Her feet felt as if they were dented from walking barefoot on the unrefined, rocky path, the party was following. Lin, the party's ⌈ Mage ⌋, was complaining loudly, even though she was wearing boots, unlike the barefooted ⌈ Swordsman ⌋, Robinia.
"Are we there soon?! They said the goblin camp would be close by!" Lin complained.
Fang, who normally kept to himself, looked up upon hearing Lin's pleas for rest. He was the kind of man that wouldn't socialize, unless it was absolutely necessary. The man, they called Fang, was always dressed in the same old, moldy, brown woolen cape. His greasy, black hair always stuck to his neck. Fang filled the ⌈ Trapper ⌋ role in their small party. He was the type of man, who would carefully and methodically prepare for the enemy to attack, only for them to find strategically placed traps.
Seeing as his personality was like this, he really had to be tired of walking, for him to break character like this. It was unheard of.
"Ugh. Fine..." Robinia said.
Lin caught up with Robinia and threw herself at the elven woman, embracing her while smiling. They were a well-functioning party. A merry band of good friends, adventuring together in order to become the strongest of the strong.
They were on their first "Subjugation Type" quest, since receiving their rank-up to ⌈ Silver Rank Adventurers ⌋. They were filled with determination to go even further. In a few years, perhaps, they would earn themselves the prestigious ⌈ Gold Rank ⌋.
Robinia was busy starting a fire to grill the boar meat, they had hunted earlier. While she was doing that, Fang was setting up a web of thin, sharp steel-wires, so the monsters, lurking in the wild, wouldn't bother them while they ate, unless they wanted to be cut up.
Lin immediately invalidated Robinia's efforts to start their campfire, by lighting it on fire, with her newly acquired fire magic.
"God dammit, Lin!" Robinia said, but she couldn't stay mad at the laughing magician in front of her.
Fang carried the fresh boar meat over. It hung over his left shoulder, without touching the ground. He was extremely strong, which made Robinia wonder, why he had chosen trapper as his class.
The trapper went on to skewer the meat on a spear, he carried on his back at all times. While he was carrying out his task in silence, Lin was now complaining about her empty stomach.
Robinia sighed, she was happy with the lighthearted atmosphere, that always stuck with her party. Although, it would be nice to include a new member soon.
'Maybe we should check when we reach The Nest?' She though.
"Robii! I found something!" Lin shouted from outside Fang's steel web. It was quite surprising, to see the lazy mage get on her feet, and do something. It must have been important.
"On my way! Stay here, Fang"
Fang simply nodded in response. It was always very calming to see him relaxed. He would get extremely tense, whenever he felt a dangerous presence, so it seemed safe to follow Lin.
She made it to Lin, and what she saw made her gasp. The dead bodies of three goblins, one of them being the ⟨ Goblin Bruiser ⟩, they had been tasked with slaying. The most unusual, and perhaps disgusting thing about the scene, was the fact that all of them seemed to have died in an instant, except for one. It was one of the smaller goblins. It looked like it had been bashed multiple times with a bludgeoning-type weapon.
"Robii, look over here".
The otherwise always cheerful Lin, was looking at the goblin bruiser, with a disturbed look on her face. It didn't take Robinia many seconds to see what was wrong.
"Where are its bones?" Robinia asked.
There were no bones inside the bloody mess, which was once a goblin. It looked as if it had been forcefully torn from the goblin's body.
"Who would do something like this?" She continued, while becoming more and more disgusted with the sight in front of her.
Fang, who was wondering what was going on, had come to have a look himself. He had a quick look at the body in front of him, then he ran his finger through the pool of blood on the ground.
"Lin. Magic. Here. Test".
The trapper wasn't very talented in the art of the spoken word, but he made up for that with his skills as a trapper. Some people went as far as to think that he was a mute, but the reality was that he was quite shy, contrary what his appearance might say about him.
"Right, I'm on it! - ⌈Detect Magic⌋!"
Lin was using a spell, which could show traces of magic used on an object, as long as it was within two days of the magic's application to said object.
A flash of blue light emanated from Lin's palm, quickly disappearing again. Following that, a dark mist rose from the dead goblin.
"I don't understand? My magic detection is too weak? But mine is among the strongest in Elcrada!" Lin said.
While Lin was sulking, Fang walked off. He was following two sets of footprints, that didn't match any of the party members'. Robinia and Lin, had thought it was their own, seeing as they came as a pair as well.
"Lin, look, Fang seems to have found something!"
The silver-haired girl looked up, and stopped coming up with excuses, as to why she couldn't properly detect the magic, used on the goblin.
"I'd like to meet the person who did this" She said. Frustration showed quite clearly on her face. She was the type of person, who always wanted to be the best at everything in her field. Someone being able to use stronger magic than herself was almost an insult, to her.
They followed their reliable trapper, who made good use of his skills, to assist him in following the perpetrators.
