…okay, I'm weird. ^_^ So sue me.
Disclaimer: I don't own D&D. I don't own Order of the Stick (And Rich Burlew doesn't own D&D, I presume, just to mention). Neither do I own the Gleaner class, by Keith Baker. I doubt he owns D&D either. Shame that.
"Easy now," coaxed the caster. "Not long now. Just a round or so. Push."
The horse whinnied. Her foal was coming out almost painlessly-well, compared to normally. The benefits of having a Gleaner around were many and varied.
The birth went smoothly.
Aaron wiped the sweat from his brow. Another days work, done. The sun was beginning to set…
"Huh. That didn't feel like XP normally does…" he wondered aloud, running fingers through straw blonde hair, green eyes blinking in surprise.
"I think you must have got a level." giggled the girl standing next to him.
"I guess you're right, Emily." he said, nodding slowly. She giggled again.
He sighed, looking at her. Emily was pretty and short, four foot six or so, about five nine inches shorter than he was. She had curly red hair, blue eyes, and wore a loose black dress-thing. She was far too fond of affecting the traditions of the Southern peoples. She even carried a 'katana' in case her bow failed! But that wasn't the point.
Aaron himself has a brown cloak, golden patterns made to look like ivy adorning the bottom, matching the real leaves upon his staff.
"Third level… don't you get an animal companion at third?" she asked, cocking her head to the side.
"That's druids. I can bless a beast." he grinned.
"Same thing." she said, waving her hand dismissively. "You should get an eagle! No, A warhorse! A Riding Dog! Yeah!"
"I've already picked." he said, smiling slightly.
"You're boring. We haven't found ANY bandits yet either. What a waste of my warrior levels if you're just gonna be safe all the time!"
"And she's put the broken record on again." sighed Aaron.
Emily poked him.
"You can talk, Mr NatureyNatureyNatureboy!"
She shrugged. "I dunno. Never speak of this again."
He laughed, and hugged her.
"Let's go back to the barn we're staying in." he said, releasing her a little awkwardly. "It's really, really getting late."
* * *
Candles flickered in the half-light, forming a perfect half circle around the creature soon to be Aaron's most trusted companion.
Softly, he ran a finger along its spine.
"By my authority as a Gleaner, by Nature's power, I invoke blessings upon thee and for us both." he began quietly.
It was going to be a long eight hours…
* * *
"Nnngh…" groaned Emily, shifting slightly and falling out of the bed she seemed to be lying in.
"What's going on?" she wondered, looking around, seeing candles littering the floor. "…Aaron, where are you?"
"Huh? What? Oh." said Aaron, startled, leaping up from a chair. "I was awake the whole time."
"Explain this." she said, eyes slitted.
"Umm… well…" he said, scratching his neck nervously. "I decided to use my Beast Bless on the only being I can trust…"
"Are you saying you…" she said, eyes flashing angrily. "That doesn't even work, it has to be an animal, you idiot! Thus the name!"
"Um." he said. "Then why is your skin a little softer, your hair silky, and your eyes sparkling?"
"Charisma score." she scowled. But that didn't sound like her…
Had he really?
By the gods, he probably had…
"By gods, you're lucky I get AC and bonus stats for this or I'd hurt you." she said, stewing silently. "What bonus did I get, anyway?"
He started backing away for the door.
"Aaron." she growled.
"Umm… you always said you wanted a big family someday…so… uh… fertility." he said, saying the last word very quickly.
A brief silence.
"Aaron, where did I put my bow?" she said.
"If you don't tell me, I'll use your leg to beat you to death instead."
* * *
It was almost a year later when Aaron reached seventh level. Emily seemed to have forgiven him for the Blessing-her wish of an encounter with bandits had been granted now they were in dangerous territory, and the stat boosts had helped greatly.
This was a good thing, as Aaron had no intention of spreading out his blessings. This time, he planned to tell her in advance. It would be better for his personal health.
"What is it?" she asked.
Eleven months of travelling together had made them a little more outwardly friendly-but it would still take a prodigious sense motive to realise they were childhood companions, and an epic level player character would be hard pushed to realise she was effectively his animal companion.
"I hit seventh level today." he said, fidgeting.
"You want to bless me again." she said, glaring slightly.
"Uh… yeah…" he said, grinning a little.
"Fine." she said. "But if you make jokes about it, or abuse it, I'm going to use my stat boots to remove your limbs one by one."
He shuddered. He believed her.
"And which bonus are you thinking of?" she asked suspiciously.
"Champion?" he guessed, figuring it was the least insulting.
"If you try a Handle Animal check on me, I won't go for limbs." she growled.
He gulped, crossing his legs.
"But go ahead." she said, as if uninterested.
* * *
It seemed that the higher level you were, the easier it was to attract bandits. Though Aaron was getting deeply sick of his Shillelagh spell, the rapid XP gain was nice.
It had only taken four more months to reach level eleven-and while Aaron enjoyed his newfound ability to call lightning-which even Emily admitted was pretty cool-what he really wanted was the third beast blessing.
