Grenda was having too much fun.
Memeta’s chosen gathered in a circle to observe her work, while Kani – the Krell’s ingenious [Empiric Metallurgist] – looked on proudly at what his creation of Flexibronze was enabling her to build.
It was the world’s first Flexibronze golem, and it came with flexible joints like none other in the history of the world.
This design had an exoskeleton made of the exotic alloy, which served to soften blunt damage greatly, and as for piercing attacks: it had an inner layer composed of a very fine crisscrossing steel mesh to reinforce it against those.
She wondered what Ethan West would say of this once he found out. Her group had tried to contact him but the guards would not allow them through, so they all settled on doing whatever, in the meantime.
Grenda and Faisal had elected to build this golem, and Felwar – along with his new best friend Kani – helped with the metalworking. Grenda was using all her [Artificer] tricks though, and the incomplete golem would be ready soon.
Aylin Merza’s most recent offer intrigued them all, however.
Grenda tried to forget about that for now, and focused her attention on the flitzerspicklestrut as she extended the precision tool inside the golem’s chest to adjust two joints that were out of alignment.
Merza’s offer could wait, and Grenda had a lot of work left before having to make that choice.
Ethan stood in the midst of his cluttered workshop, waiting for the spirit of [Commander] Talius to ask his question.
Time stretched for a bit, before the spirit finally spoke, “What is Science?”
Ethan contemplated the question, before giving a direct answer, “If you want the exact definition of science, then it would be the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experimentation.”
He paused a little at the spirit’s apparent confusion, before elaborating, “But let me rephrase that,” he said and gestured to everything around them, “Science is the study of the truth behind all things, through experimentation and observation,” he finally shrugged, “that’s not all of science though. It’s hard to define accurately, to be honest.”
The spirit contemplated for a while, and the quiet stretched again, so Ethan prompted him, “If that was your question, then what is your request?”
“Well, Aylin Merza… she made me an offer I could not refuse,” the [Commander] began, “to devote myself to science in exchange for a new body.” He paused, “she would convince the [Blacksmith] and [Artificer] building the new golem outside to have it be my host.”
“What? What new golem? They’re building a golem out there without me to witness it?” Ethan nearly flipped at the news, he wanted to storm outside and verbally abuse them, but restrained himself, “…and why would Aylin want you to devote yourself to science?” he added as an afterthought.
“Do you not know about Aylin, and the fact that she is a [Priestess] of Science now?”
“What? Since when?” Ethan asked in shock.
The spirit shook his head, “You seem to know less than I do. Perhaps I was wrong to…”
“Wait, what was your request?” Ethan was miffed.
The [Commander’s] ethereal head seemed to scan the cluttered workshop, and he paused before speaking again, “I saw the things you work on here, and I wanted you to be the one to build me a body.”
“Why me?” Ethan asked skeptically.
The spirit explained his rationale, “I have a… past with Aylin. I do not think she has my best interests at heart,” he pointed at Ethan, “You, however, seem to be a good person. I have seen you display [altruistic] traits.”
Ethan noticed a new word slipping into his vocabulary. He currently had The Wheel’s translation feature deactivated, but they both communicated via the magic tether somehow, and the meaning of words slipped into the conversation along with their pronunciation. In hindsight, that was useful.
“In addition–” the spirit gestured at the tether between them “–you know how to work with souls–” he then gestured around the workshop “–and in three days, I’ve seen you build more advanced creations than they ever could.”
He must be talking about the drone prototypes. Ethan thought, then spoke up, “You wish to have the body of a drone like the ones I’m building?”
Instead of speaking, the spirit pushed a detailed image through the tether. Ethan could see it clearly in his mind after giving permission to the AI to accept it.
“I see…” Ethan responded, before sinking into deep thought at the vision the spirit sent, “that’s a cool choice, I suppose.” he said after a pause, “…but I think I can give you something much greater than just the ability to fly. Something beyond that, even.”
Talius seemed intrigued, “Explain, please.”
“First, let me ask you a bit about your world.” Ethan started, “does your world know of the concept of [space]?”
