is a city-dweller’s weapon.

Or maybe I should just go bivvy for a few months. Save on rent. And food. And clothes. Beds and a roof are luxuries, when you think about it. I’d just need to find a secluded place all to myself with food, water and shelter. I think there’s a likely mountain range to the north. I should go hunting for a waterfall! I could find a nice clear pool with a hot spring beside it. I’d have it all to myself, with no one for miles. Just my own personal slice of-

There’s a knocking at my door.

Oh.

Living in the mountains is sounding better and better by the minute.

“What?” I ask.

“Lady Kensington,” a voice calls out. “Oh. Sorry. You didn’t ask who it was. Uh. Can we try again?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

There’s an awkward silence.

“How about now?”

I sigh. “The door’s unlocked. Come in.”

“Thank you,” Lady Kensington says. She’s nervous. Not exactly out of the ordinary.

“What is it?” I ask, bracing myself for a long and winding conversation from a noble girl whose etiquette just can’t let her get to the point unless she’s taken a detour through the next parish or two.

“Well…” Serah rubs the back of her neck. “I need an experienced tracker to take myself and Sir Terrorscale to his wife's lair in the mountains north of here and if you think you can handle navigating through highly dangerous terrain I’ll pay for your provisions and a retainer for the three or four months it’ll take to get there and back.”

I take a moment to process what she just said. This is very odd: I can actually, physically feel my opinion of her changing. It feels like confusion. Confusion and discomfort.

“Wait. Terrorscale? Did you just walk in here and ask me if I’d help take you to a dragon’s lair?”

“Oh dear. Did I pop the question too soon? I’m sorry, I’m just in such a hurry. I understand if you’re not confident in your abilities, it is fairly far north, but the caravan is leaving tomorrow morning. Can I count on you?”

Wow. Talk about a hard sell.

Free food and passage? A retainer for doing nothing but tag along for a few months until the going gets tough?

It’d be a good deal if I wasn’t bound to do it with a novice noble, her incompetent fairy, and an enigmatic fox spirit who I suspect would turn on me the moment it’s convenient for her.

This is a recipe for disaster and I should turn it down immediately.

But I could really use the money.
>>
No. 1003641 ID: 094652

Just offer to do it solo. Come to think about it, the other party members would probably support you; they don't want to follow this incompetent fop through miles of blizzards and giant wolves. The only reason you don't offer to Terrorscale's little consort yourself is because Serah can negotiate a deal that gives you a cut of the pie that is bigger than the whole pastry you would get if you asked directly. Pampered nobles and their educated silver tongues, you see.
>>
No. 1003642 ID: 96c896

>>1003640
You don't have all the information. Ask who Sir Terrorscale is (aside from being the dragon's husband-- like, is he good in a fight? is he trustworthy?) and why you'd be escorting him. How long will you be traveling without the caravan once your party splits off? Traveling with the caravan is easy, they have guards.
Does she have a plan for surviving the trip through the mountains with just your group? What's the plan once you REACH the dragon's lair? Suggest you send Sir Terrorscale in first so that he can tell his wife you're friends. Also that you should securely restrain both the fairy and the fox spirit so they can't do anything stupid in the lair like trying to steal things.

>until the going gets tough
Are you implying you'd ditch them once things got dangerous?
>>
No. 1003645 ID: 0fae41

Sure. Take some of that retainer in advance and buy a new outfit. And finagle a promise of a mutagen out of her. A permanent performance booster, surely they're good for more than scraping your head against the ceiling.
>>
No. 1003646 ID: 252d96

Take it. See other places, meet new people, make money, find promising breasts and creatures to make a companion of. As guide, it's not like you can't leave if they don't believe you if you say something is to much to handle.

You also seem extra grumpy today. Something/one bugging you?
>>
No. 1003647 ID: 252d96

>>1003646
*Beasts*
>>
No. 1003648 ID: e51896

Maybe you'll find an animal companion in the mountains
>>
No. 1003691 ID: 8483cf
File 162414063403.png - (77.48KB , 480x569 , LFT4_2.png )
1003691

“This is a lot of information to take in at once,” I say. “But let’s get a few things out of the way. First, you’re smart to ask a ranger if they’re familiar with new terrain. The answer is yes, I can navigate in the mountains north of here, and you’ve picked the right ranger for the job.”

Serah nods.

What I don’t say is that I’m miffed at the way she brought it up. I’m not sure how much, if any, of her nervous act is just that- an act. She came at me like this trip was a challenge to my skills, and with most ranger, that would have worked pretty well. Pampered nobles and their silver tongues don’t always have to be flattering to work their magic.

“Second,” I go on, “You didn’t mention a plan for the part of the trip for when the going gets tough. Obviously you don’t need an escort for the caravan journey itself; they’ve got guards. I’m assuming you’ll split off at some point after the caravan stops outside a few towns and boroughs, maybe terminating at a trade hub. Then what? How far off the beaten path are you going? What’s the expected elevation? How much climbing will you need to do?”

“I don’t know,” Serah says. “Sir Terrorscale seems to remember the local fauna, wildlife and winged kin are the major threats this time of year, not the climate. We’ll need to search for the entrance to his wife’s lair; hopefully he’ll remember the general location.”

“That’s not very much to go on,” I say. “The going will get tough very fast, and combat drains supplies quickly. If I were to join you, it’d be my responsibility to see us all get home alive, not to guarantee success in finding this dragon’s lair. If you hire me, I need you to understand that if I say we’re turning back, we’re turning back.”

“I understand.”

She says that, but I don’t think she’s prepared to turn back. She’s not good at accepting failure. That’s good and bad.

“Third,” I say, “Tell me about Sir Terrorscale. Why are you dropping everything to follow him up a mountain?”

“It’s a long story,” Serah says, wringing her hands, “But I’m honor-bound to see him home. He’s honest and well-meaning, and a paladin of Tate Yempi. He has the holy symbol embedded in his chest scales, and the aura he gives off matches the description in my books. Even if he’s not a great fighter- which is very unlikely- he can cast healing spells.”

“Don’t think like that,” I say. “The best policy is to not get hit at all. Are you sure you can do this?”

Serah looks at me, about to say something, but she bites her tongue.
>>
No. 1003697 ID: 8483cf
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1003697

That came out harsher than I’d intended. What’s gotten into me? That wasn’t fair to Serah. I’m in a foul mood and I’m taking it out on her.

I’m still put off by the encounter with the Spirit of Bloodshed a few days ago, and even more bothered by the lack of response from the local druidic circle. I’ve spent the morning trying to contact them via sending spells from the Guild’s wizard, but he was only able to reach any of the people I described to him. He told me my connection wasn’t strong enough to cold-call them, which was fair, but still irritated me. I grew up with their sister circle- even if I’m happier on my own, I should at least be able to contact the druids in the event of an emergency like this one. They need to know what the effects of their irresponsible behavior are, and the fact that they either can’t, or won’t, take a message from me means there’s nothing I can do aside from telling the Guild to put out a warning to the community. The druidic circles are still as violent and irresponsible as ever, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Well, that’s why I’m here and not there. It’s not my problem. They don’t need me, and I don’t need them. I’m on my own, and it’s better this way.

This job is just what I need to clear my head.

“Let’s talk compensation and provisions,” I say.

Serah’s eyes brighten. Good.

“This job will need specific equipment,” I say. “We can procure a good deal of it on the road if we need to, if this trip is really going to take that long before branching off. But we essentially have tonight and tomorrow morning to pack and move out for the big-ticket items, unless the caravan hits a trade hub.”

“Understood. You’ll be compensated fairly,” Serah says. “I had to use a good deal of pure silver this morning, and it’s stuck in an intermediary stage between gold. Most of my remaining funds are being used to pay for the trip, meals and gear. I’ll be able to finish my silver-to-gold transmutation once we return.”

“I’ll still need an advance,” I say. “This is short notice. I have things I need to wrap up here in Minga.” Like a new outfit. This skirt is not built for travel, and I don’t feel like wearing my armor every day. I could strip the armor down into the undershorts and top, but that’s needless wear and tear on gear I need to be comfortable later.

“I’ll advance you what I can,” Serah says. She pulls out a coin pouch and counts out a handful of silver coins stamped with her family seal. She’s made them herself- and specified the percentage of silver contained in the coin.

It’s high. It’s very high. I can easily buy the nicest outfit I can dream up and have more than enough left over for whatever else I want. It must be nice to be allowed to make your own money.

“Is this enough?”
>>
No. 1003699 ID: 8483cf
File 162414188807.png - (37.66KB , 456x354 , LFT4_4.png )
1003699

“Yes,” I say, clearing my throat. “That’s enough.”

“Excellent. But that’s only if you take the deal,” Serah says, curling her hand up. She deposits the coins into a separate, smaller pouch, making a point of not putting it away.

