Book II - Chapter 56

Chapter 56

 

[Snake Report]

 

I’m starting to think I missed my calling.

Instead of an evil monster from the depths of the Dungeon, or a worshiped God of Destruction, or a Pseudo Forest Deity: I should have been a wandering monk.

Going around, town to town, tending to the masses, spreading the Tiny Snake God’s name.

Obviously, there are some flaws with that idea. I’d have needed to create some sort of stone skeleton or construct- like the evil monstrosity Eveth had locked up in her basement of terror, only not so evil.

Maybe use earth magic to pilot that around, like a Tiny Snake Gundam or something.

I not sure.

It would have been more rewarding, though. All I’d need are a couple dedicated disciples to really get rolling.

Way less stress than the alternative options, for sure.

This Tiny Snake Mission: [Healing for Coin] has been a resounding success, and I haven’t even had to do anything.

“Next!”

Dren has fixed up about twenty people so far, and more than half of them have paid him something for it.

We’ve got a steady income here. If my math is right, I think we’ve got about ten silver already.

Not bad.

Easy as hell, actually: this is such simple stuff.

A cough that wouldn’t go away? Done, twenty seconds- tops.

Nasty looking cut that might have been infected? Poof. One minute of chanting. Dren took care of it.

That a high fever? Say no more, Dren’s got it under control. He’s on the case.

I guess the kid is pretty good at this.

Well, decent enough, I guess.

He’s not reattaching limbs or anything, but I’ll respect it.

Figured I’d have to step in and help, but for small things like this, apparently, he can keep going all day. No assistance required.

He’s a worthy disciple candidate. Dren can be my third in command, after Imra. Already planning out our business model.

[Tiny Snake Healing Incorporated]

I don’t have to lift a finger…

Tail. I don’t have to lift my tail.

Easy money.

I’m also cut-in for some human-food snacks. Imra and Dren established a 60:40 split.

Not bad.

There is one thing that’s been throwing me off, though. Enough to make me more than just a little bit uncomfortable.

The people are friendly.

Really friendly.

After being chased around by thugs with swords, crossbows, regular bows… I guess I just assumed humans were mostly jerks, but maybe I’ve just been working with a bad sample set.

I guess most people around this city are still respectable.

It was the same in my last life: you don’t notice good people very often. Maybe if they’re loud, you’ll notice- but the quiet ones? The people who don’t speak up or make a fuss? They’re the backdrop, the scenery. Easily passed over and forgotten, and that’s just how it goes.

Every once and awhile someone gets recognized for doing something good, or doing something heroic, but that never really kept the news rolling.

It was always the bad people.

Those were the folks you kept an eye out for, when you were walking down the street. I think that’s what has been happening here, too.

Why worry about normal people?

Thankful words.

Kind gestures of respect…

Surprisingly easy to forget the background until you’re alone with it, but so far today, all I’ve seen are smiling faces.

Yeah.

Terrifying, to say the least.

It’s got me much more paranoid than usual.

What’s the catch?

Can’t seem to break that thought process.

When is this going to get flipped on its head?

I know there’s no catch, but my mind keeps circling back and looking for one. I’m programmed for this now, it’s what I do.

Where is the danger?

Right over to that old lady there, with her basket- her suspicious basket. Is she the one about to pull out a dagger and lunge for us?

No… that’s a vegetable.

I think.

Like a carrot that’s got the skin of a blue tomato. No idea what to make of that thing.

OR- that big looking guy, with all the scars. Is he going to draw a sword and… No, never mind. He’s handing Dren a couple silver and bowing respectfully.

Damn.

This is so backwards.

When is the danger is going to strike?

What horrible thing is coming for us right now?

Or, am I just being silly?

I’ve been keeping track of an entire crowd, and no matter how many times I go back over them- the answer is just that simple.

I’m not comfortable with that conclusion.

“The Light falls here today. You have my gratitude, young one.”

Ah, Grandpa over there got his bad knee fixed up, but I guess he’s hanging around. Weird looking cane, seems to be made from the fake wood stuff.

“Do you heal as well, Miss?”

Sss…

Imra’s totally ignoring him, pretending she didn’t hear.

She totally heard him, though.

Sheesh.

The crowd just keeps growing somehow. Twenty turned to thirty, now I feel like there’s gotta be at least forty people swarming around, now. Queuing up in some non-organized way too, there’s some sort of unspoken logic in it.

Must be a local thing.

“Move! Out of my way!”

Hmm.

There’s a shout to the back. Some grunts and complaints… I think people are getting shouldered out of the way.

“Move, damn you!”

Oh, yeah. Really tough looking guy here: puts the last scary looking fellow to shame. No queue for him, he’s making towards the front.