The spirit seemed shocked as Ethan’s meaning and images rapidly started crossing the tether, and an unstoppable, concentrated torrent of knowledge on the subject flooded his mind.
Badtooth stood in a dignified pose – despite being completely bare but for a loincloth – as the leatherworker measured his body. Kothar sat to the side, grinning dumbly for some odd reason.
“You are smiling. Why do you smile?” Badtooth asked curiously.
“Nothing, really. I just never imagined being in a situation like this.” Kothar answered, trying to control his smile.
“Because I descend from Goblins, and Goblins are not worthy of new attire?”
Kothar looked abashed, “You didn’t have to put it like that…”
“It is the naked truth, and you have my word: my race was not always like this. We were the greatest, once. We were the eldest, once. Before your young races existed in this world,” Badtooth said with a regretful voice.
“Let me tell you the story of a great people… who once challenged the gods and lost,” Badtooth said proudly, before launching into his first retelling of ancient history.
And as the Göblis started telling the story, every single passing pedestrian paused to listen, and even the leatherworker paused for a while, before noticing his tarrying and rushing off to finish his work.
“You wish to build me a body that can travel to the stars?” Talius asked in shock.
“And beyond them, but this is not an altruistic decision. It will be an agreement. A fair exchange that would serve the both of us.” Ethan explained as he glanced down at the artefact book he still kept close at hand.
“I cannot enter a binding contract as a spirit.” The soul cautioned.
Ethan snorted, “Neither can I, apparently,” He said whilst remembering his new title of [Faithbreaker] which prevented him from entering binding contracts, which was begotten as a punishment for tricking Adrian.
He spoke up again, “But that does not mean we can’t enter into a mutually assured agreement if so we wish.”
“What do you propose?” Talius asked.
“I will build you the greatest body your world will ever know, and in exchange, you help me go back home by any means necessary. After it is done, you’re free to do whatever and go wherever you want, but if you decide to stay in that body, you’ll have to promise to take care of its crew and inhabitants.”
“Inhabitants?” Talius asked in bewilderment.
“Yes, it will be something grand enough to have its own ecosystem and population. A flying city and a war-ready fortress of epic proportions,” Ethan elaborated on his idea, “but that’s in the distant future.” he cautioned to prevent the spirit from getting too excited.
The spirit still got visibly excited, but Ethan ignored that. He continued speaking after another glance at the book, “In the interim, what do you know of dungeons?”
Kothar sat and listened to a marvellous story of ages long lost to time. The Göblis spoke eloquently, and frequently stopped to explain a concept or other, or a facet of their culture that a Krell was hard-pressed to understand.
“As a people, the Göblis were proud, we had a code of honour. We had empires larger than the Polarii of today. We were advanced in mathematics, the manipulation of nature, and our knowledge of materials was unparalleled.
“We built cities of metal that spanned our entire world, we changed the world to suit us, instead of changing ourselves to adapt.
“But we had no magic. Our world and our knowledge were completely mundane. Everything we built, we built with our own hands.”
There were murmurs at this, as the crowd remembered Ethan’s story of a world without magic.
The göblis didn’t care, and raised his voice.
“Hear me, and know this! For our people travelled far and wide. We build cities under the oceans, and we lived on the moons of our planet and deep below the land.
“But then magic came to the world, and it was our downfall. Because with magic…” He paused theatrically, “…came the gods.”
“Instead of wallowing in our misery and prostrating ourselves, we fought them tooth and nail, and every time we thought we were winning, they sent more and more forces. Stronger monsters that could fight our warmachines of steel. Monsters that could use magic, and finally, another race that could think and reason. They called themselves the Honaru, and worshipped the Gods with fervour.
“The Honaru had magic, and unlike the people of this world, we had no defence against it. As you know, magic stops affecting things once it touches upon a living being, because their body’s mana stops it. Our race had no chance to [evolve] such defensive mechanisms, we had no mana to begin with.”
He paused to explain the concept of evolution to the massed people, then continued.
“And so we made a great sacrifice to capture some Honaru and study them. We found their secret. In their brain they had a small organ that helped them connect to their soul, and to channel mana from it along the [meridians] of their bodies.”
