The twosome don't get a quarter of a mile beyond palace grounds before a pair of rabites suddenly leap out of the trees to either side of them, lunging for them with their buck teeth glistening.
Serle takes a leap back, out of the way, dropping his bag and brandishing his sword. "See? Dog eaters."
Adria maneuvers out of the way of one, and makes a move to grab for the backside of one of them.
The one Adria grabs for she successfully snags, though it wriggles violently in her grasp with surprising strength for its size. The other ducks under Serle's sword to try to bite his leg.
Serle jumps back again, this time, slashing at the Rabite with his sword.
Adria: I think this is different.
The rabite screeches, a wound drawn across its back. It now tries to leap forward and headbutt Serle, undeterred.
Adria grabs the back of the rabite's neck with her other hand, to secure a firmer hold on it.
The rabite Adria is holding fights back by trying to whack the wrist of the hand holding its neck with its firm ears.
Adria tries to pin the rabite against the ground.
Adria's rabite hisses and chatters.
Serle is struck, square in the chest, by the flying Rabite, and staggers backward, almost losing his footing.
The rabite that just struck Serle leaps and spins in a rather cute attempt at intimidation.
Adria shifts, and tosses her rabite at the one that attacked Serle.
Both rabites squeak in surprise; the wounded one is knocked out between blood loss and the sudden impact, while the other one rolls to a right-side up position and shakes its head.
Serle stands his ground, watching the other rabite.
The one rabite that's still conscious makes a rapid hopping start before leaping forward to ram Adria, angered.
Serle starts moving after it, as soon as he realizes it's going after Adria.
Adria drops underneath it and moves behind.
Serle lunges for the Rabite, sword out.
The rabite squeals as Serle's thrust hits its mark; after an uncomfortable-sounding breath, it stops moving.
Adria stands again. "The dryad said something about this."
Serle nods. "Can you...eat these?"
Adria: Don't know... I don't think I would, but I don't think it's toxic...
Serle nods. "We should keep moving."
Three more rabites are visible hopping around further down the path...
Serle: I should lead, Adria...I can hit them, at least.
Adria pulls one of her remaining oranges from her bag and lobs it straight at one of the rabites down the path.
The rabite, angered, snarls and comes racing at the duo.
Serle blinks, and sets himself for the charge, sword out.
Adria: I can hit them. Just doesn't seem to be enough.
Serle says nothing, but waits for the Rabite, ready to slash it.
The rabite is surprised at the maneuver, easily struck by the surprisingly sharp wooden sword. It backs off and huddles in fear.
Serle: Hey, you rabites! See this! holds up the sword I got no problem cuttin' you! So just back off!
One of the distant rabites hisses at Serle, but neither approach.
Serle starts walking toward the wounded Rabite. "You better run!"
The nearby one instead regathers itself and lunges for Serle's foot with its teeth.
Adria tries to grab it.
The rabite is stopped short with its teeth a mere inch from Serle's foot.
Serle stabs it.
Adria: Maybe we should call the Dryad and ask whether there's something we can do about this?
With a squeak, it goes limp.
Serle nods. "Yeah..."
Adria drops it, stepping back a little.
Serle: I don't know if we want to fight the whole way there...
Adria: Um... so...
Dryad manifests. "Well, um, this is way out of my league..."
Dryad: I might be able to put one to sleep here and there, but it's hard to keep at it just by myself.
Serle: So...we're more or less on our own?
Dryad: More or less...
Dryad: I'm... I'm really sorry...
The two distant rabites take some tentative hops towards our heroes.
Serle makes several steps toward the rabites, sword held out.
Adria: ...but you could teach me to cast spells well enough to make a difference, right...?
Dryad nods... "W-well, I think I could..."
The two rabites split up and circle around to try to flank Serle.
Adria sighs. "I can't keep tossing oranges or just hide behind Serle..."
Serle keeps an eye on them both, sword out.
Each tries to bite Serle at about the same time from directions about 120 degrees apart, the left one leaping for the thigh, the other below the knee.
Serle makes a large leap back, swinging his sword in a wide arc.