"Me again?" asked Emily as they walked, before he even managed to start the conversation.
He gaped at her.
"Please. You always have a particularly pained expression. It's almost as if you're scared I'll hurt you."
"Well, you do threaten me every time… wait, did you just pass a sense motive check?"
"Yes." she said, smiling slightly. "Now… I was checking Gleaner rules, and I worked out the tactically best special benefit. If we could communicate empathically, it'd be way easier to defend you. And we could split up to work with way less risk." she said officiously.
There was quiet.
"What?" she asked.
"Have you been looking forward to this?" he asked suspiciously.
"Sure. Stat boosts off your XP. What's to lose."
He shook his head in awe of her audacity. "You know we won't be able to hide anything, right?"
"I can hide my emotions." she said, dismissing his point as irrelevant.
He sighed, but didn't argue. After all, he planned to hide his as well.
* * *
About nine hours later, it was complete.
Can you hear me? thought Aaron.
Yep. replied Emily gleefully.
Her eyes are beautiful. he thought sadly to himself.
Of course my eyes are beautiful. she scoffed. My charisma was awesome even before all this boosting.
Besides, you look pretty good yourself.
Then it sunk in.
"Wait, you *like* me?" they both exclaimed, shocked.
"Umm… only for the last two years…" murmured Aaron, eyes downcast.
"Just for the last few months…" said Emily, looking away.
"Do you… do you want to… go out?" he said timidly.
She laughed nervously.
"We've been travelling together for about two years…" she said. "I think that's a moot point… but… yes."
Tentatively, they stepped closer together, closed their eyes, and leant forwards.
And boundless joy flooded the empathic bond, from both ends.
* * *
"Now are you fifteenth level?" asked Emily.
"No." sighed Aaron, lifting up his shovel and digging the trench a little deeper.
"Now are you fifteenth level?"
"How about now?"
"Why don't you… look for bandits or something? Then you can call me and we can get XP, then I'll level up and you can stop going on at me."
"Best. Idea. Ever."
* * *
"This was the worst idea ever." complained Aaron, as he hid behind a rock from the raging half-orc barbarian that was leading the bandits. Emily, as normal, was in the thick of it-and then Aaron suddenly shook his head. "Forget it. Control Winds."
He concentrated, and then jumped up, cloak fluttering in the already powerful breeze. Emily, get over here. He thought at her.
Nonplussed, she did, running to his side, leaving a laughing half-orc and his followers insulting their honour.
"What are you doing?" she asked, annoyed-and then stopped, feeling eldritch energy gathering, as the wind changed from a whistle to a howl.
As the wind changed into a gale, circling around them, picking up small stones, she began to understand.
He was forming a tornado, with them safe in the eye, and the bandits trapped within it.
"Shape Stone." he said, voice annoyed and strained, as he pushed his palm against the boulder he had hidden by. It floated, and split into myriad tiny, serrated stones, which he threw into the wind.
Where they were spiralled around at over a hundred miles per hour, tearing the bandits to shreds.
It was a while before the winds finally subsided, and lifeless bodies hit the ground.
"I think that might be level sixteen I feel hitting my skull…" groaned Aaron.
"So… Share Spells…" he said, trying to work through the nasty headache he'd earnt. "I'm not letting you get hurt when I could cast a spell to help." he said.
"Hey, it's my job to protect you." she said.
"Who just took out a bandit camp with two spells?" he said, a little smugly.
Winning an argument always helped with headaches.
* * *
"Are you nineteenth level yet?"
"Look." said Aaron, coming to a halt. "That's exactly what you said last scene. People are going to get bored."
"…fine. Can I go look for bandits?"
"No." said Aaron, remembering what happened last time with a shudder.
"Help!" cried one of the villagers. "Hobgoblins are attacking!"
Emily looked smugly at him.
"Just wanted a quiet day sowing seeds… but no…" grumbled Aaron, walking purposely through the village, Emily struggling to keep up.
"The gods are clearly in a hurry to get me levelled up..." he complained, holding up a hand to Call Lightning as one of the hobgoblins tried to attack him. They parted for him after that.
"Probably have a betting pool for what happens when Emily gets that last beast point." he growled, coming to a halt in front of a well armed hobgoblin, bigger, stronger and infinitely more vicious than the others. "Call Lightning Storm."
Within minutes all of the attackers were dead or dying, and Aaron had stormed halfway back to the fields, the villagers holding him in awe, Emily looking equal parts horrified, gleeful, and irritated that she hadn't got a go as she desperately ran after him.
There was a quiet ding that reverberated in the silence left in his wake.
And then a second.
For some reason, no-one dared talk to him for the rest of the day.
* * *
"So… was that level nineteen?" said Emily timidly.
Huh. Even she was scared by that…
"I wasn't scared." she replied indignantly. "Just… a little impressed."
Aaron smiled. Same old Emily.
"No. I think that was level twenty." he said.
"Do I get another blessing?" she asked, smiling.