Oh, she’s good. But I’ve got one more card to play.

“Money is great,” I say, “But it doesn’t keep you alive. If I come along, that’s plenty of time for you to take the time to figure out how to design a mutagen for an elf like me.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Serah says, uncertain.

“I’d like a custom mutagen before we ascend into the mountains. You can take a day the next time we stop at a place with an alchemical lab and whip it up on the trip.”

Serah hesitates slightly before speaking up. “That’s … acceptable. Do we have a deal?”

“Deal.”

We shake on it and Serah hands me the silver coins. I take a moment to appreciate the weight. Then I’m all business.

“I’ll prepare my list of recommended travel supplies,” I say. “I’ll need to complete my business in Minga as well. I’ll be up before dawn to help you get ready and discuss my opinions on Sir Terrorscale.”

“What errands do you need to run?” Serah asks. “I think we can combine our efforts and gear up while you finish your errands.”

I pause. Do I really want to tell Serah that I’m going clothes shopping? She’d ask to come along, and might bring the rest of the party- and that would make things take far longer than they need to (and result in lots of me sitting around and waiting, or them insisting on making me try on things I don’t want). I’m not comfortable with that.

If I were to have my way, I’d pick the nicest, most comfortable travel shorts and top I could, grab some hair dye of whatever shade I wan, and call it good. It’d all be easy, comfy and low-maintenance. I’m not being paid to look pretty- I’m being paid to keep people alive.

But with all this money, I could wear things on this trip I’ve never even considered before …
>>
No. 1003701 ID: e51896

Ask for some kind of improved eyesight mutagen, something that can help you aim better, see in the dark, see the slightest of movements, and/or even see spirits.

Or lesser dragon armor

Or something that improves stealth, something that can make you hide in the shadows.

Tell her that it will be more effective if we spread out and do our own errands for today, so we can get more done. You do your tasks, she does hers. You'll need complete focus to figure out which would be the most effective equipment for the upcoming mission.
>>
No. 1003702 ID: 96c896

>>1003691
>the best policy is not to get hit at all
That's only possible with a focus on evasive combat techniques or an overwhelming advantage over the enemy like the ability to kill them before they get close to you. Fights usually don't turn out that way, only hunting does. Healing is an extremely important resource and it's good that you have a source besides potions. That both gives our alchemist the freedom to focus on offensive potions and ensures we have enough healing when we need it instead of potentially running out of healing potions in the middle of the wilderness because we didn't make enough.

>>1003697
>the druids
Can you hire a messenger? The druids themselves need to know what they've done. You eliminated the spirit, they didn't. They might not know it existed.

>>1003699
Be honest. Tell her you're going clothes shopping. It might be inconvenient but you're going to be spending a lot of time around them and they may have more chances to inconvenience you during the months you're spending on the mission. Might as well start getting used to it. Plus, if you're thinking about trying things you hadn't considered before, it would sure help if you had people to consider things for you! And give you opinions on if something looks good or not! Lastly, I believe the things you described are what friends do with eachother...
The sitting around and waiting can actually be turned into useful time. You can spend it getting to know whoever's waiting with you. What were you planning to do with the rest of your day, anyway?

>mutagen
What were you thinking about? Stealth of the cat? Sight of the eagle? Speed of the cheetah?
>>
No. 1003704 ID: 094652

>the best policy is not to get hit at all
Agreed, but you're going into hostile, frozen terrain. Your agility isn't going to be as effective up north.

>Clothes shopping
It's not a waste as long as you dress for the occasion. Your job will plow you through miles of dirt, snow, and giant monsters to meet a dragon. You need to buy multiple layers of cold-resistant armor, and you need to look presentable at the end. That also goes for the rest of your party.
>>
No. 1003715 ID: 35f407

Tell her you're equipment shopping instead of clothes shopping, just to help drive in the fact that you're not looking to waste time looking for fashionable clothes, just stuff that will effectively help you.
>>
No. 1003773 ID: 4d351a

Buy something extremely fluffy and warm. This is important.
>>
No. 1003862 ID: 96c896

OH
Ask her when she's gonna honor her part of your original deal, and help you with getting an animal companion.
>>
No. 1004325 ID: 8483cf
File 162476065027.png - (118.69KB , 464x1015 , LFT4_5.png )
1004325

I cross my arms and look down. “My errands? Just a few loose ends from my last job,” I tell Serah truthfully, without mentioning the druids. “I’ll also need to get some cold-weather gear and clothing.”

I’ll see if I can get an adventurer headed into the woods to deliver a message. It’s unlikely to work. The druids are insular and distrustful of outsiders, so they do their best to avoid social interaction. The only way to find them is to track them down and know what you’re doing.

But right now I’m on the clock, and I can’t waste time looking for someone familiar with druids like I am. The shops in Minga will only be open for a few more hours. If we’re going to need a rush job for gear preparation and cold weather outfits ready to go tomorrow morning, it’ll have to be done ASAP. We’ll also need to grab other gear and emergency supplies that are unlikely to be found anywhere but a major city.

I want to split up and just get the job done, but if Serah, Dotti or Landi buy the wrong cold-weather gear, it’s going to be an uncomfortable trip into the mountains at best and life-threatening at worst. It would be the right thing to do to help them gear up. Terrorscale will be fine with what he has already if he’s just making a return trip.

“I already bought a set of cold-weather gear a few weeks ago when I was out shopping, just in case,” Serah says without a hint of self-awareness. “Dotti and Landi will need to get their own sets. I think I know a gnelf who can help. She’s fast, and her work is good. Let’s go visit her shop!”

“A gnelf? You mean Miss Venmiphi? I’ve seen her work. It’s very good, but it doesn’t come cheap. I think we’d be better served by a merchant who doesn’t ask for so much money. I can show you how to fit your gear and make sure it’s properly padded for hiking and long trips. We don’t need the high-end equipment, it just needs to be functional.”

“I have a line of credit. It’s not a problem.” Serah pauses. “I can negotiate a discount for you. I’m sure she’ll oblige.”

I stay silent. She’s already agreed to pay for my provisions, make me a mutagen (I’ll think about the specifics later) and advance a portion of my retainer. And now she’s getting me a discount on gear I should be paying for myself.

I like it, but at the same time, it makes me uncomfortable. She’s throwing around all this money like it’s nothing. I’m a good survivalist, but she’s practically rolling out the red carpet.

Fine. If she’s paying me top-rate, she’ll get top-rate. I’ll just have to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, no matter what Landi and Dotti might do during the trip.

This job is looking better and better. Money, gear, and the chance to go further north than I’ve been in years. I’ll see new sights and creatures… and maybe one of them will be my animal companion. I don’t want to bring up the animal companion issue with Serah. It’s not her problem, it’s mine.

“Thank you, Lady Kensington.” I say, bowing my head slightly. She’s a noble- I’d better start treating her like one. “I am in your debt.”

“Think nothing of it,” Serah says instantly, as if on reflex. She hesitates for a moment, bites her lip, then shakes off whatever was bothering her. “Come on, let’s go visit Miss Venmiphi. I’ll find Dotti and Landi. Meet you out front!”

Serah slides out the door. I’m still amazed she can walk through those doors so confident she won’t slam her head into a beam.

Well.

If I’m going to be as efficient as possible, I have to brainstorm. I’m getting cold weather gear, but what should I buy for casual wear on the trip? Anything else I should think about recommending Serah buy, other than camping supplies, crampons for everyone in the party, emergency medical supplies, and maybe one of those new enchanted waterskins?

Oh, I should probably buy some hair dye too. I know a basic enchantment that blurs my hair color (and the rest of my body) in with my surroundings for combat situations, but it’s draining to keep up for too long. I could change colors if I wanted to.
>>
No. 1004338 ID: 96c896

>>1004325
Casual wear? ...for before it gets cold?
How about a nice jacket and some pants you can move easily in.
Hair color for a mountain... you'd want light brown or grey, right? Maybe green before that, but green isn't really your color and it should be peaceful before the hiking starts anyway.

>It’s not her problem, it’s mine.
You should remind yourself why you agreed to help her. Her helping you find an animal companion was what kept you from walking away after you helped her with Dotti's contract. Though, it was more along the lines of Dotti and Landi helping you, not her.
>>
No. 1004417 ID: e51896

Since you'll be in a snowy area, white seems best to blend in your surroundings. Though the current color we have i think is best.

And a hooded cloak for casual wear
>>
No. 1004790 ID: 8483cf
File 162535415667.png - (230.41KB , 642x1216 , LFT4_6v2.png )
1004790

Daylight is about to give way to evening. I’m on the clock- there’s only so much time left before the shops close.

I quickly take stock of what I’ve got in my trunk. Plenty of survival gear for one elf, but not enough for a Jotund-enhanced human, a lizardfolk, a fox spirit, and a fairy. I’ll need to make sure Serah buys cooking supplies that are as light as possible.