While Serle avoids the rabites entirely, his counterattack only grazes the higher one.
The unwounded one continues coming at Serle after only the slightest delay while the newly-cut one lands roughly.
Adria moves forward quickly and tries to grab the unwounded rabite.
Serle is still recovering from his initial swing, and is caught mostly offguard by the unwounded Rabite's counter attack, it's beak biting him.
Adria manages to catch up and snag the unwounded rabite only a second after Serle is hit. Unfortunately, a second after that the lightly wounded one tries to jump up and bite her in the rear.
Adria reacts by trying to kick it back away.
Serle is bleeding again, cursing, and seems more angry than anything.
That rabite is taken completely by surprise, flying back a few feet and landing with a squeak.
Adria follows up quickly by throwing the captured rabite at it.
It's in no shape to react that quickly after such a shock and thus is knocked out by its fellow rabite. Which looks very angry once it rights itself.
Serle seems angry, and rushes toward both rabites, slashing violently.
Serle's attack cleaves the one that's still conscious to the bone, prompting a shrill squeal of pain from it.
Serle growls angrily and kicks the unconscious Rabite, grumbling.
Adria: I don't think that's going to do any good.
A snap is heard; it yelps as it rolls a few feet.
Serle looks down. "Sorry."
The one Serle just sliced, meanwhile, closes its eyes with a whiny whimper.
Adria looks over the area to see if there are any more rabites that might still pose a threat.
The path looks clear up to the slight turn in the distance, after which point the trees make it too hard to judge.
Serle: The darn things are going to be after us the whole way.
Adria sighs. "All right... how should I begin?"
Serle: I...don't understand.
Dryad reappears. "Well... it usually takes a while for a human to learn how to do it properly."
Adria nods. "I need to start somewhere, though."
Dryad: Well... O-OK then.
Dryad: Well... I guess... could you understand the runes in the mandala at all? A-above the door out, I mean, that you could see from the balcony.
Adria: Sort of... trying to just got in the way, so I really didn't try...
Adria: ...if that makes any sense...
Dryad: Yeah... they aren't meant to be read intellectually.
Dryad: And they describe things that it would be futile for humans to put into words -- things that make no sense if not experienced firsthand by people ready to feel small.
Adria shrugs. "Size is arbitrary."
Dryad actually manages a small chuckle. "That isn't what I meant..."
Adria: Unimportant, then?
Dryad: That's not exactly it, either. A mosquito can be the undoing of a mighty knight.
Serle grumbles softly, muttering "Or a rabite..."
Dryad: And even a crippled beggar could save a life, if they wanted.
Dryad: If only they could see when and how.
Adria: We're talking about how they feel, not how they are, though...
Dryad: Um... actually, we're talking about how the way they are feels.
Dryad: And... well, I guess the way the rise of a continuing life feels? And the inevitability of a need to recover? Right?
Adria: ...when I was there, I felt like another part of myself was taking over, that did know... something about what I am and why...
Dryad just goes silent, waiting for Adria.
Serle stays quiet, letting Adria and the Dryad speak.
Adria: I guess... when it comes to the feel, it almost seems strange that life can end... it has so much vitality and... well, 'force' to it, in a slow but inexorable sense...
Dryad nods. "Well... there are two aspects to casting a spell. First, you must be able to describe the spell. It's a very personal thing; it doesn't look or sound quite the same from any two people, or even from the same person over time."
Dryad: But it's never in a human language, which is why it sounds like nonsense to most people.
Adria: ...yet it can wane... even just a bit less pressure...
Dryad: Second, you need to be able to channel some of your Mana into me. You'll learn how to do that more efficiently and ease the transition of changing aspects with more skill.
Adria glances at one of the unconscious rabites.
Adria: ...but do I know a language that can describe it? When I attacked before, I didn't need any words. I only felt it... half-aware of what I was doing...
Serle watches them, not truly comprehending.
Dryad: W-well, all I can really do here is... well... pay attention, OK?...
Adria turns back to the Dryad. "I'm listening."
