Chapter 32

• New technology unlocked: [Energy and State Manipulation – Mana Storage]
• New technology unlocked: [Energy and State Manipulation – Electromagnetic Field Manipulation]
• New technology unlocked: [Energy and State Manipulation – Mana Field Manipulation]

That was neat! Ethan loved it when things went according to plan.

The gathered followers of Memeta were all staring at him with dumb expressions.

“What did ye just do, lad?” A bewildered Dwarf finally spoke up and broke the silence.

“I think I’ve just managed to channel ambient mana, without a caster!” Ethan declared excitedly.

“Impossible!” They all chorused.

“It’s exactly what happened! The electromagnetic field induced a mana current to flow – and rapidly exit – from one end of the rod, which introduced a sort of ‘mana vacuum’ on the other end, causing ambient mana to flow in and try to fill the gap and balance things, only to be ejected out the other side again by the electromagnetic field, and the process continued in perpetuity.”

“Ye be spouting nonsense again, lad!” Felwar accused angrily. “What does that even mean?”

“Sorry, let me try to explain it in simpler terms: it’s like if you try to suck the air out of one end of a straw: a vacuum will occur inside, and air will rush in to fill it from the other end, thus equalising the pressure.” Ethan explained patiently.

“I see.” The Dwarf seemed slightly mollified.

“What is an electromagnetic field, exactly?” Faisal asked.

“Well, have you ever seen a magnet?” At their look of incomprehension, he tried an older term: “Uhh, a lodestone? The naturally occurring rocks which happen to attract iron?”

“Aye, lodestones! The mighty ones stick to good steel!” Felwar seemed interested, “Ye can find ‘em while mining in the mountain homes! Ye called ‘em magnets?”

“Yes, that’s what they’re called where I come from.” Ethan said.

“Magnets…? How do they work?” Grenda asked in wonder.

Ethan recalled a certain meme about magnets, which seemed to transcend universes just then, but held himself from laughing aloud.

“Well, what I just made can be considered an ‘artificial magnet’… if you could call it that. An electromagnet, made by running electricity through conductive wire – copper in this case, because it has excellent conductivity – which has to be wound tightly in the shape of a coil,” he traced the path of the copper coil he’d already made, and continued explaining, “The invisible electromagnetic field projected by it is quite similar to a ferromagnetic field – which is what the lodestones naturally and constantly project around themselves.” He started pacing, “It is an invisible field of force that can influence certain materials that contain iron in their make – which are called ferrometals – and can be toggled on or off by the presence of a current of electricity, or lack thereof.”

Everyone tried to process this for a moment, before someone voiced another question.

“Can this artificial electromagnetic field attract iron, also?” Asked Solinda, who was seemingly no less interested than the rest of them, despite her being a [Mathematician] and a [Librarian], with no real experience in applied sciences.

“Yes, it can.”

“Can it attract other types of metal?” The beastkin [Lawyer], Nadeera Sabretooth, asked next. She seemed interested in other applications of this phenomena.

Ethan appreciated how they all were displaying a high level of interest in the topic, and he tried to elaborate as much as possible:

“Under normal circumstances: only iron, nickel, and cobalt will ever react to ferromagnetism and electromagnetism in a visibly observable manner, with the exception of some rare earth elements.”

“Interesting, does that mean that some other metals will react in hidden ways, as well?” Asked Grenda, who had been listening intently all the while.

“Copper coils – and coils made from some other electrically conductive metals – will form an electrical current when exposed to electromagnetism, so yeah.” Ethan lectured, “This is usually the method used to generate – or transfer – electricity without a physical connection.” He continued.

He ignored the prompt telling him that [Lecture] had just progressed in level, and turned to observe them.

The only person who seemed to be silent and withdrawn during this entire discussion was the [Færie Queen], who seemed taken aback by the extent and depth of Ethan’s knowledge on the complex topic being discussed.

She seemed to be regarding him critically, then finally asked something:

“How did you know that this specific method would work?”

Ethan paused.

