My secrets thus far: some strange artifacts I picked up in the shadow world, a secret attribute in the form of intelligence, the magician class, and whole two spells. The only thing that bothered me was why no one had asked us what kind of Gods had led us into this world.
Meanwhile, Andrei pulled out a huge backpack and began to give out weapons that fit our skills. Semyon, the one that had been a cop, got a large knife with a smooth, white handle.
''Oh, shark leather,'' he immediately commented on his gift and made a swift slash, which was accompanied by a dark purple stripe. So that's what these abilities looked like, I thought, watching him. I wished that I could also practice my spells, but that had proven to be impossible so far; that is, unless I planned on breaking the promise given to my God.
While Olga was receiving a gun from the huge bag of presents and Mikhail a sword (as it turned out, the Major had chosen probably the most classic option for himself), I decided to study my spells in more detail.
Reduces all enemy stats by 10%.
If the opponent has one or more blessings, the spell has a 30% chance to turn one of them into a curse of the same level.
Cure Light Wounds
Restores 10 halth points.
Casts Regeneration, which restores 1 health point per second (lasts 20 seconds).
I could only hope that, in the end, I wouldn't have to use them until we got to that safe settlement.
''Hm, and as for you two,'' Andrei said slowly. He was looking sternly at Fox and me. ''We have nothing that fits your abilities. So, keep the swords. We have a lot of that stuff. Now, everyone, listen carefully, you should remember and follow this rule no matter what happens: stay on the trail and try not to get separated.''
While I was trying to attach my sword to my belt, the events happening around me suddenly took an awkward turn.
''I guess you shouldn't compare professionals to amateurs,'' Semyon said, grinning. As soon as the former cop had gotten his knife, his level of self-confidence started to grow. ''I've been learning how to use a bladed weapon since my childhood; at first, my grandfather taught me, then I learned more in the academy. I'm sure I can handle things as well as you.''
It was definitely a provocation and I was wondering how the old-timers would deal with this. Andrei was clearly taken aback. He seemed like a smart guy, but not a good leader. Apparently, Suren was preparing to say something, but his intervention wasn't necessary. Igor pulled out his huge, two-handed sword, seemingly out of nowhere, and in one fluid movement, he cut off the head that had, just a moment ago, been looking at everyone challengingly.
No one said anything to him. Suren waved his hand dismissively and continued to pack the bags. All the newcomers, however, stood still and gazed at the body lying nearby. Even Fox stopped playing the role of an enthusiastic girl and tried to analyze the situation. After the deadly test, each of us had unwittingly relaxed, thinking that we were now among those who were willing to help. That's why this had struck us out of the blue.
When the pause began to get uncomfortably long, the stone lying at the feet of the headless body began to glow. For about ten seconds, we waited tensely for a proof that would confirm the story about our ability to resurrect; but it seemed like nothing was going to happen.
''What does this mean?'' Olga was the first person who couldn't bear the suspense any longer.
"...!" Fox swore as the ground next to her broke apart. With a convulsive wheeze, the figure of the policeman appeared from within the split in the ground. It was an uprising of the dead in the most literal sense of the word.
Breathing heavily, Semyon was looking at everyone with a slightly crazy look in his eyes.
''Well, I hope that you now understand that it's not worth dying,'' Suren couldn't help but tell us patronizingly. ''Get dressed, boy.''
After those instructions, we noticed that our newly found comrade was entirely naked. Olga immediately turned away to hide her blushing, while Fox, on the contrary, tried to examine all of the details.
''What should I wear?'' His sudden death had made Semyon very compliant. There were no more disputes or indignant remarks; death seemed to be an ideal educational method.
"There's your body. I hit it gently, so it shouldn't have gotten dirty,'' Baldy said. His voice was like the sound of chalk scratching against a board, it chilled me to the bone.
Even I felt slightly uncomfortable, looking at how the man was clumsily undressing his double's body and then silently putting his clothes back onto himself. It was creepy, but he still didn't say a word.
''Don't worry about him.'' Andrei came up to us, dragging two backpacks over by their straps. ''The first death is hard for everyone, but people learn to deal with it — those who can't do so aren't taken to this world. You can rest assured that you'll also experience this one day, but for now, your mission is to carry our backpacks. That way, you will at least be useful somehow. You can free up the real fighters by taking the excess cargo.''
I didn't know whether everyone considered this an important task, or if the public punishment Semyon had been subjected to was still fresh in our memory, but all five of us just silently picked up the backpacks and moved forward. Andrei, Suren, and Alexander led our procession, we were following after them, and Igor and Valentin Petrovich were covering the rear. Honestly, it was annoying and creepy knowing that Baldy was somewhere behind me.
Trying not to pay attention to the rustling and howls in the depths of the forest, I moved closer to the head of the procession and caught up with Alexander. It seemed like he was the only sane man in this group.
''What's up?'' He finally got fed up with me just silently shuffling around near him. Heh. If your interlocutor was the one who started the conversation, no matter how they did it — it was much easier to keep it going. This was quite a significant advantage when you wanted to get some answers.
"I was wondering why you didn't ask us about our Gods." It was obvious that it was valuable information, and it seemed that I asked about it in the right way since I wasn't being told to piss off.