As for me, I’ll need to grab some whitish-gray hair dye. It’s only rational. Pure white is too white, even on snow. As for casual wear, a comfy cloak will do, perhaps with some comfy pants with plenty of pockets.

With that settled, I head downstairs to meet up with my charges. I don’t need to guess where I’ll find them.

Dotti is standing across the table from a recently-arrived adventuring party. There’s a cooked chicken between her and them, and they’re passing out plates. She’s obviously begging. Landi is tugging on her ear, telling her off. Serah is nowhere to be found- presumably, she’s working something out with Sir Terrorscale.

I step behind Dotti and wait for her to notice me. She doesn’t. In fact, it’s Landi who spots me first.

“Holy shit! Raelynn!” Landi gasps. “Stealth elf!”

Dotti turns around and gives a jolt of shock, then nearly trips over herself as she scrambles backwards from me.

Good.

If this trip is going to go off without a hitch, I need both Dotti and Landi to understand that I’m not going to let them step out of line. Serah might have put up with their nonsense, but not me.

Dotti is obviously scared of me- that’s good. She won’t try to betray me if she knows I’m watching her. If I’m going to get Dotti (and Landi) to obey my commands on this trip, this is an excellent start.

Dotti might want to be treated like a person, but she acts like an animal- and a dangerous one at that. Animals need strict discipline if they’re to be kept. A stray thought enters my head…

>Her helping you find an animal companion was what kept you from walking away after you helped her with Dotti's contract. Though, it was more along the lines of Dotti and Landi helping you, not her.

Yes, of course. The reason I’ve had no success in finding an animal companion is because I haven’t been putting in enough effort to trap and tame one, that’s all. Taming Dotti- as unpredictable and vicious as she is- will be perfect practice for all manner of beasts.

I need to establish discipline, because clearly Serah hasn’t. Dotti and Landi both need to stay in line in order to keep the entire party safe on such a dangerous trip. I have to make sure they know that not following my orders will lead to them getting hurt.

How should I make sure they know not to cross me?
>>
No. 1004796 ID: 094652

Appeal to skill rather than brute force.
Casually twirl a knife in your hand. Ask for a thinly cut slice of chicken. Glare when they start eating the chicken, casually ignore them and slice the chicken to ribbons while it's still jammed in Dotti's jaws.
>>
No. 1004798 ID: e51896

Well, how did your trainers treat you during your early years in training to become an adventurer? were they like drill sergeants? maybe you could act like your trainers acted to you towards Landi and Dotti. Harsh, but fair. Intimidating, but with intention to better their behavior. Tough love!

And treat Landi the same way you will treat Dotti. Of course you feel like she needs to be treated like a wild beast, but at least Dotti is trying to become more than a wild animal. So treat Landi in the same way you will treat Dotti, and she'll understand that to you, they are both equally inferior until they can prove themselves.

Really, we don't want Dotti to get angry with us for treating her inferior to everyone else including Landi in the event she gets her magic back somehow and uses it for revenge. Having you treat Landi and Dotti the same way should keep Dotti's mood stable as you make her think she is more than a wild animal while treating her at Landi's level, while at the same time let you fix her wild animal behavior and mannerism.
>>
No. 1004800 ID: 96c896

>>1004790
Aren't you being presumptuous? Serah is the leader of the group. You will be giving her instructions on how to keep the group alive, not giving orders, unless Serah directly tells the group to listen to you. Intimidating these two will be counterproductive, as they will think of you as attempting to steal the leadership position. That might cause them to complain to Serah.
Besides, what would you do if they didn't listen to you? You can't punish them.
It's SERAH who needs to make sure they'll listen, which means you need to get Serah to discipline them. You can even help her do it. Or get permission from Serah to teach them discipline.

What you need to do right now is convince them you are capable enough to keep them alive. They've just seen a demonstration of your stealth ability. You can show off your skill with a knife by carving the chicken in some fancy way, I suppose?
Be sure to tell them that the trip will be dangerous and you are the only one standing between them and a slow death in the snow, bleeding out from a monster attack. They can both understand words, you know.
If Serah gives you the authority to give orders when it comes to survival, THEN you can tell them that not following your orders can get them killed.

>The reason I’ve had no success in finding an animal companion is because I haven’t been putting in enough effort to trap and tame one, that’s all
Mistake. Trapping a creature is not part of finding an animal companion. Go over the process again in your head. Where did you learn it from? Who taught you? Were they a successful ranger? Was their companion loyal?
>>
No. 1004814 ID: 8483cf
File 162541078554.png - (42.98KB , 389x466 , LFT4_7.png )
1004814

I was never trained as an adventurer, but being raised by the druidic circle Uí Liatháin made me an expert in tough love.

“Are these two bothering you?” I ask the rightful owners of the chicken.

“Oh! Raelynn,” says a young human male with the most peculiar expression on his face. He looks like he’s about to burst out laughing for some reason. “No, no. They’re not bothering us at all. Dotti just told us the funniest joke.”

“Dotti told you a joke?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s not important,” Landi says. “Hey, Flax! How about that chicken, huh?”

“Oh, right,” the adventurer says. “Landi said she and Dotti are headed out of town tomorrow morning, so we thought to offer them one last hot meal.”

“Fitting,” I say. “May I carve?”

“Uh, by all means.”

One of the adventurers snorts as I pick up a serving knife. “Uh, don’t you want a larger one?”

“No need,” I say, spinning the knife between my fingers while grabbing a fork to hold the bird in place. The knife isn’t made for carving, but I’ve worked with worse, and the chicken is well-cooked and juicy. I twirl the blade between each cut, moving so quickly the cheap metal becomes a blur, until the chicken is sliced into thin, market-ready slices.

For some reason, Dotti and Landi aren’t impressed. Actually, Dotti seems even more nervous. Landi is practically vibrating midair with poorly-restrained laughter.

For a second, it doesn’t make sense. Then I see a piece of paper poking out from underneath the chicken plate. I pull it out and suddenly everything makes sense.

It’s a fairly accurate drawing of myself and Dotti, along with some childish doodles begging for chicken and proclaiming my love for knives and hatred for pink bows.

“Did you draw this?” I ask Dotti. She makes a move to shake her head, but stops halfway and gives a begrudging nod.

Wait. Did Dotti just tell the truth, even though it made her look bad? That’s not normal for a fox spirit. What’s she playing at? Is she actually trying to act more like a human? I can’t think of any other explanation.

“I helped!” Landi says. “You totally proved me right, too. It’s not the size of the knife, it’s how you use it! Also, we didn’t have any purple ink, so you got pink hair. Do you like it?”
>>
No. 1004815 ID: 8483cf
File 162541082027.png - (493.34KB , 951x872 , LFT4_8.png )
1004815

I don’t dignify it with an answer. Still, Landi’s response makes sense. If Dotti wasn’t the one who drew the doodles, then of course she’d take credit for the art.

Still, I’m going to need to investigate this further. Dotti’s clearly hiding some kind of skill set that she hasn’t been showing off- in this case, artistry. I reconsider my thought; Dotti being an artist exclusively seems fairly unlikely, since she hasn’t had time to practice with charcoal and paper. Her artistry is probably an extension of some kind of talent for mimicry.

Landi stares at me for a second, waiting for a response, and I still don’t give it to her. She groans. “You’re no fun.” Flax holds out a fig and she eagerly grabs it. “Thanks, cutie!”

Dotti looks at the chicken and slowly reaches for a cut piece, keeping her eyes on me the whole time.

“Go on,” I say. “It’s good you’re both enjoying the last comfortable meal you’ll have for a long while. From now on, food will be harder to come by. Especially when we leave the caravan.”

Dotti stares at the chicken forlornly, then dives in with eagerness. Landi devours her fig, then pauses.

“We?” Landi says. “Oh, so you’re coming along, too?”

I nod.

“Great!” Landi says. “You’re awesome at hunting and gathering. You can get us fresh-caught food every night!”

“That’s not how this is going to work,” I say. “I’ll be guiding and protecting you. I’m not your personal fruit stand.”

“You’re not?”

“No,” I say with a glower. “If you want fresh fruit, I’ll be happy to teach you where to get it and how to gather it without getting eaten yourself.”

“That sounds like work.”

“It is.”

“Lame,” Landi says. “I don’t eat much. Just grab me a handful of berries. Come on, be a friend! Even you can do that.”

Dotti looks at Landi with a confused expression, then shakes her head.

Well. At least one of them respects the dangers of the wild, and how difficult it can be to feed yourself. I didn’t expect Landi to be the more difficult party member to work with… but life is full of surprises.

I can’t let this slide. I pluck the fig from Landi’s glowing grip.

“HEY!” she shouts. “What gives?!”

“Mountain squirrels have been known to snatch food from fairies,” I say, matter-of-fact. “What if I bring you food, but it all gets stolen? How will you eat then?”