“I didn’t.” He admitted, “There are many ways in which matter and energy can interact. My plan was to simply try out every possible method and combination, until something worked.” He thought for a bit, then decided to elaborate on his reasoning: “Although the erratic bursts of mana that were released when electricity was channelled through the material gave me a small hint, and helped me narrow it down greatly by following basic deduction, I then guessed at the true underlying cause, which just so happened to be electromagnetism in this case.” He explained.

She nodded and they fell silent once more.

“What will you do now?” Asked Grenda in curiosity.

Ethan paused.

“I guess the most logical course of action is to combine all this knowledge, and give this power source…” he pointed at the copper sphere, “…a plastic battery to act as an intermediate buffer for mana.” He thought about it some more, then continued, “I will also need to figure out a way to properly extract the mana from the plastic battery without inducing a chain reaction with the energy conversion field surrounding the Mana Cell.”

“Can you show us how you will work on this problem this time, from a scientific perspective?” Asked Grenda with great interest.

“Sure, I can narrate the process for you as I figure things out, if you wish.”

“That’d be of great help.” The Dwarf said.

And so he began working on the problem at hand, while narrating each step, and the followers documented the process meticulously; while occasionally asking him questions and demanding clarification for why he did certain things. Especially when his reasoning wasn’t immediately apparent.

Aylin Merza sat in the corner of the workshop, in complete stillness, and observed.

That damn human! She was coming to appreciate how his mind worked. As he experimented and performed his research, she found herself enraptured by the depth and meticulousness of his methods.

She was enchanted by this new concept. This electromagnetism he spoke of. She wondered how else it would interact with magic, and in what ways she could make it useful to her own ends; considering it was a technology from his world.

She could just about imagine her sought [Wizard’s] Tower, and what power she would be able to unlock, simply by using this new knowledge in its make.

So, channeling a thunder spell through a loop of copper wire could produce such an effect? She couldn’t wait to experiment with this herself. She wondered where she could have a coil of copper wires made around here. She’d normally have to find a competent [Artificer] for that kind of work.

Or maybe – she reflected – she could steal one of his own creation. She’d have to sneak into the workshop after dark, and she simply loved her new invisibility amulet, since it was very conducive to this kind of act.

And then there was this plastic he’d made!

Now that she’d actually spied him and figured out how he operated his machine; she resolved to operate it alone at night after casting a spell of silence on the infernally loud machine. She needed to pick a time when nobody else would suspect her, and seize the chance to make more of this wonderful material for her own ends.

She shook herself out of her reverie, and started paying more attention to what Ethan was saying and doing. The foolish human was now in the process of explaining his secret arts and imparting his precious knowledge to an audience, for free. Without a care in the world.

First she would learn, and then she would wait, and then she would act.

It was just a matter of time.

It turned out to be a simple problem, in hindsight. Once Ethan had the mechanics of it figured out, at least.

He had to adjust the Mana Cell’s energy conversion field to exclude raw mana from its inputs. He then attached a slightly-larger, plastic half-sphere to the bottom of it, where it connected to the original output socket and acted as a buffer for the collected mana. He specifically shaped it to follow the precise contours of the upper copper sphere. Then he layered another half-sphere of copper underneath it, providing a completely new output socket for the extracted energy.

The lower sphere also acted as a shunt generator in this assembly, and powered a tightly wound, insulated copper coil surrounding it, which was used to produce the electromagnetic field necessary to squeeze the mana current out of the plastic, and direct it to the new output socket, where it was collected at a single point and funneled through.

All in all, it was very compact and quite efficient, and he was very proud of the design.

He set the plastic foundry running, and fed it more raw materials. Then used the plastic to make three more Mana Cells, which implemented the new elements of the design. Those were slightly smaller, since he planned to use them for something different entirely. For now though, he’d use them for experimentation.

After setting yet another new objective for his AI, he let it work on a certain task in the background, and decided to experiment with unbound magicite.

He went on a short stroll, and brought back some raw magicite crystals from the crystal caves that Eragoth had shown him earlier on his tour. He could have conjured it directly from the earth like he’d done before, that was true; but he’d changed his mind when he realised that he would have no way to control the purity if he used that method, because conjuring magicite always brought forth the highest purity available.