Dryad again casts the spell from before over Serle. One might notice that there doesn't seem to be much to listen to, in the physical sense.
Dryad turns to Adria afterward.
Adria nods slightly. "...and it has to be in my own 'words'?"
Dryad smiles. "Exactly!"
Adria closes her eyes, holds out her hands toward Serle, and tries to feel her way through a description; she doesn't even bother actually trying to vocalize, and her movements are a bit more subdued than it might seem they should be. All in all, she gives the impression of speaking without speech, and moving without movement.
Serle remains still, not breathing, lest he mess up the spell somehow.
A patch of grass in front of Serle becomes greener and stands up straighter, then starts to just perceptibly grow.
Dryad: Um, that was a bit much... I couldn't aim it more than you already had... I'm sorry...
Adria remarks in a half-hearted attempt at humor, "...I do think this is the first time I've had such a poor aim, though."
Serle: ...I can think of worse places to point it...
Adria: So, I have to be clearer about my target? I suppose after describing everything else by feel, I didn't do much more than aim at him physically...
Serle carefully steps away from the area.
Dryad: Well, yes. Also, most of the energy never became manifest where you are. It wasn't lured to the physical world enough...
Adria: ...the Wood Altar isn't fully in the physical world, is it?
Dryad nods. "You're right, but the part you saw and the room itself technically are. They've just, well, been made holier."
Adria nods slowly.
Adria: I almost felt like a part of me wasn't quite here afterward... I think that's why I needed to do something physical, and jumped off the balcony.
Adria: To feel like I was really part of the world.
Adria: ...as I know it, anyway.
Adria: And when I used the water as a weapon, I was facing imminent physical danger, so everything I felt was critically centered in this world...
Adria: But when I tried to cast the spell, I was almost half off in another world, or something...
Dryad: I... think that's actually normal the first time.
Dryad: If... if you're ready to try again...
Dryad looks over to Serle, then back to Adria expectantly.
Adria begins again, though this time she invests a little more actual motion, and doesn't rely on physical proximity to aim the spell. She still remains silent, though she seems to be conveying something regardless.
Serle awaits the spell, silent, again holding his breath.
A few green motes rise along Serle's form. This spell seems stronger than the one Dryad cast alone, to the point that Serle can more perceptably feel his wounds knitting... but then the spell feels as though it does a cross between falling off and imploding on itself.
Serle shudders a bit, the feeling very, very odd. He closes his eyes, not in pain, but in...discomfort. It passes quickly, and he looks down at the ground.
Adria: ...that was closer, but...
Dryad: ...but it wasn't anchored to your world for as long as it would have lasted... and it had too much Mana and was trying too hard to return to nature besides...
Adria turns to the Dryad. "Do you think I'm doing something particularly poorly in describing it...?"
Dryad: ...Well... you don't seem to be describing its physical connection very well... usually humans have to speak to do that well.
Adria looks slightly embarrassed. "...it's going to sound... weird..."
Adria glances toward Serle.
Dryad shrugs. "Not to me. It always does to other physicals."
Adria: I suppose.
Adria sighs, and begins her process again. As she opens her mouth, she begins a rather peculiar sort of singing; it's not quite melodic, but not quite not, and seems almost like one part of a complicated multipart harmony. The range covered is drastic, and Adria manages a few impressive Bass and Sopranino notes here and there... the words themselves... seem almost like a pattern of vowels occasionally interrupted by consonants.
Dryad seems to almost dance in time with this as she performs her aspect of the spell.
Motes of green light rise along Serle's body again, and this time the combined spell seems to "stick" properly to Serle, increasing his healing rate again.
Adria seems to be defining the spell, pulling it into reality, much more effectively... perhaps a little too much...
Motes of green light begin to rise along the body of one of the injured rabites... then another... and then along a nearby tree...
Dryad: Oh dear... I-I'm sorry, you were doing so well, I d-didn't realize...
Serle: W...what's going on?
Dryad seems to be struggling now...
The spell seems to be expanding to surround almost everything living in the whole area... Adria seems unable to stop her casting efforts...