He paused and explained that too.
“Without that [gland], you are helpless against a magic user, because they can rip you apart limb from limb with but a thought.
“As I said before, my people were skilled in their manipulation of nature, we called that science [Alröba Pâlatia], and in your language, that roughly translates to ‘The Science of the Manipulation of Essences’.” There were murmurs at this, yet again, but Badtooth continued unabashed, “We originally used that knowledge to give natural creatures new traits and features, we made beasts of burden and beasts of war, but now came the time to turn our own selves into weapons, too.
“We were losing that war, and so we manipulated our own essence, we tried to give ourselves that ability by transplanting that [gland] into our own bodies, our very own makeup. We tried something not even the gods would dare attempt.
“We were proud… and we were foolish.” Badtooth looked crestfallen at this point. “That was our downfall. We won that war, and killed every Honaru there was. We defeated them with magic and technology, but we slowly… became something else.
“The gods bided their time and stopped attacking us, once they saw how strong we were, but once our people figured out the procedure of modifying themselves, we didn’t stop there. We should have stopped, but could not resist the temptation to become greater than who we were.
“We had access to magic, and we wanted more. So we added a second [gland], and a third.
“It was too much mana in our bodies, and the magic slowly corrupted us. We became abominations of flesh, magic, and steel.
“Some of us escaped that fate by rejecting the modifications, those were the wise ones, but most did not.
“The survivors slowly died out, too. Their wisdom was not enough to save them from our own folly.
“Our race slowly devolved into the goblins you see today. A pitiful remnant of what was once a great people, with no recollection of their own identity or their past.
“The gods we had originally defeated came out of hiding, and punished us by scattering our devolved remnants to the winds.
“We existed long before you came along,” he finished with sorrow.
Everyone was silent after the dreadful telling, but people slowly started to disperse. Kothar sat down and contemplated in silence as the leatherworker finally finished his job and returned with Badtooth’s new attire.
The tale spread throughout the settlement like wildfire. They had all been elated about their new devotion to science, but now there was confirmation that science was not all good, as it was purported to be.
After Ethan finished asking his questions of [Commander] Talius regarding dungeons, he tested his new spell – the one produced by his new magical compiler – with satisfactory results.
What surprised him was the notifications that appeared.
• You have created the primordial spell [Aegis of Energy Absorption] of the magical school of [Energy Manipulation]! For creating a [Unique] primordial spell by yourself and without external assistance, you have been awarded a one-time bonus to experience. [+6,000 XP (Deferred)]
• [Aegis of Energy Absorption] has reached level 1. [+100 XP]
• Your spell, [Aegis of Energy Absorption] has been archived in The Repository of Knowledge.
• For adding a powerful spell to The Repository, you have been awarded <+10 SP>.
• Feat of Magic performed. <+4 INT, +2 WIS>
• Distributing 7246 XP. (+60 deferred)
• Congratulations, you are now a level 12 [Harbinger – Science]! <+1 SP, +5 AP>
• Congratulations, you are now a level 12 [Magineer – Chaos]! <+1 SP, +5 AP>
Well, aside from The Wheel picking a name for the spell for him—which both frustrated and elated him—because he’d been looking forward to coming up with a good name. Well, he dreaded the horrible names he’d come up with, and was kind of glad The Wheel took care of it.
What this meant to him at the time, though, was that The Wheel was capable of recording, analysing, and understanding spell models, and perhaps improving them. Which was something that intrigued Ethan greatly.
He accessed his spells screen to take a look.