He brought back crystals with various degrees of purity, and began by performing the same test Grenda had performed, trying to channel raw mana into each crystal.

The process of channeling raw mana was slightly different from spell casting, as he soon found out. You simply had to channel a ‘blank’ spell into the material: one which carried no thaums at all. It was much harder than he thought; but he was thankful for the AI’s assistance in the casting process.

Magical energy flowed out of his hands and entered the magicite, only to immediately exit again. His AI’s advanced scanning suite was fully engaged and ready to observe the process at the molecular level, and recorded everything in great detail.

He noted the myriad ways that the crystals could be aligned by simply changing the direction or the intensity of the mana current, and how the resulting stream of mana was affected after it exited the crystalline structure.

It was an interesting property. Magicite seemed to be able to affect a current of mana as much as the mana could affect it. Although unlike plastic, it never absorbed any of it at all. All channeled magical energy simply passed through and exited through the other side, albeit slightly altered.

The entire phenomenon was quite similar to the process in which a prism refracted a ray of light.

He quickly fetched his sceptre, and observed the magicite embedded within, letting his AI decode the information the sceptre had gathered so far in the process; while he focused his attention on the specific circuitry responsible for manipulating the structure of the magicite present on the sceptre itself. It was a fascinating mechanic that his AI had devised on the fly.

He picked up another piece of magicite, and had his AI assist him in casting [Meld]. He soon reaffirmed that [Meld] could manipulate it, but only in mass quantities, and with no real control over the process at the molecular level. He needed something more refined to manipulate the molecules into specific patterns.

What came as a pleasant surprise, however, was that the sceptre had managed to decode the complete structure for the [Meld] skill!

This was a significant – and quite monumental – discovery. Because as far as he knew, skills were only bestowed by The Wheel of Aspects, and were not exactly something that could be taught or tampered with in any way!

You didn’t have to channel a spell model to use a specific skill. You simply willed it and The Wheel made it happen, provided you had the requisite amount of mana. His sceptre had intercepted the spell model The Wheel had used, and recorded the whole thing. It had even optimised it!

This changes things, he thought excitedly, and wondered what new thaums his entropy-related skills could provide when subjected to the sceptre’s analysis and interception. He resolved to explore that venue later, although he wasn’t quite sure what the consequences of channeling the power of chaos through the sceptre would be.

Too bad he couldn’t do the same thing to passive and sustained skills. He would have loved to figure them out, too. Although in hindsight, they might have not worked in the same way, and represented an entirely different and unknown set of mechanics in this universe.

He started messing around with the spell version of [Meld]. He had a general idea of what he wanted to do just then, and he briefly entered his simulated lab environment, then changed the spell model slightly by adding some new thaums. Namely, the alchemical thaums Bind and Release, which he carefully introduced to a few key locations in the spell model.

It was a subtle change to the structure of the spell, really; but the effects on its purpose and function were quite extraordinary.

It took an entire hour inside the simulation, which happened to pass in mere moments to the outside world; and the followers of Memeta noticed nothing out of the ordinary. To them, Ethan simply zoned out for a few moments and snapped back out of it right away.

The resulting spell, which he decided to dub as ‘Alter’, was vastly different from [Meld], in a profound way.

It could mass-manipulate matter, just like [Meld]; but when it got down to the molecular level, it turned into a precise and delicate scalpel capable of performing surgical operations on any single molecule in a particular mass of matter.

It was very challenging to use, though.

The difficulty of casting this specific spell arose from having to concentrate on both the spell model, and the resulting molecular structure you wanted as your end-result. You had to maintain both during the casting process. It was an impossible task to any normal caster, he guessed; but not entirely impossible for someone who had the help of an AI implant.

This was one of the moments that made him acutely aware of the benefits and the unfair advantage provided by the implants and his augmented mind. A fact to which he was extremely thankful.

Superficially, the process the spell used was quite similar to the one used in his plastic foundry machine, but it was also vastly different in the details involved. He tested it on a magicite crystal, and could see the immediate effects in the way the structure realigned to the specific configuration he’d envisioned before casting the spell.