“Mountain squirrels?!” There’s a sound of a tiny foot stomping on the table. “That’s bullshit! You’re just bullying me. Flax, gimme another fig.”

Flax shrugs. “She has a point.”

“You’re both jerks,” Landi huffs.

Dotti smiles with a mouthful of chicken.

I hand the fig back to Landi; I think she’s had enough of her lesson. It’s nowhere near as harsh of a method as my mother liked to use, but I’m mature enough to recognize that not everyone learns the same way.

I take a moment to think. I’m still on the clock and I need to bring Dotti and Landi to Miss Venmiphi to get mountain gear soon; I’ll need to get them to hurry up with their early dinner. This is an excellent opportunity to find out more about Dotti and Landi, and gauge how well they’ll handle the strains of a mountain trip.

What do I need to know about them, and how to I get it out of them?
>>
No. 1004818 ID: 53560f

Dotti will be the easiest of the two to secure cooperation in this case, she is already familiar with the dangers of the wild and appears willing to make an effort to learn the ‘civilised’ way of things.
She’s more likely to cooperate if she believes something will benefit her and she’s less reckless if she understands why. I.e name the problem then explain the solution and why you involved her.
Treat her with more respect (and occasionally treats) the more she behaves and she should see cooperation is worth it.

Landi is more troublesome, she appears to be even less disciplined than the fox which is saying something.
She seems to love acting out and expects to get what she needs with little effort, not to mention she usually works terribly with Dotti.
For now it seems she doesn’t cooperate well unless she’s either forced, considers it to be absolutely necessary or fun.
We’ll need to work on her.
>>
No. 1004822 ID: 96c896

>>1004814
>I was never trained as an adventurer, but being raised by the druidic circle Uí Liatháin made me an expert in tough love.
So they never taught you how to get an animal companion of your own? You're just assuming you have to treat an animal the same way you were treated. Confirm that theory, and ask someone who has one. Your repeated failures are evidence that your approach is flawed. If it is, trying harder will do nothing but waste time.
>>
No. 1004828 ID: e51896

Dotti is someone we need to work on too, just as much as Landi

hmm...

to drag out Dotti's flaws, lets take a detour through the outdoor market where they sell food on our way to the clothing store, see how Dotti behaves against temptation. We'll call her out on that if she can't resist, or maybe through alleys where there are dumpsters. If she can't resist, mention how Landi and you are strong enough to be able to resist temptation, and let her know there are monsters and people out there that can manipulate victims' who are weak against temptation through magic, or through their words alone.

As for Landi, her issue is laziness. Ask yourself, wasn't she supposed to be practicing her magic every day until she is out of magic as per Serah's deal with Landi? She's still glowing, and it's almost the end of the day. We gotta tell Landi that you and Dotti are making effort to prepare, so why can't she by casting her magic to help us get our errands done quicker, with some speed magic or something? If she showed effort, she'd be able to make equipment for you all without having to visit the the store like most fairies can. Tell her that if she can train herself to do that, we won't have to spend money like this, and that would make Serah happy and would like her more (say that part for motivation, Landi seems to be driven by Serah's love for her as a motivation if it means getting something she wants, like mooching off of Serah). We could issue a challenge: if she can use up all her magic helping you with this errand in different ways, you'll offer her a reward of some sort. Tell her to get creative on how she can help you.
>>
No. 1004844 ID: 8483cf
File 162544205670.png - (127.88KB , 551x755 , LFT4_9.png )
1004844

Once again, I’m confronted by the simple fact that I don’t like dealing with people. Especially with difficult people like Landi.

Landi is bothering me more than I’d expected her to. Not because of the doodles; that was a joke, and I’m not going to hold it against her. Even if the pink hair is ridiculous. She’s irresponsible, and I don’t feel like teaching her how to behave like a functioning member of an adventuring party.

I could think up some way to teach her to behave better, but frankly, that’s Serah’s job. I should point out Landi’s intransigence and let her deal with it.

Ugh. I’m a ranger, not a babysitter. Even though Dotti’s behaving better than I’d expected, I don’t trust her at all. Life would be so much simpler if she’d agreed to join me as an animal companion. That way, the expectations would be nice and straightforward: I help her get her magic back so she can transform into a fox, then she stays that way and gets to experience human society without all those rules she seems to enjoy breaking.

The problem is that looking and acting a fox isn’t what Dotti wants. And it irritates me that I’m going to have to deal with whatever fallout comes of her decisions on the trip. I can’t imagine the caravan guards are fond of her.

But…

As much as I’d hate to admit it, perhaps my need for an animal companion is coloring my view of Dotti’s behavior. Perhaps I should be treating Dotti like she wants to be treated- maybe even with a little respect. After all, it’s not like I learned all the rules of society in a single week.

No. What’s bothering me is how much of an unknown Dotti is, and my own uncertainty of whether I can trust her not to cause chaos, and how much self-control she has.

I have just the plan to test that. And while I’m at it, I might be able to build Landi up as well. I don’t expect her to like it- I just need to see if she’ll follow orders.

“Landi, Dotti, I’d like to ask you to come along with Serah and I to grab some cold-weather gear and clothes,” I say. “Finish your servings fast, please. I’ll meet you at the door outside.”

Dotti looks at the chicken in front of her with a sad expression, knowing it’s probably the last juicy, well-spiced bird she’ll have for months. I can see her reach for it, as if to take it with her and deprive Flax and his group of their own meals…

But she leaves the bird on the table, and sticks to her plate. She shoots a sidelong glance at me. So she’s smart enough to know when I’m judging her. Good. That’s the basics- but can she pass the real test?

I quickly disappear to meet up with Serah, and tell her I’ll bring Dotti and Landi to Miss Venmiphi’s shop myself. Her nose is buried in maps and caravan routes alongside Sir Terrorscale, and she’s grateful for the help. She’ll meet up with Landi, Dotti and myself once we’re done being fitted for gear, and she’ll sort out payment.

That means it’s just Landi, Dotti and myself for now. Perfect.

I meet up with Landi and Dotti at the front door of the guild.

“Is Serah coming?” Landi asks.

“Later,” I say, and push the door open. “She’ll meet us there.”

“We’ve already been all over Minga!” Landi groans. “Dotti, fluff your hair! I’m hitching a ride. That bow of yours is a great back rest.”

“We’ll have plenty of rest on the caravan trip,” I say. “Landi, you’re flying for today. You need to work on your cardio.”

“What?!” Landi says, voice full of indignation. “Are you calling me fat?!”

“I’m saying you need to be in shape for when the going gets tough.”

“I weigh nothing! I am light as a feather! A feather!” Landi says. “You can carry me if I get tired on the trip!”

“It’s for your own safety,” I say. “Everyone pulls their own weight on this trip. You weigh the least- you should have no problem at all.”

Landi grumbles, but doesn’t argue further. Maybe there’s hope for her yet.
>>
No. 1004845 ID: 8483cf
File 162544208856.png - (97.50KB , 498x539 , LFT4_10.png )
1004845

Landi, Dotti and I reach a metalsmith about halfway to Miss Venmiphi’s shop. Here is where I’ll need to get the crampons for icy travel and combat conditions. It’s also where I’ll get to test Dotti’s resolve.

“Dotti, could you wait out here while Landi and I place an order for gear?” I ask. “Please stand right here and see if Serah is coming up behind us. I trust you to be on your best behavior.”

“Shyeah. Best behavior,” Landi gasps. “I’m gonna see if this smith place has any water. I’m sweating buckets.”

Landi and I head inside, leaving Dotti at the edge of a short alleyway.

An alleyway with two massive, overflowing containers of trash.

CAN DOTTI RESIST?
>>
No. 1004848 ID: 10bf0d

She tries.
She really tries

But she goes over and knocks the containers over. A skunk was hiding inside! Or something valuable
>>
No. 1004849 ID: 094652

Dotti feels the incomprehensible weight of a million middle-class newspapers!
Incomprehensible because middle-class newspapers haven't been invented yet.
>>
No. 1004851 ID: 10c07d

No, never resist trash
>>
No. 1004852 ID: 9b127b

there is nothing to resist, the trash is her home now
>>
No. 1004856 ID: 0fae41

No. Eating garbage is the first step on the path to a third tail. Eat the garbage and become it.
>>
No. 1004859 ID: 96c896

Cmon Dotti you can do it you can resist the trash for just FIVE SECONDS!
>>
No. 1004879 ID: 6c5f9b

>>1004845
Surely, she can resist the temptation of the trash for the sake of following orders considering that she JUST ate? Unless she messed up both her metabolism and tastebuds with the transformation? Ignore her for now, Raelynn.
>>
No. 1004881 ID: 8483cf
File 162552032677.png - (302.24KB , 909x893 , LFT4_11.png )
1004881

I place an order for crampons and lightweight steel stakes while Landi douses herself in what is hopefully clean water.

