On the 10th day of Redstone of the year 3078, the [Harbinger] of Science emerged from his voluntary week of isolation with a veritable army of flying machines the likes of which the world had never seen. It humbled our own efforts, truly, for it took my companions—one of which is a professed Gnome [Artificer] and [Alchemist], and the other an expert Cerwish [Enchanter]—seven long days and nights to create a single functioning golem.
What had Ethan West wrought in this time, you ask? He had built a single golem-like machine, too, one which he called a drone queen.
I’m sure the brilliant wordplay has not escaped you, dear reader. For the drone queen had one sole purpose: the creation of more of its kind with varying designs.
I am also quite sure that the dangerous ramifications of a magical creation that can reproduce—no matter the means—have not escaped you either, dear reader, and when confronted about the dangers of such creations, Ethan West had responded with a single syllable whilst looking completely unperturbed: "So?"
“It could cause all kinds of trouble!” we exclaimed, and he responded with a terse statement.
Note that the word [okay] had to be a strange colloquialism from his mysterious world of origin that we took to mean “It will be fine,” since he said it to assure us.
Later, when we recovered from our shock at his nonchalance. We all confronted him about the dangers of such creations, and how the naturally occurring undead Revenants of today had been magical experiments gone wrong in the past; but he shocked us yet again by revealing something astonishing: no souls had been used in the creation of these machines,and that meant that his so-called drones could never gain experience, level up, or ascend like some other magical creations. Furthermore, his machines would no longer work outside of a certain range of their queens.
Although he’d assured us that the queens could not function without his direction, his words also meant that there would be more queens, because he said it in the plural. I dread to think what will happen in the future. We tried to convince him otherwise, but the stubborn man was adamant that nothing was going to go amiss.
Had he known that the Fæon was appearing in four days? I think you know, dear reader, what could happen with that in the sky?
As we watched, the swarm of machinery lurched at the [Harbinger’s] bidding, and spread outwards towards the edges of the volcanic crater with an unknowable purpose.
— Felwar Ironvine, Dwarf [Historian] and [Arcane Smith]
Morning, Day 7 AoE
Kothar carefully observed as Ethan’s army of machines spread all over the settlement and rapidly began digging into rock. Some of the machines burrowed into the ground and left holes that others quickly patched up with a strange liquid material that solidified in seconds into smooth patches of seamless grey colour, devoid of any features or texture.
This was the epitome of Science, and Kothar was both elated and afraid. His talk with the Göblis earlier had unsettled him greatly.
Just then, Ethan left the group of Memeta’s Chosen, and came over to pat Kothar on the shoulder, “That should do it.”
His features were gaunt, as if he had not slept the entire week inside his workshop. His lips were chapped, his eyes sunken, and he looked pale in comparison to his usually hale look. He almost seemed like the starved, dehydrated survivor of a drought in a desert.
Wordless, Kothar handed him a wineskin and a chunk of Warga jerky to chew on while simultaneously giving the orders to prepare him a meal.
Ethan looked between the wineskin and the jerky longingly, unable to decide.
“Drink first!” Kothar admonished.
Ethan shrugged and lifted the skin to his lips, then he took a full gulp and spat it out while sputtering like a madman, “What the fuck is this shit, Propanol?”
Kothar couldn’t keep his stoic expression and burst out in laughter, “It’s Firetongue Whiskey,” he wheezed, “we make this from Cornifu grains and Firelizard gallbladders.”
Ethan looked sick, and Kothar took pity on him. He took out another skin, a waterskin this time, and handed it over, although he regretted that kindness and swore when Ethan spilt the fine Firetongue all over the ground before handing him the empty wineskin back.
Ethan scented the new waterskin carefully, before gulping it down like a man possessed. He handed it back to Kothar and started chewing on the rough jerky.
“Didn’t they deliver you food and water every day as I instructed?” Kothar was puzzled at Ethan’s current situation.
“They did, but the food went bad and I didn’t notice.”
Kothar sighed, “At least you finished your… project?” He pointed at the roving machines, and asked another question, “What exactly are these?”
“These,” Ethan said between bites, “are our salvation.”
“What did you do?”
“I built the core of a construction fleet.”