I guess this is the catch we’ve been waiting for.

Imra’s stepping to intercept.

“Out of my way.” The tough looking man doesn’t seem particularly intimidated by our spear. “I don’t have business with you. I’m here for the healer.”

“Then, you will wait.” Imra’s tone is cold. “Like all the rest.”

“I can’t wait.”

“You will learn.”

“Oh, you think you’re tough, eh? Adventurer types like you are all the fucking same. Kill a few monsters, earn a couple silver- think that makes you strong?”

He’s pointing a finger, to do the shoulder-push maneuver. The classic intimidation, meant to shuffle someone into a backstep as they catch their balance.

Imra’s side stepping.

Oh god.

She’s contemplating some sort of image.

Red. Lotta red.

Imra! Don’t do what you’re thinking about doing! That’s the opposite of why we’re here!

I repeat: do not!

“Woman, you’d best step off before I get angry. I’ll take that spear and shove it up your-“

“Hello there! May I assist you with something? An illness, perhaps?”

Phew.

Talk about Dren to the rescue. That was only a half second away from ended rather badly.

This guy has no idea how lucky he is.

“You’re a healer, right?”

“By Gods, of course the boy is! He’s been working all morning, anyone will tell you.”

Oh, hey. Thanks grandpa, you tell him.

“That’s correct. I was formally trained by the church. In honor of the approaching Festival, I’ve come to offer my services to those in need.”

“How good are you?”

“I’m… sorry?”

“Are you talented?”

Guy’s staring Dren down something-fierce right now. Imra’s thinking about that same image again.

Don’t do it Imra. Remember why we’re here. Think of the junk food.

“What kind of questioning is this! The boy hasn’t turned away a single person!”

Thanks again, grandpa.

“I can heal many things. Why do you ask, sir?”

“Wounds? Even deep ones?”

“Yes, I can mend.”

“Sickness? All kinds”

“Yes, of course”

“Good. I’ll be right back. Wait here! Don’t leave!”

Uh…

Huh.

All that fuss, and he’s shouldering his way back through the crowd, just like that?

What the hell.

“No manners, that one.”

You’re still here, huh grandpa?

I guess I would be too, in his position. Take a seat and watch Dren work his magic until lunch time. I doubt there’s much else to do this time of morning anyways, aside from over-price grocery shopping.

That, and he keeps staring at Imra’s rear.

You’re playing a dangerous game, old man. A very dangerous game.

Life, or death. If she notices, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to save you.

I respect your bravery.

Ssss…

Well, so much for not attracting a lot of attention. That guy’s voice brought in more people, some of them are already shuffling in, ready for some healing…

Maybe this wasn’t such a great plan.

If Alem and Eveth come back outside now, they’re going to flip out.

Just a small crowd of fifty something people, milling about across the street with all of us in the center. We’re not attracting attention or anything.

Nope.

Not us.

Well, whatever. Dren’s going back to work. Imra’s taking a step back, the unorganized queue is forming properly now that the disturbance is gone. Sure, we might have to call this early, but I think a couple more people and we’ve probably got what we came for.

Our quest for sugary snacks takes priority over minor aches and pains. Healing folks might have to set itself on-hold so we can bail…

Then again, Dren’s burning through them easily enough. Breaking a bit of a sweat now, but still steady with the chanting. Lord of Lightthis, First King of Men that… it’s so weird he has to chant.

Actually, I’m sure I heard Eveth do that a couple times too. It’s either a quick incantation, or she’s shouting something most of the time there’s magic afoot.

Is that really necessary?

I’ve never had to chant.

Then again, I can’t talk… so maybe that’s why. I guess I do shout the name of the spell in my head… normally.

It’s cooler that way, in my opinion.

Sssss…

Imra, is it just me- or is Dren sweating an awful lot?

“He is growing tired, Great One. By my count, he has mended over seventy now.”

You’ve been keeping count?

Of course, Great One.

Hmm…

If he’s getting tired, we should call it off soon.

“Yes, he must stop before he loses his value to us.”

I, uh…

Huh.

Did you say value?

“His purpose, in assisting you.”

You’ve really got to stop thinking that way, Imra. It’s a bad habit.

“It is true. The boy exists to help you achieve your goals.”

Imra, we’re definitely going to have a long chat at some point…

“Make way! I said: make way!”

Ah, would you listen to that?

The tough guy is back, shoving along, throwing people to the ground with shoulder checks. People are squawking a lot louder than last time, so he really must be hurrying. Probably going to ask Dren to fix some silly wound, or clear out a bad case of fantasy-world crabs.

What an ass-

Ho…

Oh.

“I will pay, healer. Any price I can give, I will pay it. All I ask is that you heal my son.”

Well, shit.