|Flight||9||Uncommon||28%||Manipulation||Primordial||• A prototype flight spell that Ethan designed himself.|
|Telekinesis||3||Uncommon||12%||Manipulation||Primordial||You manipulate an object's position remotely and can move and rotate them at will.|
|Alter||2||Rare||58%||Manipulation||Primordial||• A precise and delicate spell capable of performing delicate operations on masses of matter down to the smallest molecule. Originally based on the Wheel's spell model for the [Meld] skill.|
|Fireball||6||Common||41%||Fire||Runic||You fire a ball of fire at a distance to end your foes.|
|Artillery Strike||3||Uncommon||96%||Fire||Primordial||• A spell Ethan designed based on the fireball spell. Fires a ball of plasma at a great distance.|
|Energy Siphon||8||Rare||2%||Energy Manipulation||Primordial||• A spell Ethan designed to collect ambient energy and convert it to mana. Works as a shield against hostile energy as a side-effect. Energy conversion is not perfect.|
|Seed of Chaos||Legendary||Legendary||-||Nature (Chaotic)||Runic||A massive spell to grow a celestial tree. Has special casting requirements other than mana to activate.|
|Aegis of Energy Absorption||1||Unique||3%||Energy Manipulation||Primordial||You convert energy to mana around you in a field of effect. Your intent controls the radius and duration.|
|Cleanse||1||Rare||60%||Manipulation||Primordial||You repel all dust and grime from your body.|
Ethan noticed his AI’s descriptions for spells outside The Wheel’s purview, as those mentioned him and differed greatly from the typical Wheel conventions for describing spells. He asked his AI to remove anything not naturally coming through The Wheel.
This left him with [Telekinesis], [Fireball], [Seed of Chaos], [Aegis of Energy Absorption], and [Cleanse].
He wondered why some spells triggered such a message, while others did not. What were the criteria for the Wheel to recognise a spell and reward him for it, and why did it ignore things like [Flight] and [Artillery Strike]? What was The Repository of Knowledge, and what was its purpose?
He opened the skill store and decided to take a look. Then found three new skills that excited him, but also made him wonder at The Wheel’s game.
|Scribe (Active)||1 SP||Allows you to quickly and efficiently copy a schematic/scroll/document.||[Harbinger – Science, Level 3]|
|Study (Basic)||4 SP||Allows you to purchase direct knowledge on a specific subject. You will be prompted for which subject upon purchase, after which the knowledge will be transferred to your mind. Can be purchased multiple times.||[Harbinger – Science, Level 5]|
|Improve Schematic (Active)||1 SP||It takes an engineer to see through the delusions of a scientist. Practicality allows you to improve on the efficiency of an existing schematic.||[Engineer, Level 2]|
|Improved Learning (Passive)||6 SP||Allows you to comprehend new information more easily. 10% INT boost to information comprehension per level of this skill.||[Harbinger – Science, Level 11]|
|Runeforging (Active)||12 SP||The secrets to Primordial Magic allow you to create spells directly from their most basic components: the magical instruction; but casting and teaching them are much more difficult propositions. This skill allows you to convert commonly used Primordial spell subunits into well defined runes that can be taught to others. 10% boost to max rune complexity per skill level. The total number of magical instructions per rune can never exceed the value of your INT.||[Magineer – Chaos, Level 11]|
|Reverse Engineer (Active)||15 SP||Allows you to destroy any item and have a base chance of 1% at obtaining a detailed schematic of its make in exchange. This includes any enchantments and recipes for special materials. 0.1% to chance of success per skill level up to a maximum of 20%, after which the bonus per level will sharply decrease.||[Harbinger – Science, Level 11]|
Was this the carrot, then? [Improved Learning] was amazing, but it was also a trap that would integrate him with The Wheel deeper than ever. Similarly, [Runeforging] would require access to his mind to work, since he had to visualise the spell models in his head.
[Reverse Engineer] looked innocent at first, until you considered the fact of how you “obtained” said schematics. If they were sent to his mind directly, then that would deepen his integration with The Wheel as well.
This was the main reason he did not want to buy any skills, especially things like [Scribe] and [Improve Schematic], because while [Scribe] was used to copy schematic, it did not specify the source, just that it could copy them, and that source could be his mind, which would deepen his connection. He also assumed [Improve Schematic] would have access to his mind.