“A fleet? As in a fleet of ships?” Kothar’s eyes widened.
Ethan gulped down another bite, “Not that kind of fleet, yet. But I suppose they could be used to build such a fleet too!”
Kothar scoffed at this, till he saw the machines building a new workshop adjacent to the one Ethan had built himself. It was grander and bigger in size, and had what appeared to be an open ceiling.
“Won’t the snow and rain get inside and ruin your work?” Kothar asked in curiosity.
“Wait and you’ll see.”
The new workshop-like building was made of a new material Kothar had never seen, and in mere moments, the burrowers returned with new materials from deep within the earth, deposited them, then burrowed yet again. The same process from earlier repeated, with their brethren closing any holes they made in the ground.
The machines then pounced on the new materials, Kothar saw one digest chunks of quartz-like material and spew out sludge that quickly solidified into a clear pane of glass, which was then carried by another machine, and that machine took it to install it at the top of the new building with strange precision.
“A transparent roof?” That was a novel idea, but Kothar doubted the sturdiness of the material, “Won’t it break with the first stone a child throws up there?”
“That was laminated glass reinforced by a nanocarbon mesh, plastic, and magicite. It will hold against a siege. A magical siege if it has to.”
Kothar gave the material a critical eye, Ethan saw his curiosity and a drone scuttled closer with a piece of glass. The drone handed the glass to a wary Kothar.
He inspected it, tried to bite it, took out his dagger and tried to scratch it, and when nothing failed to touch it, he used a skill on it.
It still did not break, and Kothar’s mind raced with the possibilities. Was this conducive to magic? Could a shaman stand behind it and cast at their enemies?
“I don’t believe that’d work, sadly.” Ethan said, and Kothar started as for a moment as he thought Ethan was reading his mind, but then realised he had been mumbling those questions aloud all along.
“Why would it not?” Kothar questioned.
“Because it has a material similar to plastic that blocks the raw mana of spells. Otherwise, an enemy could cast a spell right through it and hit those behind it with ease,” Ethan paused before gulping down a bite and speaking again, “Imagine an enemy targeting the ground behind it and making it turn into molten rock, not a good outcome.”
Kothar’s dreams of mobile glass bunkers were immediately shattered, but then a thought hit him, “What if you make it into a glass ball that people could climb into?”
Ethan paused mid-chew… and frowned, then his eyes lit up with the gleam of a new idea, before they turned back to their previous expression, not exactly placid as they used to be before his ordeal, but more like the piercing expression of someone very determined.
“That won’t work either, because the air inside the bubble would still be susceptible,” Ethan spoke and crushed any hope of Kothar’s, but then Ethan continued, “but let me think about it.”
Food forgotten, he then started mumbling something about “blocking [conduit] particles” from entering the bubble of glass and moved back towards his workshop, but Kothar caught him.
“Not today, today you’re going to bathe. You stink like a Wulra’s fur after rain.”
“What? But I used [Cleanse] constantly.”
“It does nothing against this smell.”
Ethan sighed, and reluctantly followed him to the springs in surrender.
Kluraz Mandas, [Aeromancer], sat brooding in his cage, and the talkative man he’d been saved by would not shut up.
After getting captured by the dragon woman—according to his saviour—he’d been unceremoniously deposited in a cage and force-fed a vile, pink potion every morning, it blocked his mana regeneration completely.
It had been three days since his capture, and the other captive would not shut up. His name was Jarret Lytell, the third heir to the respected Lytell line, yet… he was a deranged [Hydromancer] and [Myxofer], or put in simpler terms: a [Slime Mage].
While the former was passable, the latter was not. Useless.
What was a slime mage doing on a reconnaissance mission this far into Krell territory, anyway? How and why had he managed to save Kluraz from certain death?
Worse, the man’s ceaseless blabbering did not even engulf such matters. He simply spoke of very old gossip amongst the nobility, and how his family’s orchards in the distant south were blooming with business deep in Polarii continent, now that summer was starting down there and fall was ending here in the north.
Kluraz scoffed at the mention of the ‘Polarii continent’. It was the right term, politically speaking, but in three days here he’d seen that the status quo was most likely going to change soon.
The Krell were undergoing a massive change. At least that’s what Kluraz felt, and today… Well, today had changed everything.
