The Newt and Demon

Chapter 16: Ten Percent

Chapter 16: Ten Percent

Theo woke well before dawn the next morning, finding Tresk curled up on her bedroll. She was snoring loudly when he stepped out into the lab, carefully pulling the door closed behind him. He stood at the second-story window for a time, lording over the sprawl of the town below. He started a small fire near the stills, sighing as he realized they were out of [Moss Nettle] and most of the Zee was rotting. The alchemist shoved the last three usable kernels in his inventory after slicing off strips and tossing them on the fire. He set the cast-iron kettle on the fire anyway.

Tresk came through the doorway, holding a clump of the moss in her hand and grinning. Thought we were out of this delicious stuff? she said, bounding over to toss it in the boiling kettle. She took a seat with him near the fire, pressing her forehead against his and sighing.

Big job today, Theo said. But this should hold the tanners over for a while.

We should get the shop in order, too, Tresk said. We have some potions lying around, and we have to get the townspeople used to the idea of coming in to get their [Cleansing Scrub].

Well, were going to need a hireling, Theo said with a sigh. He pulled the Zee strips off the fire and onto a plate. Tresk blew on her portion, nibbling at the edge. How much should we pay them to work the shop?

It would be nice to have someone with a [Shopkeeper Core], or a [Mercantile Core]. But thats not gonna happen in Broken Tusk. A laborer in our small town would charge two copper a day.

Seems like a robbery, Theo said. Since a meal at the tavern is a copper.

Thats how I know youre still green, Tresk said, tutting. The tavern charges way too much. You can get by for a week on a single copper if you try hard enough.

Theo leaned back, lamenting the delicate economy in Broken Tusk. Everyone was dirt poor, besides him. Traders were irregular, making exporting anything hard, and work didnt come easy. The advantage they had over the northern towns seemed to be the dungeons, and the abundance of reagents. They needed his plan to work out for a more stable future.

Alright. Well find someone to man the shop, Theo said. Do you have anyone in mind?

Tresk busied herself before answering, pulling the pot off the fire and pouring two cups of the tea. We can post a for-hire bulletin in the tavern, she said.

Fine with me, Theo said. Well give them a week's advance so we dont have to worry.

Absolutely not. Pay them by the day until they show that theyre good, Tresk said, shaking her head. Broken Tusk laborers are fine at laboring, but none have shopkeeping experience. We might need to fire them.

Theo frowned, sipping his tea. Alright. Until we have a chance, well finish out the tanners job.

The companions took their time eating breakfast, the threat of dawn still a far-off thing. They stoked the fires, prepared to make a run of [Healing Essence] to stock the shop with [Lesser Healing Potions]. They had an excess of [Cleansing Essence] that could make a good amount of [Cleansing Scrub] to bolster their stocks. Theo prepared the mash of [Spiny Swamp Thistle Root], while Tresk worked the [Glassware Artifice]. They devised vials that would work perfectly for the tanner, allowing them to just dump the contents onto the hides to process them.

Watch the fires, and Ill start the reactions outside, Theo said. Im not confident enough to do it here.

Understood, boss, Tresk said, smiling.

Theo knew she wanted to show him the spoils of yesterday, but he wanted to get a head start on the two different potions for the tanners. He started the first set of reactions in small, 5 unit measurements until he was confident enough to scale it up. The technique that he used when first working with the essences was to make the reaction in pre-measured amounts. Hed add 1 unit of the essence and 1 unit of water in a vial for his restoration potions. The problem with that technique was that it was time-consuming. It was too hard to do the math in his head for how much of each ingredient he needed for a large reaction, but after working it out on paper he could easily judge how much of everything he needed.

The alchemist plied his trade in the gravel yard, starting his first 100-unit reaction in a sizzling eruption of smoke that rose into the sky. Theo was excited when his math was right, uncertain of how large the explosion of a reaction of this size would have caused. He performed the same reaction again, leaving him with 200 units of [Stripping Solution] in two massive beakers. They were too heavy to carry, and he simply stored them in his inventory along with the entire barrel of [Purified Water] and [Flaky Agate].

[Drogramath Alchemy Core] receivedexperience (10%).

[Drogramath Alchemy Core] receivedexperience (10%).

The larger reaction gave more experience, which made sense. The [Stripping Solution] gave him less experience last time, a fact that he chalked up to the levels he gained in his alchemy core. While it didnt scale one-to-one, hed take the hit in overall experience to get the job done faster. Theo was resetting for the next reaction when Tresk spoke into his mind.

I have a better idea for the distribution of the solution, she said.

Whats that? Theo asked, looking up at the second-story window to see his companion pressing her face against the glass.

We just give them a measuring beaker to pour out the solution. That way we dont need to make 200 vials thats 400 motes total wed need.

Theo kicked himself for not noticing the flaw in his plan before. Motes were easy enough to come by, but they didnt have 400 motes. Perg was a smart enough person to use a measured pipette. Tresk had a way of boiling everything down to the simplest, most cost-effective solution. He grinned up at her and waved.