His next step was configuring the magicite in a myriad of different patterns and observing the effects on the raw mana current he passed through it. It took him a couple of tries before he managed to observe the way the magicite could imprint thaums on the outgoing mana current. With each unique molecular configuration imbuing a different thaumic chain.

What this meant – in his estimation – was that bound spirits in magicite could actually force the crystals to imprint specific spells, but the lack of a spirit in normal enchantments hindered that prospect, since the spirit was the only possible method for providing direction – and the associated memories pertaining to the spell casting process.

He wondered what this meant in the case of golems and similar constructs, though. Were they capable of casting spells this way all along, if thing were properly accounted for? He shelved that question for later. It was an interesting topic he’d have to discuss with Faisal during their next lesson.

He figured he shouldn’t initiate such a discussion right now, though. He felt too drained to discuss it in detail at the moment, mentally at least.

Ethan then proceeded to try various molecular configurations of magicite, and recorded enough sample data from the output to give his implants a solid baseline to design a new simulation with.

Once he had the simulator parameters perfected to his standards, he started a simulation to figure out the specific configuration of magicite for casting the spell he had in mind, and instructed his AI to compile a program to automatically perform this conversion process in the future, using the rules of the simulation.

He let it run in the background, along with the plethora of simulations and calculations he had his AI performing at any given moment of time.

It would take a while.

Meanwhile, he left the workshop with everybody else, and went on to find some dinner amongst his tribesmen.

Kothar fumed.

It was his first disagreement with Milandera.

He was fed up. That infuriating woman just wouldn’t quit it, no matter how many times he assured her.

She wanted her brother – her only family according to her – and her friends and party to be free, and he understood her. He truly did.

The problem was when. She wanted them free now.

He tried to explain how that wasn’t entirely feasible. How he’d have to convince Ethan first, and how he had to approach the matter delicately, especially since one of her so called friends wanted Ethan dead at any cost, at the edict of his goddess.

Yet, she wouldn’t listen. She wanted to go speak to Ethan on her own, as if somehow she could convince him to free a man trying to kill him.

Oh, how he wondered at the mysteries of the female mind.

A huge complication that arose was that he was positively falling for her, as in head over heels.

He’d never felt that affectionate towards another before. Sure, he’d had a tryst or two here and there. He’d known the wiles of women and been subject of that once or twice. He was even quite experienced in the arts of lovemaking, according to his previous partners, but still.

He’d never felt this way about someone before. He’d never felt attached. It was all simple lust.

And here he was, falling for her, without even touching her in that way. Just the sound of her voice. Just her scent was enough to…

He paused, and shook himself a little.

He didn’t want to admit it. He didn’t want to face himself and ever come out and say it, either. He certainly would never admit that he secretly liked the status quo. That he liked the fact that she stayed at his tent, and that he had to accompany her everywhere she went, lest the other tribesmen do something they’d surely regret in his presence. That he liked protecting her.

But she was about to drive him crazy, and so, he had to do something before she got herself and her companions into trouble.

He’d talk to Ethan at nightfall, after he was free from whatever he’d been doing at his workshop, anyway.

Kothar had to do something, and soon.

The sun had set, and the sky was dark by the time Ethan finished his dinner with Kothar, who had seemed a little antsy throughout the meal.

Ethan deliberated briefly, before deciding to break the silence and outright asking what was wrong.

“What’s eating at you, man?”

Kothar sighed and seemed to deflate.

“I do not think that I am being eaten… but I think I understand your odd turn of phrase.” He paused, “Have you spoken to any of the prisoners?” He finally asked.

“Shit! I’d completely forgotten about them!” Ethan smacked his forehead, “They’re kinda my responsibility now, aren’t they?”

“That is very much true. What do you plan to do with them?” Kothar inquired.

“I hadn’t considered it at depth, to be honest.” Ethan said.

“You don’t intend to keep them trapped there in the cages forever, do you?” Kothar said, seeming subdued.

“Not if I can help it, no.” Ethan confirmed, “I feel bad just thinking about it, now.”

“Good, because that woman is driving me insane!”

“Who? Milandera? She doesn’t seem to be that bad.” Ethan observed with a smirk, “Besides, I think you really like her.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

He’d meant it as a joke, but this changed the moment his needling paid off, and Kothar became visibly flustered.