Lastly, he looked at his character sheet, and was surprised.
|Class (1st)||Harbinger – Science (Level 12)||Strength (STR)||18|
|Class (2nd)||Magineer – Chaos (Level 12)||Vitality (VIT)||17|
|XP (Deferred)||350 (0)||Dexterity (DEX)||24|
|AP/SP Available||10 AP / 24 SP||Agility (AGI)||24|
|Health||173/173 (+1.7/min)||Intelligence (INT)||44|
|Mana||309/358 (+4.4/min)||Wisdom (WIS)||32|
|Soul Type||Sapient||Willpower (WIL)||122|
|Station||Patriarch, Krell Tribes of Meerenva||Charisma (CHA)||15|
|Divine Lawbreaker||You have broken a Divine Law and incurred the wrath of the heavens. Beware the consequences.|
|Runebreaker||You have transcended all forms of magic and unlocked the more mystic base elements behind it. You now wield great power over the arcane. Beware lest you err!|
|Divine Slayer||You managed to do what few claimed to do throughout the history of the world: to slay a higher being and live to tell the tale!|
|Divine Artificer||You have created a divine-grade artefact. Guard it dearly, lest it falls into the hands of your enemies!|
|Friend of The Fæy||Grants you a permanent extra +10 bonus to LCK and a positive relationship boost with all creatures of the Fæy.|
|Advocate of Chaos||Your very actions instigate chaos. +5% to the effects of chaos-related skills and spells.|
|Faithbreaker||Through deliberate actions and careful planning, you broke the binding oath of a devout follower. You may not make a binding oath of your own, and any binding oaths you may have taken in the past are thusly annulled.|
That’s a lot of skill and attribute points. He thought.
He quickly dumped all the attribute points into intelligence and wisdom equally, which brought them up to 49 and 37, respectively. This brought up his total mana to 414 and his regen to 4.9 per minute.
The new title of [Faithbreaker] did not bother him much, it was… fitting. [Advocate of Chaos] was a little worrying, though, because it meant that [Chaos Reign] could go out of control even faster.
He considered opening the settlement screen, as he hadn’t done that ever since the blessing, but decided against it. He also considered checking out the leadership skills that were mentioned during his coronation, but he had seen enough screens for today. He’d deal with it later.
Now was time for something more important. He had to focus on his current goal of building a drone printing machine!
He considered what to do with 24 skill points, and ultimately decided to use 4 now, and save the rest for a rainy day. The 4 SP he decided to use would go towards [Study (Basic)], and for the second time in his life here, he purchased it.
• You spend 4 SP to purchase [Study (Basic)].
• You obtain [Study (Basic)]. You may purchase this skill again at a later date.
• What topic would you like to study?
The skill doubled in SP cost again. Ah, so that’s the way it is, a geometric progression. Ethan thought, and decided to put the skill points to good use.
He tried “Thaums” but the skill insisted it did not know what that was. Luckily it prompted him again, and Ethan felt stupid for not figuring this out earlier. Of course, The Wheel doesn’t know what a thaum is; I made that name up as a homage to Terry Pratchett. Damn it.
He was now faced with the problem of communicating with The Wheel according to its own nomenclature, which he was quite ignorant of.
Thinking hard, Ethan suddenly facepalmed as he remembered the new skill from earlier, [Runeforging], and its description.
“Magical instructions,” He enunciated.
<Incoming information packet. Would you like to accept it?>
<Packet received. Decoding…>
He had to wait for an agonising length of time.
<Decoding complete. Would you like to review the data manually or a direct memory transfer?>
Ethan grinned as he selected to review it manually.
Milandera finished preparing the food and sat down by the campfire, sulking. Adrian had quit their party earlier, and all their moods had soured greatly from there.
She looked towards Kothar’s tent before averting her eyes, and wondered what she should do. She looked deep at the embers of the campfire and thought deeply on the subject.
She would admit to liking Kothar, and loving a lot about him. She still had not forgiven him, though. When she’d heard that the Færie bitch had hugged him while naked, she got very furious and almost physically assaulted him later, if that were even possible with his new status as a [Champion].
But now, and in hindsight, she realised that he was still faithful to her, and after cooling down and thinking about it, she discovered that her spike of jealousy meant something else, too.
She loved that man to the core, she just refused to admit it.
She took her time to reflect on that, before speaking up to her companions. The ones still left, that is. Giran, and her own brother, Normand looked up as she spoke.
“I think I’m going to retire from adventuring, too.” Milandera said with newfound resolve.