Serle seems very confused.
Adria suddenly breaks off in mid-word, mid-gesture, as she stumbles to the ground, coughing and panting.
Dryad falls several feet, fading out before actually hitting the ground.
Serle: Are you okay??
Adria manages to get out between coughs: "...water...!"
Serle drops his bag, rummaging through his bag. "Here!"
Adria grabs the proffered waterskin and drains it immediately. "...more..." she says, sounding almost desperate.
Serle blinks, and reaches in, grabbing a couple more, handing them over.
This continues until Adria has consumed Serle's entire 5-day supply, as well as her own large waterskin.
Serle: Wow...that's...a lot.
Adria: ...sorry...but... There's the creek further on, we can make it that far...
Adria sighs. "Oh... what did I do...? I just... I couldn't stop... until it seemed like there was just nothing left of me to keep going with..."
Serle: That's...are YOU okay?
Adria: ...no, I'm more thirsty than I think I've ever been in my life... but I can make it to the creek.
Two of the rabites that were knocked out earlier stir, partially healed of their injuries...
Serle glances at them, and then offers Adria his hand. "C'mon, then, we'd better move."
Adria takes Serle's hand. "Yeah..."
Serle helps her to the creek, trying to outrun the Rabites.
The rabites behind them are outrun easily enough in these circumstances... it's the three that become visible around a slight bend that are a problem.
Serle: Head for the creek, I'll hold them off!
Adria nods and tries to break through the rabites.
The nearest one tries to take a chunk out of Adria with its buck teeth as she races by.
Adria swats at it without breaking stride.
Whatever was wrong with the Dryad, she apparently recovered; she appears above the furthest of the three and casts some sort of spell, causing it to fall asleep.
Meanwhile, the middle one leaps in Adria's path to try to trip her.
Serle rushes forward, swinging his sword, trying to gain the attention of the Rabites.
Adria simply tries to jump over it as she runs.
The near one, which seemed to be about to pursue Adria, does indeed turn its direction to Serle. Meanwhile, the two that were chasing them round the corner and star towards Serle as well...
Serle grins, adjusting the sword's grip, and beckons to them. It seems that he's been newly invigorated by the regenerative spell.
A question mark pops over the middle rabite's head as Adria leaps over it.
Adria hits the ground running and keeps going.
The two rabites that were chasing Serle each charge for a leg of his with headbutts, while the first encountered in this stretch leaps up to try to bite Serle in the torso.
Serle waits for a moment, then lunges for the nearest Rabite, sword slashing.
The rabite looking to bite Serle is caught in mid-leap by a slice of the enhanced wooden sword. The other two rabites' attacks, however, strike, even if not as strongly as they would have against a stationary target...
Serle is struck, and winces with the pain, managing to push past them, so at least they weren't still clinging to him. He whirls, blade out, watching them.
Meanwhile, Adria rounds another slight bend in the road to see some sort of rabbit-man struggling to avoid some sort of animated flower and a rabite...
Adria is still pretty focused on on her goal, and doesn't really spare too much notice to them beyond their being obstacles to avoid as she runs.
Serle regards the Rabites, eyes narrowing.
The rabite Adria jumped over earlier finally starts to follow her at a normal pace. Meanwhile, the three now in front of Serle leap and spin, trying to intimidate him with their numbers.
Serle seems unphased; these are rabites, after all. He takes a step forward, thrusting with the sword point, and then leaning back, out of the way.
Serle manages to make one of the rabites squeal as he skewers it. The others try to bite him before he can pull back, though the wounded one misses completely.
Serle gets a good bite on the arm, beak sinking in. He hisses in pain, and tries to whip his arm about, to dislodge it.
The creatures bugging the plump rabbit-person seem to take no notice of Adria as she goes around them. He, on the other hand, cries out. "H-hey! Wait! Help!"
Adria skids to a halt. Turning to look at him, she asks, "Do you have water?"
Rabbit: Everything's negotiable! Hell, I'll give you a free sample if you HELP ME!
Adria: I'll help, but where is it?!
