For the Etrian Odyssey II fan-swag contest extraordinaire! Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It was shortly after defeating the flying, aquatic, monstrosity that the forest's natives
lovingly called Cotrangl, that Minerva first laid eyes on the Ice Spine. As her hands instinctively moved towards the back pockets of her bewildered and excited teammates, she caught sight of the rare piece of Cotrangl that Lor now held high in excited glee. Minerva paid little attention to the spine as she rummaged through Pneuma's bag of medical supplies. At the time, Pneuma was preoccupied with reviving the only reason they survived the fight, their protector Szanna. As Szanna awoke she instinctively slapped the left side of her armor to ensure her pack was there. It wasn't, and that was when Minerva was caught red-handed. Being a survivalist means you are capable of being lethe, agile, and alert at any moments notice, and having been a thief before she should have seen it coming. Nevertheless, the Aspis came down on Minerva's head, hard, and as the darkness and stars began to form she spotted Lor. The prize in his hands was right in Minerva's face. He goaded her with it, and laughed at her. He told her how it would never be her's, and as she faded into unconsciousness it became the most important memory of the battle.
Minerva awoke in the same old inn, in the same old town, in the same old shade of the giant tree that they explored together. The rest of the Canthan guild was off eating breakfast, polishing swords, buying gear, or lazying about as she rubbed the budding sore spot on the top of her head. She tossled her short brown hair to help her forget the pain, and the dumb luck of last night's the situation. Suddenly she remembered her pack, and checked for her ill-gotten gains. Success! Only Szanna had taken her money back and no one else was none the wiser. Minerva smiled her most mischievious smile as she packed her items together, put on her clothes, and sauntered off to Shilleka's supply shop.
Shilleka was doing her usual dance and tune as she worked. Lor had arrived ahead of time and was busy telling the tale of his battle against Cotrangl to Shilleka, carefully omitting the parts where he died and required resurrection. Shilleka displayed her usual feigned surprise to Lor as he waved about with his hand, imitating strikes and parries, none of which had quite the effect Alchemia's powerful alchemic gauntlets had against Cotrangl. After a time, and after Minerva was long bored of the usual selection with few additions, Lor pulled out the Ice Spine and inquired how much he could get for it. Shilleka gave him a petty offer for the shiny piece, but nothing near its real value, which Minerva could tell was much higher due to its illustrious surface, nearly impregnable but soft outer shell, and rows upon rows of small needle-like spines. As Minerva eyed the piece she noticed that a perfectly carved notch would serve as an extra precise arrow rest if the piece was a bow. She was distracted from her thoughts when Lor came straight up to her, wagged his not-so-weighty bag of coins in her face, and walked out the door with pride in his step and an inflated ego. Bored, and now without entertainment, save for Shilleka's tune and graceful dance, Minerva made her way for the door. She was stopped by Shilleka's call to her. Shilleka told her to come by soon, and that she would have just what Minerva was looking for. Unpersuaded, Minerva waved good-bye and lazily exited the shop.
It wasn't long before the group was ready for another excursion into the labyrinth. The newly found area was appropriately named Sandy Barrens. Pneuma frequently found herself dumping sand from her large medical bag. Szanna had to stop every five minutes to shake the sand from her armor. And Lor was simply confused by the raging sands that took him every which way. Alchemia tried to assist Lor with her superior intellect and mathematical precision, but it didnt help because he would continue to rush headlong paying little attention to anyone or anything. Eventually this would lead to Lor's death due to the areas enemies. Lor being a hard hitter, but poor on defense, fell several times despite Szanna's best abilities for defense. Pneuma simply had it with Lor and proposed the group leave back to town for the night. No one said otherwise, and all the while Minerva filled her pockets with her prattling teammates gold. She hoped they would continue to be so foolish in the future and pay her little attention. She patted her gold bag contentedly as she stepped into the warp to town. Once back to town, Alchemia cast her serious look and twitched her eyebrow. The look meant only one thing, she knew of the day's pickpocketing, but hadn't said anything. Minerva could only wonder why.
