Randidly who-might-just-be the Grim Chimera spent two days in quiet meditation as he got used to his current surroundings. Even though he could manage the strange visuals of this place, he still had a lot of investigations to do in regards to his own status and capabilities. This place was a warzone; one of the most dangerous mistakes he could make was to forget that.
What is within, without. What is without, within. If I don’t even understand my self… it will be that much more difficult to survive here.
So Randidly approached the problem of what he could do very seriously. For now, he decided that it was for the best if he set aside the question of what exactly he was. He also would have liked to speak with the incarnation of Yggdrasil and Ignition of the Emerald Essence, but both immediately collapsed into a deep sleep upon arriving in their assigned tent. Randidly also had a secret fear that they would soon wake up and transform into versions of Randidly, thereby proving that the current Randidly was nothing but the Grim Chimera wearing Randidly’s face.
Following this line of thought, Randidly tried to image his own face made of the bark on Yggdrasil’s trunk. Then he tried to picture his face floating above an emerald flame. Certainly… a bit more off-putting than intimidating. But until the images woke up, those issues would need to wait.
Therefore, Randidly was on his own for now.
What he discovered in his experiments was that while he couldn’t access his Soulspace, he could still train all of the Grim Chimera specific Skills. Rather than having any sort of ability to detect Aether of directly examine his Soulspace, Randidly seemed to have returned to the days of earning a rather bland notification when he had gathered enough experience for his Skills to grow. Randidly shook his head the first time it happened.
Congratulations! Your Skill Reaper’s Mantle of Catastrophe has grown to Level 93!
Clicking his tongue, Randidly closed his eyes and continued to get a feel for the way that the Grim Chimera Skills flowed through his body. Because they certainly felt natural in a way that they hadn’t previously. Which made a certain amount of sense; this body was constructed to use the Grim Chimera’s Skills. All the movements and energy expressions that Randidly had to painstaking learn in his human body were completely natural to this body.
In addition to checking in on his capabilities mentally, Randidly also wanted to spend some time actually getting used to the movements of this body. His mind responded instinctively when he wished for a certain movement, but that didn’t change the fact that a lot of the actual mechanics of this body were different. It was mostly human, but the joints of Randidly’s new knees were revered so that they bent backward.
In addition, one of his arms was an oversized claw and the other was simply a bone spear covered in dried blood.
It shouldn’t be a problem to fight, but Randidly would rather not discover that he was wrong while he was standing in front of a monster of the Nether.
The real reason that Randidly hadn’t gone out to get a feel for the body yet was that even with Randidly’s now limited senses, he was quite sure that practically none of the surrounding spirits that he had sensed within the nearby tents had moved since Zagnal had led them here. The aisles between the tents had remained completely clear; none of the other spirits had seen any reason to wander out of their temporary resting places.
Rather than a camp for mustering an army, this place seemed more like a graveyard done in grey canvas.
In addition, Randidly was mindful of the fact that if not for whatever process had brought Randidly conscious in the Grim Chimera, he would likely be as completely insensible as both Yggdrasil and Ignition Essence currently were in the wake of being torn away from his body. Randidly didn’t believe that they would investigate the image too closely now that his real body was isolated in that chamber, but that didn’t mean he was willing to take that risk of alerting them to the fact something wasn’t going as it should.
The System really seemed determined to fuck Heretics over. Randidly sudden felt like it might be the most desirable option to simply serve out his sentence peacefully and leave without the System noticing the change in his images.
Assuming, of course, that the System truly planned on honoring the time limit of the punishment. Which, because Randidly was considered to be ignorant of the actual reason for his presence, hadn’t been given to him.
Honestly, the situation doesn’t look good.
Without Randidly even being able to witness how they had accomplished it, Randidly already had a deep respect for their ability to shape Aether. He couldn’t even imagine what sort of Aether constructs would be used to extract and manifest images like this. Without being given a chance to examine the relevant Aether constructs, Randidly probably wouldn’t be able to figure it out on his own even if he had one hundred years.
And really, it was exactly Aether Detection that Randidly sorely missed as he sat in his small tent and focused on exploring his current capabilities. All that information that he obtained by using Aether Detection was now suddenly gone. He felt incredibly limited.
Still, there was a silver lining to the fact he had been torn from his body and didn’t have access to most of his Skills; this body wasn’t completely numb to Aether.
Perhaps it was because the Grim Chimera was such a creature of paranoia and survival, but its body had an instinctive sense of the presence of Aether in the surrounding area. Not anything specific, but it was certainly useful. It felt somewhat similar to the ambient heat that radiated outward from an open flame. So while Randidly couldn’t figure out what sort of Aether hijinks were occurring, he did eventually discover that the tent itself in which they were currently located was heavily covered in Aether constructs.
If he sat near to the edges of the tent for too long, a strange anxiety began to creep into his heart. Which reinforced his unwillingness to attempt to leave the tent when he could sense no others doing so.
So he continued to meditate while sitting in the exact middle of the tent. And likely would have done so until he was called to the front lines by Zagnal, if he hadn’t been rather suddenly struck with wariness on the third morning. Cotton and fuzz seemed to press down over Randidly from every direction. Such was the intensity of the sleepiness that Randidly could only grit his teeth and then slump to the side.
Did I reveal myself somehow? Was the Aether in the tent some sort of observation based construct? All the things that Randidly didn’t know became prickly balls of frustration in his chest as sleep swept him away.