“These are adjustable,” the smith says. “You know how to set these tight on all your boots?”

I nod.

“Just making sure,” the smith says. He looks at the silver I’ve given him. “These coins are Kensington make. Is the Lady going to be picking these up herself?”

“No need,” I say. “Landi, Serah said you can carry a little more than thirty-nine kilograms. Stash these in your inventory and be ready for more later.”

Landi flaps her wings dry. The crampons glow bright, then disappear in a sprinkling of dust.

“Cool, huh?” Landi says. I don’t bother responding.

We leave the shop. I look over to see how Dotti’s behaving herself.

Hmm.

Well, at least she’s not causing chaos.

Dotti is hugging one of the two giant trash receptacles like she’s found some kind of ancient treasure. She’s sniffing it excitedly with her eyes closed, nuzzling the grimy metal and taking in all the smells she can.

“You are so fucking weird!” Landi gags. “Stop it! You’re going to smell like trash! I can’t sleep on a fox pillow that smells like trash!”

“Come on, Dotti,” I sigh. I guess the lesson to be taken from this is that Dotti’s not an active agent of chaos like Serah warned me about, but she’s still, as Landi said, very weird.

Dotti lets out a whine. It’s obvious what she means.
>>
No. 1004882 ID: 8483cf
File 162552034335.png - (33.26KB , 400x322 , LFT4_12.png )
1004882

“I don’t care if you’re not done sniffing” I say. “We’re on the clock. Now come on and-“

I pause.

There’s a skunk between the two trash containers. It’s sleepy, and just woken up. Skunks are easygoing creatures, but Dotti and Landi aren’t exactly easygoing themselves. If Dotti or Landi notice the skunk and freak out, it might panic and spray one or both of them.

How should I handle the situation? I don’t have my animal treats, but I can mimic many, many different animal sounds. Or I could try and make it my animal companion… no, what am I thinking? A skunk would be a horrible animal companion. I should just calm it down or chase it off.

I need to decide before either Dotti or Landi notice it.
>>
No. 1004886 ID: 094652

Wound skunk with a sleep arrow, have it deposited at the local scientific guild for study.
>>
No. 1004891 ID: 96c896

Just say "Oh it's a skunk, let's give it some space." and do exactly that.
>>
No. 1004907 ID: dd9239

Attempt to shoo it away with animal sounds to scare it off
...
Wait, why is it attracted to your animal sounds??? No! You dont want this skunk to be your animal companion! The one time you dont want one, and this skunk is forcing itself to be your companion! Nooooooooooo!
>>
No. 1004916 ID: 5194ff

Leave the cutey be. Nothing stealthy about a skunk. You need something that works well with you in tandem.
>>
No. 1004919 ID: 96c896

What are you looking for in an animal companion exactly?
>>
No. 1004953 ID: 9f5189

Grab it and take a massive huff of it's ass
>>
No. 1005334 ID: 8483cf
File 162598818054.png - (54.63KB , 456x400 , LFT4_13.png )
1005334

It’s best to try the direct approach.

“Dotti, there’s a skunk between the trash bins,” I say. “Leave the bins alone and come on. We’ve got work to do.”

Dotti blinks, sniffs a moment, and her eyes widen in surprise. She’s obviously been more focused on the trash smells than the skunk smells- it’s hardly surprising, especially if the skunk hasn’t been here for long.

Dotti bares her teeth.

The skunk looks back at her with beady little eyes.

“Dotti,” I say softly, “Calm down and leave it alone so nobody gets sprayed.”

Dotti glares at the skunk angrily, reluctant to give up her trash treasure trove.

“You already smell like trash!” Landi says. “Don’t get sprayed! I need my fluffy fox pillow to be clean!”

Landi’s not helping. I roll my eye at her and decide to defuse the potential stink bomb.

I tighten my throat and make a high-pitched chirrup, as close to a skunk’s call as I can get. Both Dotti and the skunk look straight at me.

The skunk chirrups back and cocks its head. I chirrup a second time. The skunk does a little pitter-patter with its front paws delightedly.

Dotti looks at me like I’ve gone crazy.

I beckon her over. She keeps looking at me with the oddest expression.

The skunk gives a series of squeaky chirrups, inviting me to continue, but I end the conversation with a guttural growl. The skunk stays put and hisses at my rudeness.

Good.

Dotti, Landi and I leave the alleyway and head to our next stop on our shopping trip in silence, giving me time to ponder. If I’m going to get an animal companion, it needs to be smarter and more dangerous than a simple skunk.

The skunk is too friendly for my tastes. I won’t coddle my companion. It’ll need to understand that the world is harsh and deadly; it’s eat or be eaten. My animal companion needs a killer instinct if it’s going to survive, and have a measure of cunning and stealth. I don’t like to draw attention to myself in the wild. Not from the animals, and not from any druidic circles.

Strike fast, strike unseen, fade away. That’s how I’ve made my living so far, and that’s how I like it.

Unfortunately, I haven’t learned how to make a trap strong enough to snare a beast like that. I’ve left food as lures, but any animals just grab it and run away from me before I can use magic on them. My mother taught me a very powerful incantation to dominate beasts, but I only got to use it on enraged bears she’d sicced on me. There’s a big difference in effectiveness of a domination incantation when you get to look the target in the eye, and it’s not trying to run away.

I suppose I need to try and get a potential companion to try and kill me, then. Yes, that’s the reason I haven’t been able to get any animal to join me.

Speaking of things that might try to kill me- part of me wonders if the incantation would work on animal spirits, if it had to. Hmm…

“I’m tired,” Landi says, breathing heavily. “Can we take a break? Puh-leez?

We’re a few more minutes away from Miss Venmiphi’s shop. Landi could use the exercise.

I don’t feel like giving her a break, but she might be grateful if I give it to her. Should I?
>>
No. 1005337 ID: 96c896

>>1005334
Your approach is full of contradictions. You don't want your companion to be friendly, but it needs to be friends with you to be a companion, obviously. It needs to think of the world as eat or be eaten, yet you're not doing either of those to it.
It sounds like a cat would be a good match, to be honest. A large cat if you really want something strong. Puma, maybe? You don't need to trap a cat, just feed it repeatedly. Or, I don't know, TALK to one like you just did, and convince it to join you?

>domination incantation, used it against enraged bears
Did those bears become animal companions?
What even is your definition of animal companion? Is it based on descriptions of rangers cooperating with beasts, but no description of what their relationship was so you assume it's slavery?

>Landi's tired
Sure. Take a break, a short one. Don't carry her or anything though.
>>
No. 1005339 ID: 8483cf
File 162599344928.png - (72.50KB , 520x549 , LFT4_14.png )
1005339

“Go ahead and set down on that shop sign,” I say. Even if a few extra minutes of cardio would do Landi a world of good, this is as good a start as I could have hoped for. “We can take a few seconds to rest. It’s important to push your limits, but not too far. That’s asking for injury.”

It also lets me think more about what’s been bothering me.

Even if I had the time to cast a full domination incantation on an animal, it wouldn’t last forever. The bears my mother sicced on me only stayed under my control for a few hours. I could probably improve that with practice, but I couldn’t rely on it forever.

If I’m going to make this work, I’ll need to dominate the animal for as long as I can, then tie it up until it accepts me as its master. That’s how Uí Liatháin did it, and it worked exceptionally well. We had more than a hundred fully enchanted animal front-liners ready to fight at a moment’s notice. The animals kept us safe, and they were completely reliable.

I need an animal companion like my mother had. I need something to keep me safe when I’m asleep. I need something to sic on beasts, people or spirits I can’t fight on my own.

I’ve seen rangers with hawks and other animals accompanying them as animal companions, but they’re just trained beasts.

If I’m going to feel safe, I need a powerful ally completely loyal to me. It’s not my friend. It’s my companion- and companions don’t mean friends. Just look at Landi and Dotti. They’re companions, and they hate each other.

The only way I can trust my animal companion is if I do it my way, and make sure it’s properly brought to heel. First with a lure, then with a spell, then with appropriate training.

It hasn't worked so far. But it does work. I've seen it. And when it does, the results speak for themselves.
>>
No. 1005340 ID: 96c896

>>1005339
Ask Dotti and Landi if they're companions.
>>
No. 1005359 ID: e51896

Skunks can be helpful by spraying your enemies to disorient them, and their black fur hides them pretty well in the dark and... what are you thinking? no skunks as animal companions

Is it possible for companions to be friends? I think a companion would work better if you treat them as a friend since they'll trust you more and be more willing to put more effort in their attacks to protecc you.
>>
No. 1005360 ID: 53560f

So you intend to find an intelligent, stealthy, and deadly animal to force to serve you with a combination of magic and Stockholm syndrome and expect to not be killed in your sleep? Maybe there are flaws in this plan?

