I don't get much time between gruelling bouts of training my elemental Skills, but the time I do get I spend playing with my new pet, the mini-demon. He's awkward, unable to fly on his stunted wings and frequently tumbles over when walking about on his weak little arms. Every time he falls his big green eyeball wells up with moisture and I have to soothe him for a while before he can calm down and get back up.
I don't remember Tiny or Crinis being this fragile.
Long dormant, my Pet Growth Speed Skill finally has a chance to level up! This Skill will reduce the time it takes for the little guy to grow into his full, combat-ready form. I'd kind of hoped that it would reduce the amount of Biomass that he'd need to eat to grow, making the whole process a bit cheaper, but instead it just seems to increase the speed he goes through food. He's always hungry and the more he eats, the faster he grows.
Not that he's going to get that large. Not visibly at least. He's probably expanding a great deal inside his little pocket dimension.
Eventually, my brains burn out and I have to beg Torrina to leave me be so I can go into some sweet, sweet torpor. I need to rest! I'm completely drained! The second she's gone I make myself comfortable and sink immediately into blessed inactivity, my body goes completely still. Sweet release! A relaxing feeling takes over my body and slowly my minds grow still and oblivion takes over.
I'm back, baby! For whatever reason, there's no slow recovery from torpor! I was never much of a morning person, I can remember many mornings feeling a touch low energy, but ever since my rebirth I'm just full of beans after waking up! I'm ready! I'm ready to take on the world! I manage to flex my legs and bounce around my cell as if I were shadowboxing for a brief moment before I realise Torrina is in the room and watching me.
[You seem full of energy,] she sounds amused, [ready for more training then?]
This rock-woman has no mercy Sigh may as well get into it.
After another four hours of relentless training with only a brief pause to eat and feed my new pet, the relentless monotony of the was only broken when Granin entered the room and ordered Torrina to leave. I can't cry, but I swear real tears nearly fall when I hear his gruff voice. Getting levels and improving my Skills is important, of course, I know that, but the training the three Shapers are putting me through is truly brutal.
Compress the mana, shape the mana, cast the spell, tear apart my spell, start again. Over and over. Not only is it repetitive, but it's also really hard! Not to mention, I have to do this in two entirely separate elements casting two different spells at the same time! Every one of my minds is pushed to the limit for the duration of the training and a painful headache multiplied by four assaults me whenever I stop. It's effective training, but holy moly is it rough.
[Granin, I honestly never thought I'd be so grateful to see you.]
The big Golgari Shaper looks up at me in surprise.
[What's the matter? I never thought I'd hear such words from you. Ah, Torrina has been training you? Hehe. You have my sympathy.]
He looks at me with barely concealed happiness, as if he is drawing great comfort from my suffering.
[She's always like this?! I thought she was only pushing me so hard because of the short timeframe!]
[Oh no,] he shakes his head, [she's crazy. You have to understand that she came from low social status, like me, but she was able to raise herself high through her ridiculous work ethic. She's a well-regarded prospect amongst her peers.]
[Hold on a second. I thought you were considered to be a problematic no-hoper. How'd this bright young star end up in your triad?] I ask pointedly.
[That's all down to social standing and politics. Enough about that.] He waves away the matter of Torrina with one hand whilst fixing me with a glare. [Through hard work and bending a few fingers I've managed to secure a meeting for you with the other reincarnators. It wasn't easy, but I even managed to ensure that you wouldn't be listened in on. As far as I'm aware this is the first time that three of you have met together in the history of the Golgari empire.]
[You mean, like anywhere?]
[It may have happened somewhere on Pangera, but we don't know about it. I figured this would be a good chance for you to try and make some allies. James and more specifically Sarah have been here a long time. There are many Shapers who are sympathetic to them. If you can get them to put in a good word for you, it'll have some weight around the outpost.]
Interesting! I have heard that normally there aren't nearly so many of us spawning into the Dungeon so close together. If there was ever going to be a time when a group of us former Earthlings were going to meet up, it was now. A short time later the three escorts arrive and we set off once more on the short journey from my cell to the combat area. Nice to be making this trip secure in the knowledge that I don't have to annihilate anything whilst risking annihilation when I reach the end of it.
After being led into the open, circular arena, I'm pleasantly surprised to see Jim and Sarah have already arrived. The giant worm is sitting in a large coiled loop, his blind head pointing this way and that, whilst Sarah, the immense bear monster is sat on her hind legs, huffing with laughter. It takes me a few moments to connect up to the others with a mind bridge so I can join the conversation.
[What's so funny?] I ask as I skitter up to join them.
[Ah, Anthony! Nice to see you!] Sarah sounds genuinely glad to see that I've managed to survive the tournament so far. [Jim is just prattling on, as he tends to do.]
[It's not about worms is it?] I needle him.
[It should have been!] Jim declares proudly. [Despite being the Cult of the Worm, there's hardly enough emphasis given to all things worm around here. Nobody seems to appreciate this noblest of all species!]
Sarah huffs out another laugh.
[The Cult doesn't worship worms! They worship Yarrum, there's a difference.]
Jim curls up and flicks his tail with contempt.
[What would Yarrum be without his mighty worminess?!]
[An ancient,] Sarah and I chime in together.
[Bah! Yet more unbelievers in the way of worm! Don't worry, I'm used to it.]
Jim seems insulted by our unwillingness to fully buy into his worm enthusiasm, but I'm not certain how much of his petulance is real or performance. I can't help but feel there's more to Jim than meets the eye. He can't be this upfront, can he?
[So Anthony, how've you been?] Sarah sounds a little anxious as she turns her massive bear head towards me.
[Me? Competing in a tournament of death, filled with anxiety and struggle. Same as usual! Why?]
The giant bear deflates as she hears my words. I can tell that she still feels bad about me having to risk my life on the command of the Shapers. Clearly, her loyalty to this mad cult is still strong, but she disagrees with their actions here. Perhaps there's a little hope for her after all.
[I've asked so many times but they don't want to stop the tournament. It's not right!] Sarah says, despondent.
[Why would they listen to you?] Jim interjects. [We're not equals in their eyes, we're experiments. Means to an end. They don't care that we were once people.]
[That's not true!] Sarah protests.
[Sorry Sarah, I have to agree with Jim,] I chime in. [My experience is a little bit more extreme than yours, but do you think that if they found you when they found me you'd be treated any differently? I don't think so.]
I can tell that Sarah wants to argue but there isn't much ammunition for her to use. I think I take a little risk with these two. Nothing ventured, nothing gained after all.
[Look. I don't want to say too much, but there's a slight chance I'll break out of here before the end of the tournament. Any chance you'd want to come with?]