The Perfection of Destruction

“Thank you for this honor, Teacher,” Lynncletica said, bowing briefly before looking at the small green pin I gave her. It marked her not only as a teacher, but as my second-in-command in the dojo.

“Don’t thank me. Your training is complete, and you are ready to teach others as I taught you,” I said. “Just remember that the process of learning new things never stops. Your best skill to students may be in instructing skillfully of things you have not yet mastered.”

I could see my old student study me, from my expressions to my silence, before asking, “Syncletica, there have been…rumors…that you will leave us in a short time.”

I stayed silent before I nodded.

“It is true? You are considering the discipline called the Circle of the Phoenix?” Lynncletica seemed less shaken by the idea of the loss of her teacher and more fascinated by the concept of True Reincarnation. I knew that expression on her face; I’ve seen it in the mirror a few times myself.

“Why does reincarnation attract you?” she asked, following my lead in taking a seat.

“Growth. Despite the many techniques I have learned, there is more than this life. Through the powers of reincarnation, I can channel all my ki into becoming somewhat taller and stronger. As a result, I may be able to withstand more damage but also create more damage than ever before.”

“But where does that leave you in terms of ability? Or skills or equipment?”

I realized I was chewing my bottom lip in absent-minded contemplation and expectation of that question. “Here is where the master becomes the student. I must rediscover my experiences again, my adventures. Completing my experiences will teach a little less in a new life than when I first attempted them. As far as ability, many of my abilities will increase naturally, perhaps even carry over to a point.”

Lynncletica tried to parse this information before I changed the subject. “There is a lesson I have for you today, one that I have almost solved.” My former student’s expression returned from its sorrow over my imminent departure to her usual puppy-like enthusiasm.

“As you reach your training pinnacle, the most difficult part of preparing for battle involves what little gear you require for maximum effect.

“Here is the riddle. How do you achieve the highest amount of health while still keeping your fundamental damage ability maximized, while ensuring that you have blindness protection, death spell protection, the heaviest critical hit fortification, high resistances, higher armor protection and critical strike seeking of factor 4 or better simultaneously?”

Lynncletica thought a bit about this for nearly 20 seconds (a testament to her greatly improved skill in concentration that has allowed her to return less bloodied for adventures than not lately) before answering, “The Green Steel may be useful here, to start.”

“Yes,” I said, although you know that we cannot obtain handwraps made of this material.”

“Yes, I am aware. So we use Green Steel to stack multiple defensive effects on an item, or better, two items. I’m betting that health, blindness protection, death blocking, poison inmmunity and more could be handled by two Green Steel items.”

“Wearing two Green Steel items, I should warn you, will drain the life out of you without a special cleansing agent of the Shavarath tainting, Student, but I have this covered.” I poured us some tea. “Go on,” I said.

“And…while you could wear an outfit with fortification, like the Garments of Equilibrium, perhaps stronger saves against damage and better armor could be better handled by another garment. I know you have found the Icy Raiment…I think that would do here.”

“True,” I said after a sip.

“For fortification, I know of a crafter that may have a helmet that adds more personal durability as well as the best fortification. So that leaves only the Seeker ability…something I’m always carrying in my adventures for best damage.”

Lynncletica seemed lost in thought as she began to sip her tea. “I know that the Blood Stone is easy to use here but I suspect you have something else in mind, Teacher.”

“Yes, I do. I’ve worn two items to help with the Seeker effect. One was a headdress with the sixth level of Seeker, combined with a special trinket that increased the effect by an additional two levels, as well as adding a powerful electrical burst on critical strikes.”

Lynncletica nodded. “So the helmet I suggested would change your Seeker. If you wore a Blood Stone, you would have the sixth level but could not increase it further because you cannot wear that Bold Trinket, yes?”

“Correct. And, as you have taught me, the Seeker effect increases the opportunity for damage.”

My student finished her tea. “I will need to study this more, Teacher. I’m sure I can determine a solution.”

But Lynncletica’s eyes began to smile. In challenging training sessions, I’ve seen her face do this while her mouth remained grim and impassive. I knew she had a fresh idea, for when her eyes smiled, understanding, and thus, victory was near. It was not an expression that her opponents often survived long enough to understand.