Dotti and Landi may not be trying to kill each other but they also have no reason to kill each other. Your plan involves seeking out a creature who can kill you and providing an excellent reason to do so.
>>
No. 1005362 ID: 094652

Find an animal that has been forged in Chaos and is sick of surviving alone. Worry about the species later.
>>
No. 1005383 ID: 50af53

Canines of all variety are a tried and true beast to have accompany you, smart, easy to train and groom to a specific task, loyal by nature. But it you're wanting a challenge, a big cat of any kind ought to work as well. Agile, stealthy yet still powerful, hunters bread thoroughly by the survival of the fittest. They are however solitary by nature, and have a dangerous capriciousness that may be hard to break.
>>
No. 1005833 ID: 8483cf
File 162656283212.png - (60.36KB , 312x325 , LFT4_15.png )
1005833

My lack of an animal companion is still bothering me, just like it’s bothered me for more than a year. It shouldn’t be weighing so heavily on my mind, but it does. I’m just fine on my own. I don’t need anyone, or anything, to help me make my way in the wild. I’ve done well so far.

Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I should settle for a canine, like the rangers I’ve seen so far… but canines and I just don’t get along for some reason. They rub me the wrong way, and even the pups are uncomfortable around me. That bothers me too.

Well, my druidic circle didn’t need our animal companions to be comfortable around us, just like soldiers don’t need to be comfortable around each other to fight effectively. They just need discipline.

“Time to get moving, Landi,” I say. “Daylight’s burning.”

“Uuuuugh,” Landi groans. “Dotti, you’re giving me a ride back.”

Dotti rolls her eyes but doesn’t refuse, even though Landi’s out of favors for the day.

They certainly seem like companions. They don’t need to like each other to work together.

“You’ve put in a good amount of exercise, Landi,” I say nonchalantly. “It’s good to rely on your companions when you’re drained.”

“Companion? Are you talking about Dotti?” Landi asks, her tone incredulous.

“You’ll both need to look out for each other on this trip,” I say. “You’re traveling companions.”

“No way!” Landi says. “Dotti’s not a companion. She’s a self-propelled pillow, per the terms of our contract.”

Dotti sticks out her tongue.

This is ridiculous. They both clearly stand to benefit by agreeing to work with each other in a nonconfrontational manner. Landi and Serah have all the power, per the contract. Everything is clearly spelled out, and their working relationship is mutually beneficial.

They’re companions. Period. Landi should accept her responsibility as contractor, and Dotti should respectfully accept Landi’s authority and expertise on human and fairy society. They both stand to benefit.

I push the irritation from my mind. I have a task to perform- namely, gearing up the team. We proceed to Miss Venmiphi’s shop at a brisk pace, and I brainstorm options.

Will Dotti need a hooded parka? How well do fox spirit ears handle cold?

Yes- those are the questions I should focus on, not issues about animal companions.
>>
No. 1005834 ID: e51896

Well, Dotti has a fur coat, though it isn't her winter fur coat, so she probably doesn't need anything too warm, but will still need something against the elements nonetheless... Hopefully she won't get too upset if we buy something heavier for the cold weather than her with her wanting to be human and all, and wants to have equal stuff humans have. Earmuffs are fine (if earmuffs exist in their time period)

Do we smell something... skunky around here? whatever, go inside the clothes shop and lets ask Venmiphi her opinion.
>>
No. 1005836 ID: 094652

Yes to the parka. Ideally, you want to buy clothes with organized pockets that contain heat-insulating rations, and a few dozen firestarters.

Remember, the mountains are filled with snow, so water isn't an issue as long as you have a consistent source of heat.

Also, buy some rope, a hammer, and three hundred stake-hooks. This area isn't bandit-infested, so set up a consistent source of markers and safety harnesses.
>>
No. 1005837 ID: 96c896

>>1005833
Do you always run away from questions you can't answer?
>>
No. 1005843 ID: 8483cf
File 162656943494.png - (80.99KB , 459x389 , LFT4_16.png )
1005843

Warmth is critical in higher elevations, especially if we’ll be camping overnight. It’s worth serious consideration, and is in no way a distraction from other questions weighing on my mind.

Parkas are a solid investment. They’re lightweight, and if Landi’s dimensional inventory is based on weight (and not volumetric space), I have the luxury of being able to invest in items that are very space-inefficient, such as feathers and down insulation.

Fires will be essential for cooking and warmth in the evenings. I should make sure my flint is…

Wait. Dotti is a fox spirit. She should be able to make fire… if she has access to her magic. I need to investigate.

Dotti is ahead of Landi (of course), and she seems preoccupied by a chocolatier’s display. I pull Landi aside and ask her a quick question in a hushed tone.

“Do you sense anything different about Dotti?”

“She kinda smells skunky,” Landi says, breathing heavily.

I lean in. “That’s physically. I’m asking about magically.”

Landi pauses.

“Uh-oh,” she whispers. “Her aura’s warmer. Like, really warm. Way warmer than the last week. And it doesn’t smell burnt-out anymore.”

“So that means…”

“She’s armed and dangerous,” Landi whispers. “I don’t think she’s aware of it. It probably just happened. I’m not even sure how much mana she’s managed to generate. It’s not much.”

This could be bad. Very bad.

But if we get Dotti to get used to using her magic in ways that help us, it could be very good.

Should I tell Dotti, and if so, how should I do it?
>>
No. 1005844 ID: b9d847

Reward Dotti for gaining her powers back! She deserves all the attention from everyone.
>>
No. 1005852 ID: 094652

Conduct experiments on her powers. If she can throw fireballs in a snowstorm, that's going to make survival much easier.
>>
No. 1006191 ID: 164e20

>>1005843
If you ask me, honesty is the best policy. Just be frank with and don't hide anything.
>>
No. 1006194 ID: e51896

Best we tell the truth
>>
No. 1006715 ID: 8483cf
File 162762271727.png - (315.72KB , 722x1036 , LFT4_17.png )
1006715

“Best we get this over with,” I sigh. “Come on. Let’s tell her she’s got her powers back.”

“You’d better know what you’re doing,” Landi says worriedly.

I don’t know for sure what’ll happen next. I need to trust my instincts, and what I’ve learned about people so far. It’s worked well with Landi and Serah… but can I handle someone who’s neither fully person nor spirit?

I step up to Dotti and stand beside her, not saying a word.

Dotti’s still engrossed in the chocolatier’s display. She looks up at me and points at the chocolate turtles, nose sniffing curiously, doing her best to smell them through the glass.

“Those turtles do look delicious,” I say. “But you can’t eat sweets all the time, or you’ll get fat. Then you’ll be as slow as Landi.”

“Hey!”

Dotti smiles.

“Still…” I ponder. “I think Lady Kensington would be fine with a little celebration.”

Dotti’s ears perk up. She looks at me eagerly.

“Yes, that’s right,” I say. “You must have done something very special today to earn your magic back.”

Dotti looks at me with confusion, then anger. She bares her teeth, assuming I’m making fun of her- and then she pauses.

She puts a hand to her chest. Then she lets out a long, loud squeal of pure delight. Her magic flares up, so raw and wild I can actually see her begin to glow pink.

“Oh, shit!” Landi shouts. “Illusion magic! Fire magic! Duck and cover! Close your eyes!”

I brace myself for the worst.

A flash of heat washes over me. I wince- but instead of the white-hot fire I expect, it’s a tender, soothing warmth.

I hear the crackling of campfire.

I smell cinnamon. Butter. Sweet, freshly leavened bread.

A girl’s laughter echoes faintly, carried from a great distance, disappearing as quickly as it came.

Tears are rolling down Dotti’s cheeks. She’s trying to bat them away, but they just keep coming.
>>
No. 1006717 ID: 96c896

>>1006715
What magic is that? Does Landi know?

Well. She seems happy. Better encourage whatever she just did, and give her a hug.
>>
No. 1006735 ID: 53560f

Is there anything else we need Dotti and Landi for besides getting cold weather gear that fits them?
Because if we’re done with that then we can let her go off to celebrate while we finish buying the rest of the supplies.
>>
No. 1006762 ID: 6c227a

oh huh. a COMFORT spell? How unexpectedly situationally acceptable. Give the fox a smile and a word of praise/encouragement.
>>
No. 1006796 ID: 96c896

Comfort and warmth... if that was real warmth, then she's suddenly become much more useful for the trip.
>>
No. 1006926 ID: 8483cf
File 162780038431.png - (203.62KB , 977x814 , LFT4_18.png )
1006926

Well, I wasn’t expecting that, whatever it was.

“How much of that warmth was an illusion?” I ask Landi quietly.

“Huh?” Landi pauses. “Oh. Uh. None? Just the smells and sounds.”