A brief quiet.
"There's only one left… Devotion." said Aaron quietly. "I can't do that to you."
"Please." she said, shaking her head. "We've been travelling for three years. We've been together for nearly one. We've known each other since I was born. I know what I say when I say I'm already devoted."
That's what I love about her. She's so tough, and yet so sweet in private.
"Yeah, but if you tell anyone I'll kick your ass." she smiled.
He smiled a tiny bit in response, and sighed.
"I don't know. What if you change your mind? What if we aren't actually right together? What if-"
"What if we see if that fertility spell worked, will you believe I'm devoted then?" she asked, taking off her battle-dress.
"…yes." he admitted. He would have argued more, but there was no way this was actually happening…
* * *
"You're a skilled Gleaner." said a sceptic elf, running finger's through its soft blue hair, piercing eyes of the same shade staring at Aaron from within purple robes.
"I dunno…" said a female cleric, scratching her chin, brown eyes far away as she thought. She was talking in a light leather armour, wearing oddly revealing clothes underneath for a cleric.
"That's an NPC class. And so's your warrior girlfriend."
I still don't believe that I'm not pregnant. complained Emily.
Yes, like we're placed to be able to look after kids. We are *lucky*. he replied.
"We're both very high level in them." he said to the cleric. "She's nineteenth, I'm twentieth."
"Waitwait." interrupted another elf, this one purple haired, golden eyed, and carrying a bow. "Don't you get animal companions?"
He had the standard rogue's outfit, but something about him screamed warrior.
"That's druid." said Aaron-for what was probably the seventieth time. "We get Blessed Beasts."
"And, where are they?" asked the first elf-who seemed to be a spellcaster of some kind.
Aaron shifted nervously.
"Um. My blessings all worked on Emily…" he said, each word quieter than the last.
They still heard them all.
"You're kidding." said the first elf.
"WE have *got* to hire them for the party." grinned the second elf.
The cleric girl nodded, but the first elf shook his head.
"We need PCs. Action based characters." he said.
"I took a level of druid yesterday. Meet Cain." said Aaron, giving a low call.
A wolf leapt over the bushes, sitting next to the two.
Keep away from him. He's mine. growled Emily.
Woof. replied Cain. Loosely translated, it meant 'make me.'
When Emily leapt at the Wolf and began to grapple with it, the elven archer collapsed in laughter, the cleric giggled quietly, and the elf sighed, and went to shake Aaron's hand.
"I'm going to regret this… but… congratulations on becoming a PC, and welcome to the Starborn."
* * *
"Another great evil defeated." said the archer, whose name was Liran. He had turned out to be male-or a very butch lesbian, the jury was out.
"Please. It was only the same level as us. It was simple." said the first elf, Theana. They theorised she was a girl, just because of her name.
Leah, the cleric, just leant over to Emily.
"I know." she whispered. "I'm a healer, and I felt it. I know. You need to tell them."
"Fine…" sighed Emily. "You two? We need to talk."
Aaron immediately recognised what she was talking about, and they stood up in sync.
"We've really enjoyed our time with the team." said Aaron. "But circumstances are going to make us need to leave."
"What are they?" asked Liran.
"I'm pregnant." said Emily.
"And you have to leave… why?" asked Theana.
"We're a team. We fight as a team, we work as a team, we live as a team. If you can't do a mission, you stay at one of the small houses we have. Afterwards, we can help look after it-take turns." outlined the elven Wizard.
"You… you would?" said Aaron.
"Of course." nodded Leah with a smile. "We have enough overlap to manage it. When they're old enough, maybe they can help out."
"Will be a shame to not have our wolf rider for a while though." sighed Liran.
"Cain'll still go with you even if me and Emily don't. And she's quite capable of riding him without me there." smiled Aaron. "I… I can't stretch how much this means."
"We might need to hold more tryouts." said Leah.
"Let's get them started." nodded Theana.
* * *
"Uh, hi, I'm a half-ogre, I fight with a spiked chain-"
"My name is He Who Must Not Be-"
"I'm a cleric of a powerful goddess,"
"She's called Tiamat, dragon goddess, she gets a lot of bad press and-"
The last remaining applicant groaned. He had blue eyes, blonde hair and wore loose, blue clothes. Gulping, he stepped forwards.
"I was a bard in an adventure recently, and I decided I had to take the steps to become a player character." he started. "I have a level or two in Soulknife as well as one or two in Psion for versatility. My name is Simon."
They exchanged glances.
Theana shrugged. "Psionics would be a helpful addition, even a limited type."
"No reason not to." said Leah.
"We don't have much choice, and I like the boy."
"Seems fine to me." nodded Aaron.
"It'd be an honour to be usurped by him." grinned Emily.
"Woof." said Cain. I agree.
* * *
"Well, I don't get to go on missions for a few months." said Emily quietly.
"That Simon is shaping up well." said Aaron.
The conversation didn't seem to be able to catch light.
"Oh, screw this. Let's have sex." said Emily.
* * *
And done and done.