A fleet of golem-like machines had emerged from somewhere, and rapidly started fortifying the place and digging into the sides of the volcanic crater with abandon. They dug into the mountainside and came out with precisely cut, solid blocks of stone, along with any other bounties they found.
Kluraz was looking at one nervously now. It had swept the vines covering the volcano’s sides aside and dug into the rock nearby, somewhere behind his cage. He’d been hearing the sounds of chomping as it tore the rock apart and… digested it? He guessed.
Now it had emerged and neatly deposited a large block of smooth stone next to a pile that had accumulated over the past hours of its labour. It paused and stood still in direct sunlight, and Kluraz wished he could understand what it was doing as it activated some sort of enchantment that released a dim spherical field around it.
It remained stock still for a few moments, and Kluraz understood. It was collecting the natural energy of light somehow. Slowly, its dim and triangular eyes got brighter, and finally glowed with a brilliant blue light that unnerved him greatly.
The machine then returned back to the hole it had dug, and dove in with mechanical precision.
It was breathtaking, and worst of all, Jarret Lytell resumed speaking of orchards and apples as if nothing had just happened.
At that moment, Kluraz prayed for help. He did not want to spend one more moment in this cage next to that man.
And to his surprise and shock, there was a response.
Morning, Day 9 AoE
Three days have passed, and on the 13th day of Redstone of the year 3078, the soulless drones made by the [Harbinger] of Science finished their first construction project: building more of themselves whilst simultaneously digging deeper into the mountainside.
It appears that it’s really happening, dear reader. That man is aiming to build an empire, or a kingdom, or something even more sinister, I personally think—
“What da feck are ye doin’? Ye pot-bellied cunt?” Felwar bellowed as he paused writing mid-sentence, a rare occasion.
A drone queen was carefully inspecting the flexibronze golem they had built. It was touching it with a golden manipulator. Unlike the drones, which were a shiny black, the queens were larger and had a golden carapace that shone and shimmered as they flew around.
Felwar had been sitting quietly and writing until he heard the buzz and saw it descend to inspect the golem carefully.
“The feck ye doin’? Get away from it!” He ordered, and the queen ignored him and extended its gigantic mandibles towards the golem’s arms.
It was about to bite down and eat a piece of flexibronze from the inert golem’s arm, and Felwar felt his vision turning red with rage. He took out his hammer and the new flexibronze whip he’d personally created, and charged at it.
He was about to unleash his rage, before something completely stunned him out of his mind and halted his advance midstep.
“STOP!” A tinny voice commanded from deep within the queen.
“Ethan… West?” Felwar looked around as he recognised the voice, but saw him standing nowhere near.
“Yes, but I’m not personally here,” the voice paused and the drone queen gestured with its antennae, “I’m watching through the queen’s eyes, though.”
“So you can really control them? They obey you completely?” Felwar asked in shock.
“Yes, they are like an extension of myself… and also… you can talk normally?” The drone controller wriggled its antennae at him as it channelled Ethan’s tinny voice.
Felwar smacked his forehead. He’d forgotten all about appearances and slipped into normal speech from the unexpected surprise.
“Non’er yer’ damn business!” Felwar challenged.
The tinny laugh that met him was enough to make him see red yet again, but Ethan West relented before his berserking blood got going for the second time in a row.
“Also,” Ethan said after he recovered, “I don’t think you understood what the queen was about to do,” he pointed out, “it was going to test the material for electric conductivity, not bite your precious golem.”
“Ye test o’ this,” Felwar said before pulling out a spare flexibronze ingot from his satchel.
“Thanks!” the queen hopped over and snatched the ingot from his outstretched hand, and Felwar was feeling leery. He edged away as it put the flexibronze between its mandibles and electricity arced between them. The ingot seemed to heat up with the charge, but Ethan did not stop. More and more electricity arced between the mandibles, and the ingot started heating up like a small sun as the queen flew away from Felwar for safety’s sake, until finally, the ingot exploded into a massive cloud of molten droplets that were quickly sucked into its waiting maw.
“Yer’ gonna pay fer that flexibronze!” Felwar announced at the back of the departing queen, and it circled around and came back, before ejecting a different ingot at his feet, “Is this fair compensation?”