Good. Very good. Uh. But Dotti’s crying, and that’s not good. I don’t know how to deal with this kind of problem. Am I supposed to say how good her for her spell was? I’m pretty sure congratulations are in order for getting her magic back. But she’s still upset for some reason.

Landi’s not helping. She’s still suspicious of Dotti. I’m going to have to deal with this myself.

Should I hug Dotti? That’d be awkward. She’s not very comfortable around me. Would she freak out?

I stare at the ground for a moment. I am not good at this touchy-feely stuff.

Um…

I reach out and give Dotti two pats on the head.

“There, there,” I say, with all the understanding I can muster. It’s not much.

Dotti sniffles and nuzzles into the headpat. I freeze up, unsure of whether it’s patronizing to continue the pat or not. I pull my hand back after a few seconds of awkwardness.

“…You wanted turtles, right?”

Dotti nods eagerly.

“All right,” I say, quickly stepping into the chocolatier’s storefront. “Come on, let’s get some turtles quickly, before they close up. Come on, come on. No time to waste.”

-----

Dotti is still happily chewing on a chocolate turtle when we arrive at Miss Venmiphi’s storefront. The caramel is fresh and sticky, and she’s having what looks to be a mighty struggle getting her jaw unstuck from taking too big of a bite.

From what I remember of Miss Venmiphi, she’s a half-elf, half-gnome (gnelf) specializing in high-end, custom-fit adventuring gear made quickly, but not cheaply. Thankfully, Serah’s promised to negotiate me a discount. It’ll be nice to have some real gear.

Before I can open the shop-front door, it swings open, and I’m face-to-face with Miss Venmiphi’s assistant.

The assistant takes one look at my seasons-old shirt and dangerously undersized skirt, both of which I’ve outgrown, and says…

Describe the gnelf’s assistant, and their response to Rae’s outfit and the rest of the group! Do they take DRASTIC MEASURES?
>>
No. 1006927 ID: ac162e

The assistant is a Leprechaun.
>>
No. 1006931 ID: 094652

The cutebold says:
"Your outfit is so wretched and old that I will pay you to take one of our outfits, so long as you burn your clothes in front of me."
>>
No. 1006933 ID: ca0259

Half elf, half gnome?

Parents must have been an interesting couple.
>>
No. 1006939 ID: 8483cf
File 162784249104.png - (137.22KB , 514x1314 , LFT4_19.png )
1006939

“In! In! Before someone sees you!” a tiny, bearded gnome says. He’s wearing the most ridiculous green hat and coat.

“Sees me?” I ask, taken aback. “Are you trying to hide something?”

“Yes! You!” He dashes behind me and pushes me through the door. “We can’t let anyone think elves with such bad fashion sense shop here!”

“Rude,” I mutter, but allow myself to be taken in, followed by Dotti and Landi.

I look around. Miss Venmiphi is nowhere to be found. The store is a mess of leather, cloth and furs in various states of work piled without rhyme or reason. With more than a little bit of pride, I recognize one of the wolf pelts in the corner as one I skinned myself.

“Now th’ that… thing is off our doorstep,” the bearded gnome says, gesturing at my skirt, “Int’roductions are in order! Th’name’s Patches McGee, atcher service.”

I let the insult slide; it’s a fair shot across my bow. “Raelynn Uí Liatháin,” I reply curtly.

“I’m Lady Kensington’s fairy!” Landi says. “And this is Lady Kensington’s Dotti.”

Dotti curtsies.

“I recognize you from last time,” Patches says, with a tip of his hat to Landi. “You’re just a hair less on fire this time. Well done!”

“Thanks!” Landi chirps.

“And as for you,” Patches looks up at me, “ ‘T’aint often we get one o’ the woodland kin in Minga.”

“I’m aware,” I say, not bothering to answer the obvious unasked question.

“Not a talker, eh?” Patches says, disappointment in his voice. “Don’t worry, I got enough words fer the two of us. Would y’at least be so kind as t’tell me how quickly I can get t’burn’ th’abomination y’find yourself carryin’ around?”

“We need cold-weather gear for a journey north, and we need it by tomorrow morning,” I say. “Where’s Miss Venmiphi?”

“She only gets involved when she’s int’rest’d,” Patches says. “Let’s get’cha into something warmer, then. I’ve got just the thing f’r tackling the peaks!”

The gnome digs around in one of the voluminous piles and somehow pulls out two complete outfits. “Go on, try ‘em on!” He pushes me and Dotti to a slightly less-messy corner of the shop and then slides a pair of curtains behind us.

I have to say, I was expecting this to go quickly, but not this quickly. I look at the pile of clothes in my arms, and to my surprise the material is a fairly close approximation of my fit. It’ll take some adjusting, but this is good enough for a first pass.

I hear a whine from the next fitting stall over.

“What’s wrong, Dots?” Landi asks. “You need big sis Raelynn to help you figure out how pants work?”

Dotti lets out an angry bark. It sounds like she has everything under control, or at least she’s trying. More power to her- I realize that pulling winter leggings over fur, and getting the outfit around a pair of tails, is probably challenging even to an experienced fox spirit. But if she’s got it, she’s got it.

I step out of the fitting stall and look myself up and down.

It’s comfortable.

It’s very comfortable.

There’s no saving me from this outfit. I can’t go back. I won’t go back. I need this gear like I need air.

“Is it to your liking?” Patches asks.

“It’s fine,” I say, trying the best to keep my voice level.
>>
No. 1006940 ID: 8483cf
File 162784251460.png - (108.35KB , 480x747 , LFT4_20.png )
1006940

“Let’s have a look’a the seams and hems while we wait fer’yer fox friend,” Patches says, and he whips out a string to take measurements.

A few minutes later, Dotti steps out of the fitting room, grinning ear to ear.

“The fluff monster cometh!” Landi laughs. “Look at you! You’re so poofy!”

Dotti deflates.

“Don’t list’n to her, lass,” Patches says. “ ‘Tlooks good on ya.”

It looks nice, but… does she really need that bow?

“Yeah, whatever!” Landi says. “It’s all on Serah’s line of credit anyway. We might as well try buy everything.”

I glower.

“Fine, fine,” Landi says sheepishly. “But we can still try everything on! Hey, Patchy!” Landi shouts. “Do you have any frilly pink dresses in Rae’s size????”

I glower harder.

“I’m sure we have something that might work,” Patches says. “Do you want me to grab one?”

“Do it!”

“Do not do it.”

“The vote’s tied!” Landi says. “Dotti, tiebreaker! Should we put Rae in a cute dress?”

“This isn’t a vote,” I say, exasperated.

Dotti ponders…

What outfit does Dotti point to?
>>
No. 1006941 ID: 1ba5ee

For once, Dotti agrees with Landi to have Rae wear the dress for a bonding moment (to rae's expense)
>>
No. 1006949 ID: 8483cf
File 162787062430.png - (339.16KB , 877x1038 , LFT4_21.png )
1006949

Dotti grins a big, toothy grin and points her finger at the frilliest, least adventuring-ready dress she can find.

"Nice choice!" Landi squees. "You're outvoted, peek-a-bangs! C'mon, let's see you in that dress!"

"I am under absolutely no obligation to do so," I say.

"True," Landi says. "But can you resist... Dotti begging with big, beady fox eyes? C'mon, Dots, make with the eyes."

Dotti gives me her biggest, best beady fox eyes, but I my resolve is unwavering. I am not wearing that dress.

"Curses," Landi says. "Well, then I'll have to use my trump card."

I raise an eyebrow.

"I solemnly swear to be on my best behavior for the first week of the trip... if you treat us to girls' night out tonight! Starting with putting on that dress!"

I cross my arms. "You should already be on your best behavior all the time. I shouldn't have to bribe it out of you."

"What was it you said?" Landi giggles. "I am under absolutely no obligation to do so?"

"...Fine," I say. "Girls' night it is. But only if you're on your best behavior for two weeks, not one."

"Deal!"

I resign myself to trying on the dress.

I slip back into the fitting stall and put it on.

I feel like a cake.

I slide open the curtains. Dotti claps her paws together and lets out a squeal.

"Yeee!" Landi shrieks. "You are so fancy! Makeup! Patchy,we need makeup!"

"No makeup," I say firmly.

"Fine, fine," Landi says. "We'll make a girly girl out of you yet. Starting with GIRLS' NIGHT!"

"Let me get back into my cloak and gear," I say. "This dress is ridiculous."

Patches, meanwhile, is in the middle of lighting a fire in the stove for what I can only assume is for my old outfit. If I want it back, I'd better speak up now.

Plus I'd better come up with ideas for, uh, girls' night before Landi can get us into too much trouble.
>>
No. 1006950 ID: 96c896

>>1006949
She's burning something you own. That's grounds for her to replace it, with something similar. You'll get a better-fitting casual outfit out of it!
>>
No. 1006962 ID: e51896

Your idea of girls night for you is going to a library, where it is quiet and you all can silently read and study...