Youre a genius, Theo said.

Yeah, I am.

The alchemist realized that hed run out of water before attempting the next reaction. With his water barrel stored in his inventory, he alerted Tresk that he was running down to the river and padded through the muddy forest. He awkwardly withdrew the barrel and rolled it into the river, almost losing it down the current as it filled. The water barrel was completely submerged and drifting away when he slapped it, returning it to his inventory. He ran back to the gravel yard, constantly grinning at how powerful his new ability was.

Theo withdrew the barrel from his inventory, satisfied that it came out upright and filled with [River Water]. After purifying the entire thing, he repeated the process for the [Alchemic Tannin], hoisting those flasks into his inventory when he was done. 400 units of liquid, double the size of his water barrel, now sat in his inventory. He retreated to the lab where Tresk tended the fires.

That was a lot faster, Theo said, nodding to himself.

I need you to make the measuring equipment. I dont have an innate grasp on units like you do, Tresk said.

Theo nodded, moving to his [Glassware Artifice] to generate a small flat-bottomed vial that measured exactly one unit. He made five, counting on the fact that some would be lost or broken. The pair tended the fire for another half-hour, filling two 50 unit flasks with [Healing Essence] as the dawn rose outside. By the time they were ready to leave for the tannery, the day had broken over Broken Tusk.

Perg was waiting outside of the tannery, and Theo had to wonder if she did anything other than wait for him against that wall. She had a grin on her face and cast them a knowing look. Delivery day?

Indeed, Theo said. 200 units of tannery material, which should last you a while.

It requires special instruction, Tresk said.

Perg gestured for them to follow her around the back to the dehairing area. Theo took it as a bad sign that he was getting used to the stench, but looked forward to a time when the process wouldnt smell at all. The Half-Ogre tossed a rotting hide on the ground and folded her arms, waiting for instruction.

Do you have a lot of [Strength]? Theo asked.

Im almost at 20, Perg said, flashing a grin.

Good, hold out your hands, Theo said, watching as she obeyed.

The alchemist withdrew the first flask from his inventory, and Perg caught it deftly with one hand. They repeated the process for the next 3 flasks, setting them gingerly to the side.

You should be able to tell the difference between the solutions by inspecting them, Theo said.

Perg confirmed she could, nodding and smiling.

Theo withdrew the glass stopper from the flask of [Stripping Solution] and produced his measuring vial from his inventory. He carefully withdrew some solution until it reached the rim of the vial. One unit per hide, he said, dumping the contents onto the rotting hide. The potion did its magic instantly, working through the fat and hair at speed. Within a minute it was done sputtering, sending plumes of vapors into the air. Perg shook her head in amazement.

That hide was only there for a daythis stuff really does work, Perg said.

You doubted us? Tresk asked.

Same thing for the next solution, Theo said, heading off any confrontation. He was certain it was just friendly banter, but he didnt want to risk it.

The alchemist produced another vial from his inventory. Dont mix the vials up. Wash them out with [Purified Water] if you need to use the same vial. I dont know what kind of reaction will happen if you mix the two, but it cant be good. He measured out a unit of the [Alchemic Tannin] and dumped it on the stripped hide. Something about the shoe polish smell seemed nostalgic to Theo, but he snapped out of it in time to watch the raw wolfs hide turn into a supple sheet of leather.

A small crowd of the tannery workers gathered to watch the alchemy work its magic. They marveled at how quickly the potions worked, chattering excitedly among themselves.

Youve really outdone yourself, alchemist, Perg said. Both of you. Well move through our entire stock of hides by the end of the day with this.

Thanks, Perg, Tresk said, beaming.

Our agreement still standsten percent of the profits, Perg said. I cant wait to see the traders face when I present him with hundreds of hides, instead of the normal 10 or 15.

Hopefully, it puts you on the map, Theo said.

The group exchanged pleasantries, watching as the workers came over to inspect the leather. They wouldnt stop talking about how soft the leather was, running their rough hands over the surface constantly. Theo and Tresk excused themselves after a while, finding their way back up the road and to the alchemy shop. To their surprise, Luras was waiting outside.

Hey, he said, managing a weak wave. Got any stamina potions?

Luras looked haggard, as though he didnt stop to rest on his way back from Rivers and Daub. Tresk darted inside to grab a potion while the Half-Ogre swayed on the spot.

Rough journey? Theo asked.

It always is, Luras said with a heavy sigh. But Im here to fetch you, Tresk, and Perg. Miana wants to meet with the biggest business owners in town.

What? Why? Theo asked.

Well, since were technically somewhere between a mercantile town and a farming town, the businesses that make the most money have a say in important matters, Luras said. Every word seemed to strain him further, but he went on. Your [Perpetual Ledger] reports back to the mayor, so she knows youve been making some serious money.

Good to know, Theo said.