The dwarf looked down and inspected the ingot at his feet. It was made of solid gold. He began to sputter but the queen had already flown away.
He looked around carefully, then scooped the golden ingot into his satchel, after biting it of course. Then once more, he brought out his ink and quill, and began writing furiously into his journal.
Glory in the battlefield. It was a Polarii’s most sought-after goal in life, truly.
But Kluraz Mandas had never considered it to be one of his goals. For his entire life, he’d simply preferred to study in the quiet of his personal library, and achieve his dream of flight.
Now, though. His god’s whispers had ignited something new in him. A God’s promise, and a great boon, awaiting those who devoutly followed Denvar on the path of glory and might. Kluraz felt his magical strength renewed, it streamed and entered his body, as the effects of the vile Krell potion of magical suppression quietly dissipated.
Instantly, he managed to free himself from captivity with a simple [Wind Manipulation] spell. He silently cut through the steel bars of his cage and quickly displaced them with a kick.
Jarret Lytell—the other Polarii captive—was thankfully asleep, after ceaselessly talking himself for hours on end, and even this noise had not shaken the man awake.
Kluraz snuck away and hid until nightfall.
Kothar had decreed that Ethan would not work in his workshop today, and Ethan obliged, in a way.
Ethan sat down as the night dawned, and pretended to listen to the tribal music that was being played, as he controlled his drone queens remotely.
Deceitful? Perhaps, but it was Ethan’s way of mollifying his friend.
Three days had passed since his emergence from his workshop, and now the drones numbered in the four hundred, split amongst eight queens, seven of which were brand new. But that’s how geometric progression—specifically the power of two—worked. You started with one queen, which made another, and now you had two queens, those would make their own number, and become four, then eight.
It was like playing one of those exponential clicker games made for filthy casuals.
Every day, every queen would make a new queen, then focus on making some drones. The minion drones would work according to their programs, some harvesting resources from all around the mineral-rich mountains, some going deep into the crust of the earth to harvest materials, and some constructing what Ethan envisioned for the settlement itself. Even now, some were actively coordinating and laying down the pipe network for plumbing and water circulation.
Best of all, Ethan did not have to manage most of it, the AI took care of communicating with the drone queens via a primitive communications relay he’d installed in the old workshop. Magic comms were a thing now.
He’d discovered the “Send” and “Receive” thaums in the data packet, and these were apparently used in basic [Message] spells of all kinds to telepathically send and receive information over great distances, at a prohibitive cost only available to politicians and the such. Or so he’d learnt from Milandera as they sat and chatted over a meal last night with Kothar.
Ethan wanted to network all the drones—and not just the queens—to use this method instead of the basic radio comms they now used, whilst keeping the radio comms as a backup in case an issue arose.
This was the core of his plan now, to always have a technological backup in case of–
“What are you humming?” Kothar asked Ethan, who realised the music had stopped and he was humming a song into the silence.
“Oh, it’s just an old song from my world. Your music reminded me of it.”
“What is it called?”
“Ugh… you wouldn’t like metal anyway.” Ethan paused, “Although… you’d probably like this song specifically,” he shrugged.
“Metal? What has metal got to do with music?”
Ethan sighed, then he had a devilish idea and smiled evilly as he remembered an encounter from earlier.
“Wait and see.”
Shortly thereafter, three drone queens appeared in the night sky, shimmering gold, as Ethan took them out of standby and had them hover over the central bonfire at a distance.
“What are your machines doing?” Milandera looked up from the campfire with trepidation.
“Well, do you have performers in your world? Bards and singers?” Ethan asked.
“Yes, we do.”
“Then behold! Those three are our bards for tonight!” Ethan stood and gestured at the three flying machines.
Everyone scoffed at this, but he followed with a warning, “Beware that this will sound much different from any music you have ever heard, and the sound quality won’t be great either.”
Nobody understood what he meant, till the sound of electric guitars started reverberating across the volcano, and the song started playing.
“This… is metal music,” Ethan’s voice sounded over the guitar chords, amplified to stand out and be heard, “What you hear now is an instrument called an [electric guitar].”