Her words echoed in the silent evening. Before all hell broke loose.
Eragoth soared above the clouds in her dragon form. She spotted a dim light from a distant Polarii scouting airship and decided to rid the world of one more group of pests.
She dove down from her cloud cover and fell upon them at great speed. The Polarii [Mages] didn’t get the chance to erect a shield as they were cooked along with the rest of the crew and the wooden beams of the airship itself.
One of them was attentive and managed to shield himself in time, though. Sadly, he was now falling through the air at great speeds, as the ship carrying him was reduced to ash.
The man started falling towards the ground, and Eragoth watched with anticipation as he approached the hulking mountains below, waiting for that satisfactory sound of yielding flesh and solid bone meeting the rocky mountainside.
Just as he nearly splattered on the ground, a bubble of water rose from the nearby river and engulfed the man, saving his life. Eragoth was furious, and swooped down to see who had stolen her kill.
It was another Polarii [Mage]. He was haggard and dressed in Feywolf furs, and looked to be starving. A very odd sight, to be honest. So very odd, in fact, that it quelled her fury and gave rise to curiosity in its place.
Instead of roasting them both where they stood, Eragoth decided to investigate.
As she approached the haggard [Mage] in her full dragon form, the man started raving whilst screaming her name.
Ah, this one seemed to know her. Interesting. No one usually knew of both her form and her name and lived to tell the tale.
Then he said something about avenging [Commander] Talius, and she understood. He was one of the group that managed to escape her earlier when the [Commander] had detonated his body in their battle.
But what was he still doing here? And why was a Polarii [Mage] – one of their most well-treated castes – living like a hermit on her mountain?
She decided to capture them both, and bring them back to the prisoner cells. The shamans would get the information out of them, one way or the other.
His pitiful water spells did nothing to hinder her advance. She snatched him and the unconscious man in her talons and flew back to the settlement.
She couldn’t stop thinking about Ethan West during her trip back, that man had emerged from his tent a changed man. She tried to banish the thought like usual, but it persisted.
She wondered what Ethan would say when he emerged later to find these new prisoners. She knew he didn’t like imprisonment in general, thanks to her regrettable actions when they’d first met.
Ethan was excited beyond words.
It was a thaumic encyclopedia! One with a few thaums that Ethan hadn’t known of already, and some general knowledge about “magical instructions” and their purposes. He supposed the (Basic) part of the skill’s name meant really that, it was the absolute minimum to understand thaums.
He ordered the AI to feed the compiler all of the new thaums, and contemplated the small snippets of general information interspersed throughout the material.
Apparently, there was a thaum for every conceivable “unambiguous” action – called
Verbs by The Wheel – such as manipulating a physical constant, law, or property, and some magical ones too. What Ethan had called ‘thaumic modifiers’ like
Orderly were actually called
Verbs had their property of intensity,
Adjectives had no such thing, they were more structural in nature, and imprinted mana as it flowed through the spell model by changing the way the previous
Verb worked. To simulate the property of intensity – e.g. specify how
Orderly something was – one had to chain the same adjective in a series after the target thaum inside the spell model.
For example, and using the new spell syntax:
Target.infuse.orderly.orderly(energy) would double the amount of
Order the instructions imbued. Ethan gritted his teeth, because this meant he had to modify the compiler with new logic.
Although… it appeared that every thaum had limits on how it functioned and consumed proportional mana to perform its task, and this meant that magic in this universe ultimately honoured thermodynamics.
No infinite computing, then. Too bad. Ethan thought regrettably, while also feeling relieved for escaping that specific paradox.
The Wheel’s nomenclature and choice of names was so interesting in so many ways, though, and the subtle allusions to linguistics didn’t escape Ethan, but he was quickly distracted by what he read next.
There were vague references to something called “Potentia”, and how it was the “building blocks of reality”, there were mentions of how one could bend reality itself by commanding Potentia.
He didn’t understand most of it, but the name rung a bell. Wasn’t this lovely magical book he’d become inseparable with called “The Accords of Potentia”? Didn’t that book predict the future based on current events? What did that mean? Was this “Potentia” related to the future somehow?
He’d find out later, for sure.