"Beta Two."  Such an innocuous name for the new state of existence for everyone in Dereth, now made equal by some bizarre plan of Ashtest’s, no doubt.  Although it might have been dismaying to start anew, at least this time Mu had a set of clothes that didn’t make him look too fat.  The occasionally bald collector at right had also been slenderized, but what the hell is that thing in Mu’s hand?  Here comes the ugly truth… as a punishment for being so foolhardy as to study magery, fledgling sorcerors like Mu were now forced to carry these "wands" in some sort of bizarre hazing ritual, and were unable to utilize spells without first praying to the ugly stick.  As further punishment, all spells now resided on a clunky "spell bar", and were inaccessible directly from his spellbook, which was now even more cumbersome due to his early practice of Life magic.  Some small solace could be taken in the knowledge that in this new incarnation, war magic would use half as much mana, meaning that Mu would be able to run away from twice as many encounters before recharging.

Many of Mu’s former companions made the journey as well, such as Zashi Watta, once again an arrogant numbercrunching spearman (the PERFECT vassal), and Hearding Rabbitsbane, who can be seen at right suffering from a new chronic malady that affects all of Dereth, called "weirdass invisible stuff syndrome".  This affliction causes the subject to be unable to perceive those around him, which can be somewhat inconvenient if those around him happen to be 15-foot tall angry lugians.
Once Hearding’s condition had cleared up a bit, the group considered their situation carefully.  Here they were, given a fresh start in a wondrous new world where the trees were more lush than ever… and viewable in 1024×768!  What should a group of adventurers do, given such an opportunity to travel and experience nature as if for the very first time?  That’s right… go just outside of town and kill tons of weak critters.  The drudges in particular seemed to have taken over the countryside, massing by the dozens around makeshift campfires every 50 yards in some places.  Although somewhat rude at first when intruded upon, they were easily rendered docile and friendly enough, like this group on the left, taking a short nap while Sashi Mu prays to his magic phallic symbol.
Their fundraising event was successful… after just a half-dozen drudge camps, they had managed to contribute enough spare steel to the Ven Ounan black market weapons exchange to buy some low-quality armor.  If you observe carefully, you will see who wasted what amount of money on reagents, as Zashi is head-to-toe armored with a shield, Hearding seems to be missing some extremity armor, and Mu spent so much damn money on noxious fluids and such that he could only afford a leather-colored lycra bodysuit.
The problem with dumb spearmen is they get unbelievably overconfident once they get a bit of armor.  Such was the case with Zashi, who would charge off into melee with a camp of mosswarts while Sashi was still fumbling through his accursed new "spell bar".  Luckily, the team managed to escape some potentially fatal encounters, none of which seemed to temper Zashi’s desire for suicide charges.
He did seem to calm down a little after being chewed on by a wandering shreth, which Mu easily dispatched at a cowardly range from his sniper hide.  Zashi investigated easier prey at this point.
When one has pitiful gear, one’s best bet is to go and try to steal better stuff from the grotto.  Unfortunately, with the influx of so many new adventurers, plus old adventurers turned neophyte by "Beta Two", the grotto was a veritable sea of adventurers, beginner and otherwise.  Most disturbing was the insistence of fighters on making camp in the grotto throne room, where occasionally decent gear would appear for little or no reason.  Mu shook his head in disgust as a half-dozen or more fools stood around waiting for some terrible blue leather underwear to appear.  As the grotto was far too stupid, the party decided to head back out into the woods, where the hunting was plentiful.  Sashi planned to come back and buy the better items from Ven, after blademasters with terrible item assessment skills sold them off.
It seemed the smart money was on the outdoors; the group had soon amassed enough cash to properly outfit themselves with the grotto campers’ cast-offs.  Many of the more experienced adventurers were avoiding the grotto as well, including Kala Bon on the left, now nice and non-red, and already outfitted in an assortment of garish but protective gear.  Equally bizarrely dressed was his wife Kala Kayla on the right, who had already recruited followers!  Mu thought back to his odd days as an allegiance monarch, and considered it again, but shuddered at the idea of actually having to do anything or take responsibility for his vassals, and so dismissed the ideas as he went back on the party killing spree.
And so after a typical first day’s adventuring, the group was slightly beefier, all more or less decked out in mismatching studded leather, and well on their way to working off vitae penalties.  Sashi was wtill trying to come to grips with the new requirements of his profession, realizing that his days of mad kung-fu were behind him now, and wondering if maybe he should have just been a damn swordsman like everyone else in the world.

 

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