Tresk returned with a small vial of the yellow potion, and Luras consumed it immediately. He perked up, his hooded gaze vanishing as his back straightened out. The Half-Ogre rolled his shoulders a few times before pointing up the road. Ill meet you at Mianas house. Gotta go grab Perg.

Theo and Tresk departed up the road, casting each other confused looks.

I didnt know we had a say in the town, Theo said, not willing to voice his words out loud.

I knew it was somethingbut I didnt expect us to get a seat so soon. My father has a chair, seeing as his blacksmith makes good money, Tresk said.

They arrived at Mianas house quickly, finding their way inside. The brusk woman was waiting at the threshold, and simply gestured for them to find their way to the back room. They sat down in the mayors office, finding themselves among familiar company. Throk, Banurub, and Xam were already seated in a row of ornate wooden chairs. On the far side of the room sat a lacquered wooden desk, a chair behind it with bookcases lining the wall.

Well, you sure found a seat quickly, Throk said, scoffing. The rest of us have been building these businesses for decades.

Alchemy is a powerful art, you old toad, Banurub said, snorting a laugh.

What do you think Miana wants to talk about? Xam asked, fidgeting nervously.

The wolves, Tresk said, shrugging. Monsters in the swamp have gotten out of control.

The group talked for a few minutes before Luras arrived to deposit Perg. She took her seat while Luras lingered around the door, his arms folded but standing at attention. Miana entered some time after that, a permanent scowl on her face.

The lifes blood of Broken Tusk, she said, gesturing to those gathered. Or something like that. I got some big news from those adventurers that just departed. What was his name?

Jarson, Tresk said, nodding.

Right, Jarson Well, our [Swamp Dungeon] has hit a threshold. During their delve, it leveled to 25, Miana said.

The murmur that spread across the group told Theo that level 25 meant something. His intuition told him it was a leap in power, because most things jumped in strength every 5 levels. Sooutworlder heresomeone is going to have to explain how dungeons work to me.

Luras spoke from the back of the room. Dungeons spawn monsters. They have floors to them, going underground. A dungeons heart is its core, but most are indestructible. They level up like people or buildings, gaining power over time. Higher level dungeons have higher level monsters and loot. We have three dungeons around us. Swamp, River, and Hills.

Theo appreciated the rapid-fire way Luras delivered the information.

Right, Miana said, idly adjusting the paperwork on her desk. This new level signals a new opportunity for Broken Tusk. Were going to see more monsters in the surrounding area, and more powerful ones, but also more adventurers.

Should we have a mind for defense? Throk asked.

We should, but the flow of [Monster Cores] has been slow, Miana said.

Well, we had a plan to pump the town with cores, Tresk said, grinning. We finished the tannery job, so were going to focus our efforts on that.

Miana sneered for a second, finding her composure in a heartbeat and shifting her expression to placidity. The level 5 upgrade should give us some walls. The core they used to establish the town wasnt very strong, which is why it's such a pile of mud.

What we need is more adventurers living in the town, Theo said, tapping his chin. We need to attract a population that can survive here and patrol the swamps. I mean, the swamps arent even safe as it is, let alone with a level 25 dungeon.

All eyes turned to him, and he felt his heart skip a beat.

Hes right, Luras said, breaking the awkward silence. We have a few hunters in town, only two that you could call adventurers. Walls would help, but theyd only delay an attack.

Hey, Im behind any plan that gets me more hides, Perg said, chuckling.

Miana steepled her fingers, casting her stony gaze over the group. Banu, Throk, do you have an opinion?

Nope, Banurub said.

I dont, Throk said, shrugging.

Miana stayed silent for some time, tapping her foot. Qavell gave Broken Tusk a supplement to spend how I see fit. I can see that the problem cant be solved with a single approach, so I have a solution. Every monster within the borders of the town will have a 2 copper bounty on their heads. All adventurers that claim residence here will get a 5 copper a week stipend.

Tresk was the most excited out of the bunch, hopping in her chair excitedly.

Thatll draw attention from the north, alright, Luras said, nodding in agreement. Are you going to issue a quest?

Yes, anyone who wants to take the bounty quest can find it at the tavernlater today, Miana said. Ill pay the bounties weekly.

Just so everyone knows, Im buying all the hides, Perg said.

Miana scoffed, shaking her head. This meeting is over. Weve come to a solution. Kill the monsters, cram cores in the town. That is all.

The group slowly filtered out of the mayors house, finding their way onto the muddy square and talking in excited tones. Theo wasnt sure how he missed it on his way in, but a massive water tower was built since he last visited the blacksmith yesterday. Throk dug his bony elbow into his side, laughing at how he gawked.

Ten-thousand units of water storage, Throk said. How's that for a water tower?

You really dont mess around, do you? Theo said, still staring up at the structure. Do you have any barrels I could borrow?

Throk gestured at his workshop, where 10 barrels waited for him. I really am the best, arent I?

This chapt𝓮r is updat𝒆d by (f)reew𝒆b(n)

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