With actual vision, Randidly had to blink several times to force his eyes to focus. They did so slowly, and then all at once. He grinned without humor as he stared up at the ceiling. Damnit, he would need to burn Stamina to lean up and get a view of the place, wouldn’t he?
This fucking shit prison…
It took Randidly a while to shimmy away from the flickering torch. The worst case scenario was for him to knock it over and snuff it out. Not that he couldn’t make another one or relight this one, but it certainly would make him feel like a fool to waste all of that time and Stamina.
Randidly’s initial impression was that the fire would make the room spooky, due to the emerald color. But as Randidly’s liberated eyes flicked around, he realized that there was a warm gold tint to the flames as well. It did dip everything in some amount of green, but it wasn’t an unreasonable amount. Even if it wasn’t neutral, it was definitely palatable.
When Randidly pushed himself up into a sitting position with his back in one of the divets.
The place was simple and much smaller than it seemed when Randidly was forced to drag himself around. A stone plateau above water. There were two poles and a hemp hammock between them. Randidly’s piled reeds and the couple foot across little farmland he had made. Beyond the edge, there was a hint of darkness and the sound of water.
Randidly spared a glance for his golden emerald flame. With a touch of his will, the flames exploded upward. It had perhaps eaten its way one-eighth of the way through the prepared torch already, and this vastly increased that speed. But it gave him vision of the room, which was what Randidly wanted.
Above him, Randidly saw the ceiling.
Randidly’s smile was that of a hungry wolf. They weren’t glowing, but very clearly on the ceiling and walls where Randidly could turn and look, he could see the shape of the runes that kept him imprisoned. Wasn’t this making it too easy?
After confirming that the runes were there for him to see, Randidly allowed the flame to shrink back to its normal size. It would be best to conserve the fuel as much as he could and concentrate on the tasks at hand. Who knew how long it would take to Engraving the runes he would need to take apart this fucking place.
But there was one last thing that Randidly wanted to try.
During his time in the dark, he had grown very used to projecting his inner world’s images into the blackness that was spread before him. It was the most welcoming of backdrops, taking anything that he sent out there. But now that he had light.
Randidly relaxed his eyes until his eyelids were half-closed. The trick of being a Pontiff was possessing images that were so potent that simply the image was enough to give them substance. Although they were a shadow of the Skill behind them, it did give many of the effects of the Skill. In this case…
Burn for me.
When nothing happened at first, Randidly simply further unfocused his gaze. It was like waiting for the earthquake in his Soulspace. Randidly was pushing, but it was difficult to tell when the mountain would collapse until it did. And until then-
There was light.
Randidly’s gaze instantly became razor sharp. Several thin tongues of ghost-green flame floated in the air. With a thought, they drifted softly away from Randidly. They swirled around in the air near him. Then he sent them to the end of the room or at least tried. They flickered and died some distance away from Randidly. It wasn’t like there was a limit on projecting his images, but it definitely seemed like there was a strange numbness that suffused him as he used his will farther away from himself. Like he lost the delicate feel of when he was pressing his Willpower against the world hard enough to accomplish what he wanted.
Still, the 10-meter area that Randidly had with his little ghost flames was more than enough. Once he had the knack of it, Randidly simply produced enough that the whole place was illuminated by dozens of thin green flames.
The thought of the jailers bursting in at the moment was somewhat amusing; would they think him haunted, or perhaps performing a seance? Did they have seances in Tellus…?
Shaking his head, Randidly got back to business. If using Skills as images was this doable at scale, even if not at power, there was something else he had an inkling to try. For this, Randidly closed his eyes and let his little flames wink out. Due to how difficult he expected this image to be, he couldn’t afford to be distracted. Besides, he didn’t want to be forced to try again with no distractions if he failed while maintaining the tiny flames.
Randidly breathed smoothly in and then back out. His lungs expanded and then contracted. Air, even though he didn’t truly need the oxygen, still had a calming effect for Randidly.
In his mind, he pictured the small expanse of ground in front of him. Although, what he truly did wasn’t picturing it. After all, before the torch had been created, Randidly hadn’t seen the ground. But he knew this patch of ground. He had dragged himself across it dozens of times. He knew the spots to shift grip to save Stamina. He knew the smooth texture of the stone. He knew the curve of the incline.
With hundreds of these tiny tactile details, Randidly built up his simulation in his mind. He drew the ground until he could feel it with his body. His Perception consumed itself feeling out this fraction of his prison. But he needed to be sure.
He needed it perfect.
Only after several once-overs without any revisions to the feel did Randidly consider himself satisfied. Then he slowly reached inside himself. He felt his body and the way he was sitting above the ground. With much less care than the ground, Randidly added himself to the image. What was important wasn’t really his features, but what he was. He added the bindings to the imagined him. He added the Health, the Stamina, the Mana, and the Aether.
Then, like a seamstress guiding a thread, Randidly pulled a tiny bit of imagined Mana out of himself. And into that Mana Randidly injected the terrible, frigid cold he had earned in the Hall of Stances. The Mana was heavy and substantial, aided by that cold.
And then Randidly began to engrave. During the image engraving, he took his time. Although there was the looming threat of the wardens returning, Randidly lost himself in the simplicity of the image. Truly, he had built himself an immaculately crafted imagined home. It was possible to lose himself here.
Of course, this was his mind. So although he felt like he spent quite a long amount of time here…
Randidly opened his eyes. His torch only had about one-third of itself left to burn. His Skill informed Randidly that it had taken him nineteen minutes to finish that image. And in front of him, lightly glowing from the Mana fueling it, was a thin and pale rune.
It was a small thing. Even with Randidly’s Engraving in here, bound by the runes, he generally achieved a rune ten time as powerful as this one. But, that took much, much longer and during the making of such a rune, he would experience much more discomfort. Aside from the obvious pride bruising that Randidly had endured while he was here, he physically had to drag his body around like a sack.
It might be one-tenth of the power, but it would be enough to weaken the runes by interfering with them. And perhaps the weakening was better. That way, Randidly could weaken the bonds on him and make further preparations without alerting those who had trapped him. He didn’t want to walk out to find a trap that was laid by a Propagator.
Randidly pressed on the torch and the emerald fire flickered up. The whole cave was illuminated. It would burn through the remaining torch quickly, but Randidly also felt the stimulating effect of the Ignition of the Emerald Essence. Most of the steam he was building up was due to that fire’s influence, and Randidly wanted to cash in on that power.
This time Randidly glanced around and memorized the runes he would hopefully unmake. Then he breathed in and closed his eyes. On a much larger scale, Randidly once more constructed his prison.
Every divet and scratch.
Every handhold and moment of his nose awkwardly pressed into the ground.
Every day of worry and helplessness
Every slow and jerky action to gather the pebbles.
Every grim triumph crushing them into powder.
Every second waiting for the plants to grow.
Every tremble of his hands as he felt his wonderful plants.
Every break as he assembled the torch.
Every image that haunted him here.
Then Randidly began to engrave.