Robinia didn't know for how long they walked, but it sure felt like an eternity to her before Fang said "Wait here. Don't move".
The entire party listened closely, and they could hear someone dragging their feet through the dirt path, they, themselves were walking on, but since the density of the trees was so high, they couldn't see the person.
"I'll be going on ahead, since I'm the one with the best offensive capabilities" Robinia said, grabbing a hold of her one-handed, black steel sword.
She went on to unsheathe her sword, preparing to engage in battle, should the person on the other side appear to be a threat.
Doing exactly that, appeared to be the right decision. As she was walking through the thicket, closely followed by her party members, she began to be able to see the "person". It's bony, white hands was grasping a club, similar to the ones goblins would use. It wore no clothes, neither was there anything, but bones to cover up. It had no eyes. Instead, purple flames filled its eye sockets. It was an undead.
The skeleton turned its flaming gaze towards the still advancing swordsman.
"Level Estimation!" Robinia shouted. It was an ability, Robinia treasured. It allowed her to see a rough estimation of her opponent's strength. As a swordsman, she could appreciate knowing what she was up against.
⌈Name: ??? – Level 5-10⌋ ⟨ Skeletal Grunt ⟩
Magic Affinity: F-
"Lin, Fang, stay back - Its too dangerous for you!"
"I'll prepare my healing magic, if you need it!"
The two of them didn't hesitate, but turned around and started to walk in the opposite direction. They trusted their leader's skills with the blade.
It was the first time Robinia had faced off with an undead. She had heard the tales, of how they would gather in great numbers, destroying everything in their way. Their sole purpose was to devour the innocent, according to the street preachers in Elcrada.
She was no fool. Robinia knew she was facing off against the goblin from before. She also knew, that while alive, it was the target of a intermediate-level quest, from the guild.
"I'll put you out of your misery" The elven swordsman said, and began her assault on the skeleton.
Robinia was no beginner at swordplay, so she knew not to rush in, without testing out her opponent's skill. It was her first undead, after all.
"Cross Cut!" She shouted, which activated one of her sword skills.
She swung her sword twice, not aiming for her opponent, but the air in front of her. The skeleton was hit with the two burst of air that came from her attack. The skeleton remained unfazed, and started moving in her direction.
Robinia tried the same skill again, but with the only result being the grunt momentarily losing its balance. Slowly, but steadily, it was closing in on her, dragging its club along the ground.
"Gap Closer!" She screamed, hoping to gain the other hand, by attacking first.
Her opponent reacted poorly, and received a cut to the arm, severing its arm. The skeleton tried to grab the elf, but she was far quicker than the grunt. She stabbed it in the skull.
"Got you!" She shouted, thinking she was victorious.
She was wrong.
The skeleton grabbed Robinia's sword wielding arm, slammed her on the ground, and started pulling her towards itself, with the intent to choke her. Was this the end for her? She struggled, trying to get the attacker off of herself, but to no avail. Her party members couldn't help, seeing as one was a ranged attacker, with a high chance to hit Robinia. The other wasn't specialized in combat, nor would he be able to help her in time. Robinia could hear Lin's desperate pleas, for the skeleton to stop attacking. Robinia closed her eyes, preparing for her untimely death.
Suddenly, the force pulling at her stopped. She looked up, and saw a young, black-haired man, with scars covering most of his face. Robinia could tell, that he had once been a beautiful man. Now, his scars made him the stuff of nightmares. His pointy ears proved him to be of elf-kind, like herself.
He had crushed the skeleton's head with his fist, which was now bleeding and showing bones - some sticking out of the hand.
The skeleton collapsed, like a puppet without a master.
It took Robinia a few moments to process what had happened. She had just accepted death, moments ago, but now... She wasn't really sure what she was feeling. Except slight annoyance at her savior, who had yet to talk.
"Thank you for saving me" She said, while getting on her feet.
Lin and Fang came running up to them. The mage was crying rivers, and embraced the elven woman, as soon as she was within jumping distance.
"You idiot!" Lin screamed, while hugging Robinia tightly. Although Lin was a spoiled child, she was also a caring friend, who hated being helpless in situations such as these.
Everyone turned to face the stranger, who was only staring at Robinia.
"You're an elf?" He said, as if it was something strange.
"In case you haven't noticed, you're an elf too.." She replied. Her annoyance was getting increasingly worse.
"Now, shouldn't we get back to The Nest?" Lin asked, hoping to break the awkward silence. Dry tears still clung to her face, but she didn't seem to mind.
"Wait- you mean The Adventurer's Nest?!" The stranger asked. He seemed to have been looking for it prior to their meeting.
"Yes, we do, and we would be happy to take you there. Might you tell us your name?" The elven woman asked.
"Right, sorry! My name is Ash. Please take care of me"
"Lin, could you heal his hand?"
Thus, Ash and the adventurers started walking in the direction of Elcrada.