The rabite that bit Serle is easily shaken off. The more recently wounded one, however, chooses now to hop at Serle and try to chomp his foot.
Adria starts looking over the rabbit-person critically.
Meanwhile, the rabite attacking the apparent merchant headbutts him. "Ow ow OW!"
Serle kicks at the wounded one, growling. He uses it as momentum to go after the third rabite with a slash.
The one that was trying to bite Serle's foot tumbles several feet, and the fresh rabite is struck before it can react.
Serle grins, and then moves down the path, which should be clear, toward Adria.
Two of the three rabites Serle was fighting pursue him, but being wounded they can't do so very well. He does catch up to the one that followed Adria just after it rounds the bend. It seems not to have noticed him.
Meanwhile, the flower-thing tries to bite the merchant, and he only barely dodges. "Geez! Trap some flies or something, why don't you?!"
Serle will make a stab as he goes by.
One of the canteens of water in the rabbit's possession suddenly explodes, as Adria gestures toward him; water streams around in an arc, and splits into streams and shards of ice, which converge on the flower-monster.
The rabite in question squeaks and falls, having been in no position to keep Serle from severing its spine as he does by.
Serle continues moving toward Rabbit Man and Water Girl...Adria.
Meanwhile, the rabbit-person yelps in surprise as Adria's spell slays the lullabud.
Rabbit: What the heck--?!
Adria sees Serle coming toward them and calls out, "You help him, I'm going on ahead!" before taking off running again.
Serle raises an eyebrow, and then charges into battle at the rabites.
The rabite left at the merchant's feet, meanwhile, takes advantage of his shock to chomp him in his large gut. "YEOW!"
Around the next bend is the stream... but also three more of those flowers and two rabites blocking the way to it.
Adria comes to a halt again... "..."
Serle leaps forward, blade spinning, and slashes the Rabite.
The rabite screeches in shock, then makes too short a jump to bite Serle in the chest.
Rabbit backs away from the fray.
Adria stares frustratedly at the group of monsters ahead of her, then reaches out in front of her, gesturing.
Serle takes a leap back, sword slashing.
This blow finishes off the rabite.
Rabbit sighs in relief.
Rabbit: Thanks a bunch, kid...
Rabbit: But who was that girl? Some kind of Altenan sorceress?
The stream-water seems to surge, overflowing the near bank, though strangely enough not the far bank. In fact, the water on the far side seems to build up straight into the air, curving in toward the near side.
The five enemies before Adria start to advance on her slowly, unaware of what's in store for them.
Serle: That was just Adria.
Rabbit: Hrm. I don't suppose she eats much ambrosia to be able to cast like that?
Rabbit shrugs. "The fruit of the ambrosia trees that the Altenans protect."
Rabbit: Anyway, I don't suppose you need to buy someth... aw, man, there's a hole in my pack!
Meanwhile, the rabites Adria is facing turn to the stream, blinking in confusion. The plant creatures don't even seem this smart.
The built up water towers over the gathered creatures before collapsing across them, the water line surging enough to put Adria in ankle-deep water.
Serle: I...don't have any money...
Rabbit shakes his head. "Well, that's too bad. I travel, though; maybe the next time we meet you'll be more in shape to check out my wares?"
The rabites try to run away from the water but are splashed instead; they're left sputtering. The plants are knocked over, but otherwise seem unharmed.
Serle: You should ask Adria...she has money.
As the water recedes, Adria takes advantage of the momentary confusion to jump over the monsters and make a break for the stream.
Rabbit: Maybe s-- what was that splash?!
The area is slippery, making it hard to run...
Adria slips a few times, but keeps her footing pretty well, though it does slow her progress a bit.
Serle thinks for a moment before realization dawns on him. "Adria..." He dashes toward the sound.
The rabites are still catching their breath as Adria reaches the stream, but the flowers are up and starting their slow progress towards Adria's new position.
Serle rounds the shallow corner to find five very wet foes surrounded by slippery shallow mud and grass. Adria herself has reached the edge of the stream.
Adria crosses the stream and turns around.