“This is old music from my world, please don’t panic when they start singing. They are not with us, this was recorded in my world during a time long past.”
Everyone listened attentively as Ethan sat back down, some were looking around, bewildered, whilst others seemed enthralled by the electric sounds of the guitars.
The powerful voice of the singer began singing the lyrics.
“Fairest place upon this earth,
Ours and all descendants right of birth,
All we have of native soil,
Owed to tears and sweat of forebears toil,
Legends should recall their,
Iron will. Warrior skill,
And how far away they fought,
Set us free. Destiny,
For the blood of heroes bought,
Iron will. Warrior skill,
And how far away they fell,
Set us free. Destiny,
For tonight we dine in hell,
He fell alone,
And his name was carved upon a stone,
Fire bade him last farewell,
Wouldn't mind my name up there as well,
Legends might recall my,
Iron will. Warrior skill,
And how far away I fought,
Set us free. Destiny,
For the blood of heroes bought,
Iron will. Warrior skill,
And how far away they fell,
Set us free. Destiny,
For tonight we dine in hell,”
Ethan looked around and saw some of them bobbing their heads in true metalhead fashion, it seemed some habits transcended worlds. People were rushing from all over the distant campfires to sit closer and listen to the music, which apparently resonated with the Krell spirit in a way Ethan had anticipated.
“Legends should recall their,
Iron will. Warrior skill,
And how far away they fought,
Set us free. Destiny–”
Ethan was lost in the song, and when it abruptly ended, he did not notice because he was listening at a much higher quality in his head with his eyes closed.
Just then, the drones fell out of the sky like puppets with their strings cut. The music stopped and was replaced by screaming, and a loud explosion sounded. Alarms blared in Ethan’s mind, and it shook him out of his reverie.
Everyone ran towards the explosion to investigate, and in the stunned silence that followed, Ethan discovered that his old workshop had just evaporated into nothingness by a single, massive strike of lightning.
His new workshop, adjacent to the old one had survived the ordeal, but Ethan’s anger flared all the same.
He would get to the bottom of this, and whoever was responsible would dearly pay.
Adrian saw the gigantic bolt of lightning descend, and heard the explosion followed by horns blaring in the distance.
He interrupted his rigorous training immediately, he’d been out here training like a madman for almost an entire week, he rushed all the way back to see what had transpired. He hoped nothing bad had happened to his companions. Instinctually, he wanted to pray for their safety—especially Giran’s—but to whom? He was an apostate now.
The landscape blurred as Adrian activated his [Rapid March] skill. It was supposed to be used on an entire battalion of soldiers to speed up their march greatly for a limited time, but he was a [General] with no army. The entire bonus applied to him and him alone instead of being divided by an entire force of men, and he simply disappeared from his position as he rushed all the way back.
For the first time in ages, his heart settled around him like a shroud, and he felt a tangible air of confidence surround him. An unmistakable and unshakeable surety that he could face anything in his way, come what may.
To protect his friends. Even if they hated him now for quitting their party, he still considered them his family.
Adrian crossed the landscape and the traitorous mountain passes at great speed, dodging trees, pits, traps, and rocks with unparalleled precision. The militaristic part of him envied the Krell for their entrenched and defensible position, but that same part told him that anything striking at the heart of their settlement like this was not to be taken lightly, in light of that exact reason.
Was it a Polarii attack? Was it the disciples of Order? Or some other enemy he was not aware of? This Ethan West seemed to be making enemies with seemingly practised regularity. It was as if he was a lodestone attracting trouble, from the stories Adrian had heard, that is.
Adrian arrived to find the settlement gates barred. He pointed to the guards inside, and they refused to let him in.
“Let me in.” He commanded.
“No, nobody is to be let inside or out.” The guard said simply.
“What are you saying, soldier?” Adrian frowned.
“The settlement is on lockdown until further notice.” The woman said and crossed her arms over her chest.
“I see,” Adrian did not want to do this, but he thought he had to, “[Fall In!].”
His skill activated, and the woman and the other guards shifted on their feet and formed into a line. Adrian glared at them with his arms crossed. The air of command radiating off his body in waves. “Open that gate, soldier.”