Back in town Minerva knew not what to do with her time. It was still early in the day and everyone else was either napping, or lazying about again. Bored, as she always was in this quiet town, she went to see Shilleka again. As she strode inside the store, Shilleka immediately greeted her and began to sing her a tune about her newest product. Minerva was about to wave off Shilleka's bold attempts at selling her an item until she caught sight of what it was. Resting in front of Shilleka, on her display case, was a beautiful bow of light blue hues. Along the back of the bow was a sharply dark blue area that went from one tip to the other. Minerva stumbled over to the display case and picked up the object that enamored her. It was of the finest composition. It was light as a feather, and felt harder than a diamond. Despite the hardness of the bow the limbs flexed favorably. As she pulled the taut bow string she noticed the precision one could get from a shot, not to mention the power from such such a long and steady bow. Her hands went over each and every spot, ensuring the bow could perform as necessary, until she noticed the carved arrow notch. She glanced quickly up to Shilleka and asked if this was made from the Ice Spine. Shilleka simply nodded and smirked knowing the sale was inevitable. Minerva knew the bow must be hers, and suddenly realized why she spent so much time thieving and hoarding away her teammates gold. When she asked Shilleka the price of the bow her heart sank. Shilleka had bought the Ice Spine for cheap, but intended to sell what was to be known as the Ocean King's bow for its true price. Unable to haggle Shilleka to a lower price, Minerva left the shop disappointed.
Minerva wandered the streets of the small town of Etria for what seemed like hours. She managed to pickpocket some gold from a hapless citizen, but that did little to brighten her spirits or make the price of the bow more manageable. As the hours ticked away she sat down on a bench near Shilleka's shop where she could see the bow through the window. The light of the dusk danced upon the bow creating beautiful shards of light that cascaded not unlike a prism. Minerva sighed, and for a moment contemplated stealing it. This lasted only a moment because she knew why she stole. She was not as useful to the party as other members, and risked being placed on standby in the guild. She couldn't afford better armor or weapons, and it seemed like everytime everyone else upgraded their weapons she still couldn't provide for the party what others could. Pneuma could heal. Alchemia dealt elemental damage. Lor hit the hardest. And Szanna provided nearly impenetrable defense. Minerva was the oddball out, and she thought that if she had enough money she could afford the best equipment and show how good she really was. As her thoughts brooded on this she began to consider giving back all the money she stole, and electing to go on standby. Then she'd recommend Sakura the ronin, and at least gain a small victory over Lor as his damage output couldn't ever match Sakura's grace with a katana. This brought a small smile back to her face, but that quickly faded as she realized someone was standing right in front of her, and had arrived unnoticed by her. Minerva quickly jumped to attention and nocked an arrow in her bow, but let her bow and tension lower as she saw it was only Alchemia standing before her. The Alchemist was standing as tall and ready-as-ever, the gauntlet on her left hand was shining a bright red, perceiving an attack from Minerva, but her other hand held something out to her. Piqued with interest Minerva put away her bow and took the bag. It was quite heavy, and felt like it was filled with gold. Minerva opened the bag and peered inside. It was gold! It was more gold then she had in her pack. Alchemia stroked the long blond knot of hair over her shoulder and smiled at her. As Minerva fingered through the gold pouch, she told her of her own surprise that Minerva hadn't noticed she had been stealing as well. She also mentioned that her reasons for stealing the gold were less benevolent than her own, but due to circumstances the money was unneeded. The money was now to be used to purchase protection, for herself and the rest of the party. Minerva, wide-eyed, blinked and asked if this is truly what she wanted to do. Alchemia only widened her smile and glanced to the window behind her, into the glass case, and that is when Minerva saw the blue of the Ocean King's bow dance in her eyes. Minerva said nothing else and ran to the soon to be closed door of Shilleka's Goods.
The next morning the party found itself back in the 4th Stratum, and the parties idiot was just as stupid as ever. Lor continued to exhibit the same bumbling curiousity that made him a natural explorer and target. Lor, Pneuma, and Szanna all fought as usual, and Alchemia did her best to ignore the three of them. Eventually Lor found it necessary to break free of the group, and explore a suspicious alcove for the 'treasure-that-is-rightfully-his.' Minerva kept a steady watch over him while everyone else occupied their time removing sand from their underwear for what seemed to be the hundredth time. Lor's curiousity was taken by an overly bright piece of sand when a native sprang from behind him brandishing its weapon and screaming obscenities only it understood. The blunt club aimed straight for Lor's head raced quickly downward to what was inevitably to become another death for the hapless landsknecht. Lor's hands went up in mute desperation to ward the attack. The protector was already chanting her defensive wards. The alchemist was charging her fire attacks. The healer was preparing to revive another dead adventurer. Before anything else could happen, a flash of blue tinted the area around the adventurers, and the twang of a bow sounded nearly simultaneously as the thump of an arrow collided between the native's eyes dropping him instantly. And as everyone's mouth dropped open in mute surrender to the power and swiftness of the attack, Minerva stood over Lor and offered her hand to him. Alchemia felt a smile creep to her face and a sense of relief. Lor confused and dazed glanced upward at the proud and confident smile on the face of the survivalist as she spoke to him.
"It is I who will be protecting you now."