Serle: Are you okay??
The flowers seem not to have noticed Serle; two continue to creep towards Adria while the other starts to gyrate oddly. The rabites, however, spot Serle and head for him instead.
Adria gestures toward one of the flowers following her as jets of water and shards of ice emerge from the stream to converge on it. "...I'm thirsty..." she says somewhat plaintively.
Serle shakes his head a bit, and then starts toward the Rabites, closing the gap.
The lullabud in question is shredded by the ice and its petals scattered by the water... but the one that was moving oddly stops, and pink petals and green pollen descend over Adria.
The rabites aren't progressing easily in these less than ideal conditions, not being built to hop through slippery areas.
Serle isn't built to run in them, alas, and slips. Thinking quickly, he holds his sword out, hoping to get SOMETHING out of the fall.
Adria blinks at the display. "What... the........." she manages before collapsing to the ground on the far bank.
Serle at least manages to graze one of the rabites, but no more than that before he strikes the ground. They take advantage of the situation, one trying to leap onto his back and the other lunging for his face with its teeth bared.
Serle swats at the one lunging for his face, but the other lands square on his back. His lungs exhale with an 'Oof!'
The two remaining lullabuds continue towards the bridge, but the rabites keep after Serle. The one that the farmboy swatted away shakes its head while trying to regather itself, while the other hops up and down on his back, apparently liking the sound he made.
Serle grunts again, reaching for the rabite he swatted.
Serle catches it by the ears in mid-advance. It erks in surprise, then shakes its head to try to get him to let go. Meanwhile, the other keeps treating Serle like a trampoline.
Serle waits until the rabite jumps, before rolling over and hurling the grabbed rabite at its compatriot.
Whether it's from watching Adria do it or sheer frustration, Serle manages to knock one rabite out of the sky with the other. Both squeak once upon contact, then again upon striking the ground and sliding along the flattened, soaked grass.
Serle gets to his feet, sword at the ready, if they move again.
Move they do; each struggles to get right-side up and reoriented.
Meanwhile, one of the lullabuds is halfway across the bridge and the other is just starting to cross it...
Serle isn't worried about flowers. What are they gonna do, wilt? Rabites are mean, though, and he lunges forward, slashing at them.
Serle manages to clip both rabites at once. One seems too wounded to continue fighting, while the other tries to headbutt Serle right in the knee.
Serle is caught in the knee, and because of the damp grass, falls. He lands hard, with another Oof, and then stabs at the rabite.
The counterattack is too quick for the rabite to dodge; it makes a pitiful raspy gurgle before collapsing.
It's about now that Adria is awoken by a sharp pain.
Serle lies down, exhausted.
Adria flails a bit, disoriented.
Meanwhile, the lullabud that bit Adria edges away while the other closes the remaining distance.
Serle takes a moment to rest, when he hears Adria. "Adria?"
Adria futily reaches into the creek and splashes water toward the approaching monster.
The lullabud seems not to even notice. A mouth hidden within its inner petals emerges and snaps at the hand in question.
Adria cries out in pain, pulling back her hand.
Shards of ice and jets of water, originating from the stream, start randomly pelting the area around Adria.
Serle growls and moves to Adria, cursing himself inwardly for ignoring the flowers.
The lullabud right on Adria barely dodges a splinter of ice, then snaps at her side. The other starts that strange set of motions from before...
Adria just barely manages to dodge, seeming to be coming to her senses a little.
Serle moves toward the one snapping at Adria, slashing his sword.
Serle's sword easily mows down the flower in question. Unfortunately, then the other completes a Sleep Flower spell, again directed at Adria...
Adria slumps to the ground, and the stream settles back into normal behavior for a body of running water.
Serle seems very alarmed.
The remaining lullabud, being nearer to Serle at this point, lunges at him.
Serle swings the sword at it, more out of instinct than real thought.
The plant monster is reduced to a shower of leaves and petals.
This seems to be the last hostile being in sight.
Serle turns back to Adria, shaking her a bit.
Adria remains limp and unresponsive.
Serle: Speak to me!