“What? That’s not… No, no, of course I do not!” The man sputtered with a flushed face, “What in the banished hells gave you that idea?”

Ethan was quite surprised. So, Kothar really liked her? Good for him.

He chuckled, then shrugged, and took pity on the man, deciding to change the subject back to the prisoners.

“All right, all right. So, what does she suggest that we do with them, anyway?”

Kothar collected himself before responding.

“She really wants her brother and friends released,” he said, “She was the one who asked me to speak to you about this issue, incessantly, in fact.” He explained.

“Ah. I’m not totally averse to the idea; but according to elder Ro, that [Paladin] that came here with them was sent here on a mission to kill me.” Ethan responded, “What do you suppose we should do about him?”

“Talk to him first?” Kothar suggested hopefully, “Milandera hopes to convince him otherwise. You should talk to her about this, too.”

Ethan agreed. It would have to happen, eventually.

“How about we go speak to them first thing, tomorrow morning?” He offered.

Kothar nodded in agreement, thanked him, and seemed quite relieved.

They spent some time talking about inconsequential stuff, laughing, and joking. Then Ethan got up, bid him good night, and entered his new tent. While Kothar did the same.

He wrapped himself in his sleeping furs, opened up the settlement interface, and got to thinking.

Settlement Name The Gathering Nation Krell Tribes of Meerenva [Change...]
Level 1 Rank Tent City [Details…]
Specialisations None Available 1 [Select…]
Morale 117 Rank Segregated [Details…]
Population 13,274 Yearly Growth (Approximate) 135.3 [Details…]
Health 10 Rank Below Average [Details…]
Buildings 3,507 Average Construction Quality Shoddy [Details…]
Settlement Points 11,390 Daily Income 120 [Details…]
Education Points 15 Daily Income 5.55 [Details…]
Research Points 30 Daily Income 26.64 [Details…]
Construction Points 176 Maximum Daily Income (Variable) 12.66 [Details…]
Crafting Points 358 Maximum Daily Income (Variable) 73.85 [Details…]

The settlement interface hadn’t refreshed just yet, and he supposed it would refresh with new values sometime during the night, but something else caught his eye.

He hadn’t chosen a settlement specialisation yet, and he wondered why he waited this long.

It was past due. It was time to specialise!

He’d have to consider his choices carefully, though. He assumed this was an important decision for the whole settlement, and one to consider very carefully before committing to.

He mind-clicked the ‘[Select…]’ button next to the settlement specialisations, and the list of specialisations came up:

Specialisation Current Level Bonuses (Per Level) Requirements
Ancestral Hunters 0 +5% to all food and hides collected from hunting [Settlement], +5% to the effectiveness of traps and snares [Settlement, Hunters], +5% to stealth and ambush tactics in any terrain [Settlement, Hunters] Leader Skill: Hunting Lvl. 10 (Unmet)
Honourable Diplomats 0 +5% to the initial relationship with any encountered settlement [Settlement, Diplomacy], +5% to Relationship Points generated from any source [Settlement, Diplomacy], +1 to the number of concurrent trade agreements available for negotiation [Settlement, Trade], New Position: Minister of Foreign Relations. [Settlement] Leader Skill: Diplomacy Lvl. 10 (Unmet)
Battlewrought 0 +5% to attack damage in battle [Settlement], +5% to armour rating in battle [Settlement], +5% to military encampment and fortification defensive strength [Settlement], Access to the War Screen [Settlement Interface], Access to the Army Deployment Screen [Tactical Map Interface], New Position: Minister of War [Settlement] 3 significant military victories (Unmet)
Science and Technology 0 +15% bonus to Research Points generated from any source [Settlement], +15% bonus to Education Points generated from any source [Settlement], +15% to the durability of all produced items [Settlement, Crafting], +15% to the effects of all produced potions [Settlement, Alchemy], +3 to the literacy rank of all citizens of age [Settlement, Immediate], +3% to the chance of an Epiphany [Settlement]. Leader: Scientist (Met), Hidden condition met: [Harbinger – Science] – All effects of this specialisation have been strengthened to 300% their original impact
Chaos Alchemy 0 +1 to the effective level of the ‘Energy and State Manipulation – Entropy’ research [Settlement, Immediate], +1 to the effective level of the ‘Alchemy and Refinement – Probability Manipulation’ research [Settlement, Immediate], +250% to the effects and potency of all chaos-based potions. [Settlement, Alchemy] Mother of Chaos (Present), Alchemy Lab or School (Met)