“It seems like you have an idea already.”

Lynncletica seemed momentarily taken aback by my reading of her before she answered, “I do. I unearthed high Seeker handwraps but they lack additional innate damage. But if I were to add bursting effects to them, they would allow you to use the Bold trinket at the expense of less elemental damage, but keep all other benefits of your accessories.”

I pondered this a moment. She was right except that, at my power level, my ability to use the most powerful ki attacks, particularly Force and Electrical damage, would easily negate any deficits to such a simple set of handwraps with only Seeker level applied.

I stood up and bowed. “You have answered that question very well. I trust that your disciplines will steer toward this problem for yourself in the course of time?”

Lynncletica stood and bowed again.”It will, indeed. Good day to you, Teacher.”

I bowed again as she left. After I removed my china, I began to search our dojo’s equipment logs for any of these Seeker handwraps.

Strike harder, strike swiftly, strike far away

My friendship with the folks in the monastery down the way sometimes makes my skin itch. But I’ve gleaned a few tidbits from my friends there despite their abhorrence to a good bow, blade or armor.

The abbot there, Syncletica, and I had talked about the power of healing during battle. I rightly told her that I have spells and potions to do this, and that my distance while fighting keeps most of the enemies at bay anyway.

“But it is the quality of your healing that matters, Pyn,” she replied. “If you gain more from each healing you receive, you will be able to hunt longer.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I reviewed my healing balms and herbs, and improved on them a bit, completing the strongest training I could do there.

I told Syn that I hadn’t done as much adventuring until recently. Something lacked badly in my fighting, having to bring in more mercenaries to take point for me than I would care to have. I made a mistake in confiding in a few fighters about this in a pub last week.

“That’s because you use a stupid bow!” one said. “You can’t hit fast or hard with that thing!”

“And yet, you have an iron plate where a part of your skull should be, and have three teeth to your name,” I said.

“I’ll have you know that the Nail makes some really great soup!” was all he could say.

One archer there did make a note about something that I pondered after leaving that night: “Items you equip that can stack with ranged damage might be of help.”

I already imbue my arrows, of course, and switch out bows…but is there more? I would love to seek out more arrows per strike but many tell me that items that may aid in this is folly…the ingredients are just too rare, or the adventure is not suited for the solo ranger in the field to find the items.

I brought this point up to Syncletica over a few cups of rather potent sake. She excused herself for a moment and then brought over a wrapped box.

“This I found during a fight against the Taken. It’s–it’s rather hideous, really. But perhaps you will find use of it.”

She was right…this Bow, made of sinew and gutstrings from the unspeakably nasty creatures in the plane of Xoriat…it’s really horrific to see. On holding it, I thought I was going to puke…the thing still felt a bit wet and slimy.

But when I conjured up an arrow and fired it at a distant tree in Syn’s dojo…the arrow hit the hardwood…and sailed through it.

“That’s…that’s some bow,” I said.

Syn naturally gave it to me without further discussion. She also suggested that items that improve my likelihood to strike as critically as I did against that tree might be of aid.

She lent me something to help there when I’m not using the Bow of Sinew: A Blood Stone.

So I’m a little wiser and doing more adventuring. I can strike from very far away–that’s always been a benefit. But now, I critically strike more often and with far greater damage than before. Two or three critical arrow strikes against a denizen of Shavarath lurking about in the Vale of Twilight has been all too common with my improvements to seeker techniques, as well as combined use of the Wind Howler Bracers, the Sora Kell items, and the Vulkoor’s Cunning set that adds death to fatally-damaging strikes. Imbuing with slaying arrows yields devastating results more often, as well.

So yeah–I don’t make as much damage per second as others…but over distance, I make sufficient damage that fells more enemies more often before I can see their eyes.

Now to remember when NOT to shoot…I’ve been improving my tendency to swiftly pick and fire immediately at targets, but doing that in raids against swarms of evil will likely get me killed (again). I hate resurrection. I can’t eat for days after getting one.