''Well, Andrei only recently became the leader of our group, but he honors the code. Any information about the Gods is really dangerous. It's not wise to share it even with those who are close to you. Well, to be honest, especially with them.'' He pointed upward. ''Not everything is all right up there. There's always some conflict going on; however, while only their echoes reach us, they still don't go unnoticed. So, if you destroy the tombstone of another person who was brought here by the rival of your patron, you can get big bonuses. I heard about some groups where they kill all the newcomers as soon as they get here. They don't care that those newcomers will die the final death.''
It seemed like there was some sort of code in this world, something like an unwritten set of rules. Another important revelation was the fact that we were not alone here. Just as I had previously thought, the information that I had about my God of Deception was something I better keep to myself.
''Alex, I thought that maybe you could tell me how the combat system works here, I don't really understand,'' I asked one more vital question from my list. After all, as I had noted a long time ago, if you kept talking about only one subject, people would get annoyed. But if you were pleased with a small amount of information and ready to move on to something else, they'd be ready to talk to you almost without end.
''Given the fact that someone will have to explain it to you at the base, it doesn't make much sense. However, it's relatively safe until we reach the swamp, so listen.'' He sighed heavily again and continued, ''Strength determines your possibility to pierce the skin of your opponent; if the sum of your strength and the power of your weapon is less than the enemy's armor, you have no chance in such a fight. Of course, you can try to hit the joints, eyes, mouth, throat, and so on, but not everything is that simple. If the opponent has high endurance, higher than the combination of your strength and the power of your weapon, you won't be able to pierce even their naked skin. That is one of the reasons why we can't get to the exit. Old Chrom from the detachment that was based nearby once told me that he had taken part in one such campaign. They had gotten only a quarter of the way there when they met level fifty monsters. Even all of them together couldn't do anything to the local creatures that were at such a high level, and they had to retreat. Those who ventured to take their tombstones with them on that trip remained there forever…''
It turned out that if I wanted to get out, I would need to become much stronger. However, there were people who had been here for a long time, and no one had reached the exit yet. It seemed like everything wasn't as simple as I had been told.
''What about dexterity?'' I remembered another attribute.
''Hm, with its help, one can make combo attacks, chaining hits together. The longer the combo, the higher the damage. Ask Baldy, he's a specialist in doing that.'' It turned out that I had guessed the man's nickname correctly. ''Well, anyway, the swamp is close now, so it would be better if we stayed silent.''
As I was preparing to ask why he was so afraid of this swamp, Andrei decided to explain everything himself. It was surprising that so much humanity had remained in this man, in spite of everything.
''We'll be going past the swamp now. It's really important not to leave the path no matter what. If you run off the track with your tombstone attached to you, even just a couple of yards, no one will be able to help you anymore.'' He cleared his throat and was silent for a while. Apparently, he didn't have to speak often. ''Since you're all beginners, I'll explain the situation to you. Mosquitoes are everywhere in this place, and while their attacks are weak, there is no end to those damned creatures, and for some strange reason, their damage is magical. At our levels, until we find at least some rings or necklaces with magic protection, it's certain death to go out there. If you had looked at the description of your stats, you'd have known that armor and endurance are ignored if you're attacked by magic.''
It turned out that most players didn't have protection from magic at all — a thin smile appeared in my subconscious as I heard this. Having ''looked inside myself'', I explored my stats once again. After reading about strength, dexterity, and endurance, I checked that everything was as Alexander had just told me. And I also had something else.
Determines the power of your spells and your resistance to magical attacks.
While I was standing around and pondering these things, another piece of information appeared in front of me.
Physical defense: 10 (10 from endurance, 0 from armor)
Magical resistance: 3 (3 from intelligence, 0 from jewelry)
It turned out that physical damage we dealt was determined by two attributes, and magical damage by a single one, and I was the only person among all my acquaintances who possessed any magic resistance whatsoever.
"Why have you stopped?" Fox hit me with her fist.
I didn't have time to answer her as the howling, which had been menacingly echoing through the forest, sounded out with new, panicked notes and then abruptly died down.
''Someone just finished off a wolf pack,'' Suren quickly whispered in Andrei's ear. ''Do you know who it is?''
''Everyone run!'' Our commander ordered at once. I'd never seen him like this before. ''Don't turn around!''
The order was pointless as we all immediately looked back. Crushing the trees in its path, a huge carcass rushed out of the forest some 100 yards behind us. The giant cadaver, whose body was made up of dozens of drowned people, was spreading a green cloud in all directions, and all living beings caught in it were slowly dying.
''You wouldn't dare!'' For some reason, Valentin Petrovich turned to Baldy with an angry yell. However, he didn't have time to do anything as he received a blow to the head with the hilt of a greatsword.
''Run! You were told to run!'' Baldy barked at us angrily. ''And don't look at him, in five minutes, he'll resurrect at the base. Hah… maybe he'll have to come back here for his things. But that's none of your business, keep in mind that if you end up in the stomach of this creature, you'll die forever.''
With these words, he threw Petrovich's stunned body toward the monster and once again waved his hand, indicating the direction we were supposed to run in. This time, we woke from our stupor. Fox and Olga rushed forward first, and all the others hurried after them. Baldy brought up the rear with a predatory smile on his face. He was clearly enjoying what was happening.