If Landi or Dotti complains, mention how Landi can "study" the fairy anatomy books or the adult novel section. Dotti, well, she can look at the pretty illustrations in the children's book section.

You on the other hand will be reading on animal behavior to figure out how to gain an animal's trust to be your companion.
>>
No. 1006963 ID: 96c896

>>1006962
>animal's trust
Raelynn has made it clear she believes trust is not needed to get an animal companion. Brute force is all that's needed, despite that being a druid's method and not a ranger's. Also despite the fact that the local druids have done measurable damage to the wilderness from their violent behavior. And despite the fact that it hasn't worked for her even a little bit.
>>
No. 1006964 ID: e51896

>>1006963
Ah okay, I'll rephrase that

Rae will be reading on animal behavior to figure out how to manipulate them into become her companion through brute force.
>>
No. 1006967 ID: 094652

"You do realize I made that armor with oleander, right?"
>>
No. 1007062 ID: 8483cf
File 162795832275.png - (279.05KB , 1066x675 , LFT4_22.png )
1007062

Any doubt about the fate of my too-small skirt and top are is removed as they go straight into the blazing wood stove.

“When you said you were going to burn my old outfit, Patches, I assumed it was in jest,” I say, slightly irked.

“ ‘Twould be a crime to allow you to leave with that curs’d skirt”, Patches says. “Don’t worry, lass. We’ll comp’nsate ya.”

“I assume I’m wearing my gear back to the guild, then.”

“ ‘T needs t’be alt’red t’yer fit,” Patches says. “ ‘Twill be ready in t’morning, just in time fer your trip, as will all y’r other gear, and the outfit th’ lovely fairy ordr’d earlier fer herself.”

“So what am I supposed to wear back?”

“Wear the dress!” Landi squeals. Dotti nods.

“You can’t be serious,” I say, feeling the irk rising.

“Wear it! Wear it! Wear it!”

“Only if I get to pick what we do for Girls’ night,” I say. Anything to get the job done with minimal fuss, even if it’s wearing this layer-cake dress.

“YAY!”

-----

“Dotti, if you don’t stop laughing so loudly, they’re going to kick us out of the library!” I hiss.

Dotti shuts up.

Then she turns the page of her comic and lets out another ungodly gekker.

I’m never going to find what I need in these book on animal domestication at this rate.

I am officially irked.
>>
No. 1007096 ID: 53560f

Well, let’s treat this problem as an opportunity to demonstrate what kind of Illusions Dotti is capable of.
Kindly ask her to ‘silence’ herself with an illusion and you can read in peace. Let’s see how long she can hold an illusion like that.
Just make sure there’s some kind of signal to communicate when you want her to dispel it.
>>
No. 1007136 ID: e51896

"Dotti, that isnt even funny, that poor guy got hit in the head with an anvil, and you're laughing at something so sadistic... thats psychopathic..."

Fail to realize it's a slapstick comic.
>>
No. 1007152 ID: 8483cf
File 162804936303.png - (106.20KB , 704x704 , LFT4_23.png )
1007152

This is ridiculous. Dotti’s going to get us kicked out, and I’ll be stuck wandering around Minga in this dress thanks to her. I ought to teach her some discipline. How can she be expected to behave in society if she can’t even be quiet for five minutes?

I take a deep breath.

Easy, Rae. Don’t blow up over nothing. Dotti’s just having fun, maybe even learning a little about reading. See how happy she is at the… cartoon picture of a gnome being flattened by an anvil?

“Dotti!” I swipe the comic book away. “This isn’t funny! That gnome could really have gotten hurt!”

Dotti looks at me with the biggest grin and nods enthusiastically.

“This comic is going to teach you the wrong lessons about society,” I say, placing the comic book on my chair and sitting on it to ensure she won’t get the chance to read any more. “I have an idea. How about you sit over there in that bean bag and practice your illusion magic? You can find another comic book and read that, just make sure you can hold a perfectly silent image for as long as you can. I need to focus on my research.”

Dotti looks behind my back. She obviously wants the book she was reading.

“No, not this one. It’ll give you the wrong ideas about how to treat gnomes.” I hand her another comic. “Here, this one is about proper table manners.”

Dotti grabs the comic and glowers at me. I resume reading my book on animal domestication, and Dotti makes a show of stomping behind me over to a cushion in the corner.

Silence. Blessed silence.

A few minutes later, I look over to the corner and see the smuggest fox grin staring back at me, reading the same violent comic book she had been earlier.

I reach under the frilly seat of my dress. It’s gone. She stole it! She must have slid it out from under me- and I didn’t notice because of this absurdly frilly dress.

Frankly, I’m not even mad. I’m impressed, but also curious why Dotti’s illusion shows her as a fox. It’s not the highest-quality illusion; it’s a static image, and I can see Dotti’s arm pop out of the illusion to turn the page.

The fox is fake, but the smug is real.

As long as she stays quiet, maybe the nearsighted librarian behind the front desk will confuse her for an orange cat. Librarians are cat people. I think.

I focus on my book again. It’s not telling me what I need. It’s just going over the history of circus acts, and how lion tamers used to beat their animals into submission. Modern trainers mostly raise the animals as cubs, and use positive reinforcement over an extended period of time to build conditioned responses based on cues.

That won’t work for me. I can’t raise an animal from a cub. It has its own instincts- I can’t trust it to not attack me just because it feels hungry. Where are the books on long-term enchantments and effective methods of discipline? Or the books on whatever methods we elves used to employ, when we were renowned for our connection to nature? Are those lost to time? Did we conceal our techniques that well?

“Hey!” Landi whispers in my ear.

I look up from my book, still in a foul mood, but doing my best not to show it. “What?”

“I think that guy over there is checking you out.”

I glance over my shoulder. There’s a human stacking books on a cart, probably a clerk just starting his training at the library. He’s nervous, and making a point of not looking over at us.

“I don’t care,” I say.

“Look at you, playing hard to get!” Landi says. “Come on! You’re dressed the part! Enjoy yourself the last night you have before we head out!”

“Pass.”

“Lame!” Landi huffs. “You’re no fun.”

“Nope.”

I grab a few more books for the evening. I’ll return them in the morning- I’ve got work to do, even after Girls’ Night is over.
>>
No. 1007154 ID: 8483cf
File 162804974561.png - (119.78KB , 649x569 , LFT4_24.png )
1007154

The rest of the evening in the library passes uneventfully, and we head back to the guild. Dotti managed to keep her illusion up for a full half hour, which if she’s really running on empty, is quite frankly shocking.

I tell Landi to give Serah a list of the items we bought that evening so she knows we’re properly geared up- and also so I don’t have to face her wearing this dress.

I hurry upstairs with my newly purchased hair dye. It’s a whitish-gray, perfect for camouflage in the bleak mountains and grab a few herbs from my pouch to protect my hairline from the dye. I’ve done this enough times that I can handle it myself. I head to the bathrooms and get to work.

This is what I grabbed my books for. The settling dye takes a while to dry out and set. In fact, it takes long enough that when I’m nearing the end of the developing time of the dye, the guild has settled in for the night.

“Rae! Rae, are you in here?” There’s a tiny tapping on the bathroom doors. I open them up- it’s Landi. “Oh! Hey! Nice hair.”

“What do you want?”

“Yeesh, straight to the point, aren’t you?” Landi says with a groan. “I need to sleep in your room tonight. Dotti’s doing her snap-crackle-pop thing again.”

“…Could you be more specific?”

“She fell asleep, and her aura’s condensing into another tail. It’s noisy for me. Very noisy.”

So. Dotti’s getting her third tail. I suppose I’d better be ready for anything…

“Yes, you can sleep in my room tonight.” I test a strand of my hair. “Looks like the dye is set.”

“Thanks!” Landi says. “I’m gonna sleep like a log. I need my beauty rest, otherwise tomorrow is gonna suck.”

---

I wake up at the crack of dawn and don my woodland armor. I’ll wear it for the first day of the trip to travel light.

Landi is still sleeping atop a spare blanket at the foot of the bed. Should I wake her up?

I pause and check my hair. This is my last chance to make any adjustments. Is it the right shade for the trip?
>>
No. 1007155 ID: e51896

a little lighter? I think it's fine.
Don't wanna mess with our hair too much, we may risk having... that shown where our left eye is

Don't wanna deal with Landi's crankiness, let her have her 5 more minutes. Probably best if she is well rested. Time to shower...

wait, there's noise coming from Dotti's room... crying?
>>
No. 1007157 ID: 96c896

>>1007154
>right color?
It's fine probably.

If you're looking for elven animal training secrets you should've asked the librarian. Or maybe Serah can help?
Don't wake Landi just yet, she said she needs sleep for today. Could be some kind of fairy thing.


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