Spike walked regally over to Dave, and bumped his muzzle against the player. Dave scritched the fiend under his chin.
"Ohhhhhh, he's soooo CUTE!" Demeri squealed ecstatically. Lone was cooing like a mourning dove, and even Caitlin's eyes had a soft dreamy look.
Dave was flabbergasted, he looked at Spike again to see if his red-eyed mount had turned into a long-eared fluffy bunny or something equally ludicrous and useless. But, no. The hulking elephant-sized monster was still the same: a nasty temperament wrapped around a mouth full of sharp fangs and teeth that very plainly did not belong to any kind of herbivore.
'What is with women and animals? Thank god I didn't tame a unicorn, I can't imagine how much worse this situation would have been.'
Seeing the confusion on Dave's face, Ralph patted his back reassuringly.
In a low voice he said to his friend, "I told you, man. Different currencies. Keep your eyes and mind open, figure out what women value. Your monst...ah, your mount has 'value.' A lot of value, apparently, even though it makes no sense at all to us."
Dave nodded his head, "I think I'm starting to understand, bro."
"Can I pet it?" Lone asked looking at Dave with wide pleading puppy dog eyes.
"I wouldn't recommend it," Dave shook his head.
"Why not?" Lone pouted.
"Spike doesn't like strangers," Dave said, still scratching under the fiend's chin.
Lone didn't believe that for a second, the fluffy-fiend was standing docilely right beside to Dave, enjoying getting its chin scratched.
Lone moved closer to the fluffy-fiend and extended a hand to give it a friendly pet but instead it snapped its very sharp, very large fangs at her and growled. Lone snatched her hand back, shaking it and checking to see if all her fingers were still attached.
Spike turned his head and glowered at the archer still growling. It really broke her heart that the fluffy-fiend didn't like her.
"Easy!" Dave reprimanded the fiend."I told you, Lone. He doesn't like strangers. Why didn't you listen?"
Lone pouted, "That's not fair, I want to pet him too."
Dave shook his head at her, "You're asking a lot, but I'll try to convince him to be nice."
Dave pulled Spikes head around to look at him directly.
"C'mon buddy, she's a friend too, she really doesn't mean any harm. I know you don't like other people petting you, but she's nice and she really likes you."
Dave kept murmuring to the forest fiend, 'persuading' Spike to let the girls touch and play with him.
Fortress moved over to Perfect and leaned in to ask in a low whisper, "Does Skelly know the girls would be able to pet Spike without all that rigamarole if he just invited them to the party?"
Perfect shrugged, "He does. I think he's just messing with the girls."
Dave spent several minutes 'persuading' Spike.
"I think he'll let you pet him now, just take it easy," he finally said to the girls.
"Really?" Lone squealed.
"Yeah, but before you do, you girls should accept the party invitation."
He sent the three girls an invitation. After Dave sent the party invitation and the girls accepted it, Spike allowed the girls approach. Spike was no longer agitated and let Lone rub his fur. When the other girls saw Lone getting 'accepted' they also joined in.
"We have to take Spike, he's too cute to leave behind," Lone said.
"He can't carry us all," Dave said.
"But he can carry us," Lone grinned at him and jumped up on Spike's back. Mercy and Demeri smirked at Dave too and jumped up behind her.
"Go spike go!" Lone urged the forest fiend, digging her heels in.
Spike snorted, but didn't move.
"Why won't he go?" Lone wailed, distraught.
"I tamed Spike, he obeys me. You can't expect to just take over and dictate whatever you want. That's really not cool."
Lone puffed her cheeks.
Ralph sent Dave a private message, 'Good. Now show them you're still a good guy, that you can be generous if they behave. Give them a ride on Spike.'
"Spike," Dave nodded to the fiend. Spike suddenly took off, galloping along the city wall. The girls shrieked, taken by surprise at first. They recovered almost immediately though, they were soon soon yelling and giggling in delight, enjoying their ride atop the bloodthirsty stag.
Spike circled the city walls a couple of times before finally coming to a stop in front of Dave.
"Okay girls, we have a long way to go, we need to get going."
"No we want to keep riding Spike!"
He felt like a parent taking a new favorite toy away from his children.
"We'll travel on foot. It's not fair for if only a few get to ride and the rest of us walk," Dave said.
Dave shared the location of the tomb with the new party members. After confirming their destination, they left the city and were soon in the Deep Wilds.
"You guys travelled really deep into the Wilds, I don't think anyone's ever gotten this far before," Lone commented after looking at her map and trying to locate Urburg relative to other known locations.
"Yeah, well it was all thanks to the dragon," Dave said.
"You met the dragon? And survived?" Ralph was surprised.
"We got lucky. Anyway, we should be careful, monsters could pop out from anywhere. Perfect, can you please scout ahead?" Dave asked.
"Yeah, I'm on it." Perfect went ahead of the party to secure the way ahead.
After some time and hearing nothing from Perfect Demeri asked, "Will he be okay?"
"Yeah, he's been doing a great job scouting for us so far."
"Dave," Perfect spoke through party com.
"What is it Perfect?" Dave asked.
"I think we should go around another way, there is an orc camp up ahead."
"Orcs? We can handle some crummy orcs," Flanker spoke.
"Don't be a tool. Not regular orcs, this is the Wilds, they're High-Orcs. Level 350 at least," Perfect said. "Shit, they spotted me!"
The party heard a loud commotion coming from ahead of them.
Perfect was running toward them with everything he had, "Split up!" he shouted.
Perfect ducked a shooting fireball like he had eyes in the back of his head, but it continued toward the rest of the party. Lone nocked shot at the incoming ball. The arrow exploded midway creating an icy fog that smothered the fireball into wisps of vapor and smoke.
"We need to go another way, there are too many!" Perfect said.
"I think it's too late for that," Dave said.
Oversized green-skinned humanoids began to emerge from the forest. Unlike regular loin cloth wearing orcs of Conquest these orcs were armored and armed to the teeth, carried swords, clubs and war axes.
The orcs spread out to surround the party like a well organized combat unit, their named-tags were bloody red.
One of the orcs pointed his rusty battleaxe at the party and shouted in a hoarse phlegmy voice, "Fresh meat!"
"No meat on the menu today," Dave snarled back, drawing his flamberge and lifting his tower shield.
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