[Chaos Alchemy] was an extremely tempting choice. One that could provide the settlement with immediate access to two new and assumedly expensive technologies, and a whopping 250% bonus to chaos-based potion potency. It was too much of an opportunity to miss, especially when he considered the things he’d been told about potions made from chaos fruit. He could power-level his entire settlement with this!

What stopped him from throwing caution to the wind and choosing it, though, was a very simple fact: [Science and Technology] did not only have triple the bonuses when it came to the topics of research and learning; it also offered something he was fairly certain he’d never get to achieve in an entire lifetime, even if he tried. If he was understanding the description of this bonus correctly, then all Krell would automatically become literate overnight.

And so, for once, he did something he’d not done in a long while, and that was to request help from the system and ask for clarification. His AI intuitively picked up on his intentions and did something beautiful on his behalf: it enriched and augmented the interface with automatic tooltips on certain keywords, by querying the Wheel’s help interface in the background.

Ethan was pleasantly surprised, and he once again thanked his lucky stars for the presence of his AI, and the mutual understanding they both shared.

Literacy Rank: The rank of proficiency in reading and writing. This is an acquirable passive skill. The [Literacy] skill is not subject to the normal rules of skill progression, and uses an alternate progression system. The readily known progression of levels is as follows: Illiterate (0), Basic Reader (5), Basic Writer (10), Fluent Reader (15), Fluent Writer (20), Seasoned Reader (25), and Seasoned Writer (30). Further proficiency ranks may exist and will vary, depending on the language of choice.

If everyone started at Illiterate – which is what Ethan assumed, then the addition of +3 levels would get them all the way to Fluent Reader in one go!

But wait, what was that about a “normal skill progression” system? He tried to get a tooltip and was presented with one:

Skill Progression: The normal skill progression is as follows: Initiate (0+), Novice (25+), Adept (50+), Journeyman (75+), and Master (100+). Further proficiency ranks may exist and will vary, depending on the skill. The given bonuses for any skill may change, depending on the rank. Other skill progression systems may exist, depending on the skill.

Interesting, he’d just learnt something new. Something extremely useful! He figured that his newfound access to such in-depth information was a side effect of his deepening integration with The Wheel. The more he discovered about it, the more he found himself both despising and admiring it in equal measures.

He was glad it was explaining things to him now, though, and he quickly looked to the next item on his list of inquiries: Epiphanies.

He wasn’t quite sure what an Epiphany was, but he considered the capitalisation of this word in the description to be potentially signifying something important. He hovered over the word, and a new tooltip came up:

Epiphany: The chance of immediately completing an active research into a field of science and discovering a new technology, or of making a significant leap in understanding while studying a topic. This chance is applied to every active researcher and student at a rate of once per day spent researching or studying.

What this meant was that: every day, every student and researcher had a 3% chance of instant success at whatever they’re trying to do for the day.

Three. Fucking. Percent. Per level. Holy shit!

His eyes widened at the realisation of what this meant: wheel-assisted learning and research for the whole settlement.

Did this somehow apply to his own research, too?

He wondered what would happen when this specialisation was upgraded further in levels. Did the bonuses stack? It looked like it. It had said ‘bonuses per level’, which meant that they would stack, and that levelling up the settlement as a whole was now Ethan’s #1 priority.

This pretty much made his choice for him. It was a god damned golden opportunity, and he scolded himself for not choosing a specialisation earlier. If only he’d known what would happen! He would have done this as the first thing upon ascending to his position!

He made a decision, and it was the easiest decision he’d made.

Without hesitation, he selected [Science and Technology] as the first of his settlement’s specialisations.

He saw a huge pop up and a loud catchy tune played in his head.

And all over the volcano, things started changing, fast.

Character Sheet