The gate swung open and Adrian marched inside. It quickly closed behind him. He wondered why his skill had worked on the soldiers here, since they weren’t under his command, but didn’t dwell on it as he saw the smoke coming from the site of the explosion.
He hurried all the way there, and found nobody around, except a few Krell who were searching for something throughout the scattered debris.
“Have you seen Giran?” He asked them, and they looked at them queerly. Ah, they would not know her personally, “Was anyone injured here?”
They nodded and resumed working.
“Where are the injured?” Adrian injected some of his willpower into the words.
That caught their attention, and they pointed towards a newly erected building, “There, they are being healed, and the patriarch holds a council of war.” they volunteered that last bit and Adrian was grateful for the information.
Adrian strolled towards the building in a hurry, if his companions had been hurt, he would not hesitate in retaliating against whoever did this, but first, he needed to know what was going on.
And Ethan West most likely had that information.
Kluraz Mandas had felt the power surging through him, his heart had started beating louder than ever. At that moment, he had felt the divine energy from a blessing from Denvar coursing through his body.
A notification from The Wheel had told him that he had been appointed a First Emissary by Denvar, an unprecedented event in Polarii history.
Unable to contain his mounting excitement, and with all that energy coursing through his body, he had unleashed a legendary spell. A pillar of lightning had landed to vaporise two important-looking buildings in the midst of the settlement under the cover of the night, and Kluraz rushed away in haste after he had silently cast it. He had known what would happen when this spell landed.
Shockingly, one of the building had survived unscathed, and Kluraz wondered how that happened, even now as he combed through the settlement, looking for a specific person.
His god never forgave, and never forgot.
Denvar’s decree, after his vengeful act of destroying the two buildings as instructed, had been to find a certain apostate who lived in this settlement, a [Priestess] of Science, apparently. Kluraz was to drag her back to the High Temple of Denvar at all costs, preferably alive, but if it weren’t possible, dead would work too.
Only, he’d been instructed towards crystals of Black Magicite to use and capture her soul if he failed to bring her back alive. Kluraz had wondered at the forbidden knowledge instilled in him by his own god, but then again, he was on a divine mission. He would never question the will of his god.
Additionally, he had to bring back the soul of a [Harbinger], and he assumed that this task would be more difficult to execute. [Harbingers] were legendary entities, as was known from the history books that survived to this day. Morak Maun, the [Harbinger] of Strength and First Emperor, had single-handedly given rise to the Polarii Empire almost three thousand years ago.
It was ancient history, but Kluraz could not dismiss the thought. [Harbingers] were dangerous, usually the embodiment of their very own aspect, as they gave rise to it through personal belief alone.
Such people were not to be taken lightly.
He’d also been warned about the presence of a [Champion] here, and Kluraz shuddered thinking about that. He had to avoid that [Champion] at all costs.
Thankfully, his god was helping him today, because he spotted the slender horns unique to Polarii females heading towards the site of the explosion.
He’d never worked as an assassin, but for his god’s favour, he’d do anything. His new secondary class—his god’s new boon—would help him today.
Aylin Merza hurried through the crowds heading towards the site of the explosion, she knew it was Ethan’s workshop that had exploded, somehow.
She wondered what that foolish human had done now… was it an experiment gone awry? It wasn’t farfetched.
She turned a corner and was beset upon by a massive, hulking Polarii. His clothes had been shredded by something. Instant growth of muscle mass? What was another Polarii doing here? Was he part of the Church of Denvar sent after her? Already? How had he crossed all that distance—a distance spanning almost an entire continent—in weeks?
She quickly dodged back, and with a single touch, she activated her invisibility amulet.
The behemoth looked confused. Then, failing to find her, cast a spell of air that made the air turn thick and viscous like heavy molasses.
It was unfair, brutes normally couldn’t cast spells or use magic in any way, it was a big restriction of The Wheel, but not this one, apparently. It only reinforced her impression that this was an agent of Denvar’s.
Aylin struggled to move, and the hulking brute grinned as he noticed her position from the air rippling around her as it resisted her movements. She swore and turned still, but it was too late.
She tried to pray for deliverance, but found she couldn’t take a single breath of the thick air to utter a single word or even scream for help, and shortly thereafter, the hulking behemoth advanced towards his helpless victim with an evil smirk.