Yet there was nothing he could do; he was currently only in the body of an image.
Yet strangely, after Randidly felt sleep devour his body, his mind remained completely clear. He sank into blackness and then through a layer of clouds. Then he drifted slowly downward until his bare feet pressed against the ground. Even more surprising was the fact that he found himself in a very familiar situation. He stood alone on the small manmade dueling platform that had previously sat in the middle of Donnyton’s quarry.
In front of him were the stands, completely devoid of people. Shivering, Randidly blinked rapidly faced with such a strange an ominously empty sight.
Randidly slowly spun on his heel. The blue water that filled the quarry was impossibly clear and tranquil without even a hint of a ripple. It was more aqua mirror than water. The cliffs and low hills in the surrounding area were clear and faithfully reproduced from Randidly’s memory, but anything beyond about a mile away was covered in a thick blanket of fog. It was like this small snapshot of a location had been clipped away from the world and isolated here. And somehow, Randidly’s sudden sleep had dragged him to this place.
Randidly supposed that it was the least of his worries that this whole area had collapsed to become a sinkhole. Could this be some sort of mental attack? Truly, my feelings about what happened in the Donnyton’s Challenge are complex…
Then Randidly’s expression abruptly brightened. But this does mean I get another chance at this. And this time, I won’t be nearly as gentle with the lessons I teach them...
The air here was also completely still. But Randidly didn’t have to wait long before a change arrived. Slowly, figures began to walk out of the surrounding fog. They had no true faces, but Randidly could immediately sense they were not here for a surprise birthday party. They were beings of shadow and violence. Even before they approached, Randidly had the strangest sense that he could predict how these beings would move. And that sudden certainty that emerged in his heart gave them pause.
As these figures drifted closer from every direction, some simply hopped off the cliff and splashed into the quarry. Within a second, the ripples on the surface of the water were gone. But they swam silently through the depths of the quarry, continuing to approach. Others were on the low slopes that connected to the stone bridge to the dueling platform, so they marched and waded forward toward Randidly.
When the first batch began to climb up onto the dueling platform, Randidly felt the first hints of Aether wafting off of them. His eyes narrowed and flashed with emerald fire.
Whatever this army was, it clearly was not sent by a friendly force. Even though this appeared to be some sort of mental Skill or dream, Randidly still possessed the body of the Grim Chimera. Therefore he settled into a low pounce and prepared to lash out at the nearing shadow beings. The first bubblings of excitement trickled up from his pounding heart.
But as the feeling of Aether around him grew stronger, Randidly realized that he recognized that Aether: it was from his new Skill, Reign of the Eidolon Crucible. Most of the gleeful bubbles of anticipation that Randidly felt toward the fight were completely obliterated by a shocked sort of indignation.
“...you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Randidly spat out as his brain whirred into action. If his senses weren’t deceiving him, this wasn’t some terrible test arranged by that man with a salt-and-pepper beard or some sort of unexpected attack launched by the Nether against the beings of Aether.
No, it seemed this was one of the promised periodic image trials that Randidly had to endure due to his Skill. And based on the density of Aether that the instincts of the Grim Chimera were picking up in the surrounding air, he was bearing all of the weight of the trial even though Randidly currently only possessed the Grim Chimera’s image.
“I JUST fucking earned this Skill… and already I’ve getting screwed over by it…?” A disbelieving laugh escaped Randidly’s lips. He wanted to flex his fingers and painfully squeeze a spear shaft, but Randidly settled for whipping his right arm sideways and leaving a deep gouge in the ground.
But hopefully that means that Yggdrasil and Ignition Essence will be spared this trial. Randidly’s eyes narrowed into slits as he let out a guttural growl that echoed menacingly throughout the quarry. Considering their current condition… I would rather give them more of a chance to rest.
Besides… if that is all this is… Randidly slowly raised his left hand and flexed his wickedly sharp talons. This will be the perfect opportunity to test the limits of this body.
Randidly’s legs exploded with force, throwing him across the dueling arena toward the first shadow figures to drag themselves up onto the arena proper. His spear of bone that protruded from his right arm glowed cherry red as he activated Molten Fang of the Pariah and skewered a shadow that seemed like an image sent by an older man. The sharp weapon of bone ripped through his skin and burst out through his back
The image staggered underneath the assault but refused to fall. As it raised its hand, a flickering image of an ax appeared.
Randidly ripped the spear out of the side of the image’s chest and raised his mouth to suck in a huge breath. Eternal Cravings of a Wraith pulled at the substance of all of the surrounding images, dragging a fraction of their strength toward Randidly. Unfortunately, it was only a very small fraction. And rather than Stamina or Mana, it was something akin to Willpower. After all, these images had no real body. What Randidly was pulling from them was a bit of what they were; there were no attributes to steal.
Sorry friend, Randidly leered down at the dissipating image of the old man and laughed. I don’t have the luxury to treat you gently. Not when you brought so many friends…
Randidly activated the Chimera Weeps but Man Mourns three times in a row to fill the surrounding area with dozens of quick thrusts. The attacks themselves were relatively light, but these images ignored damage anyway. It was only when Randidly forcefully brought his image to bear against them that they faltered and dissipated.
Although the images nearby had been defeated, more were climbing out of the quarry and up onto the arena on the far side of the platform. And of course, the stream of staggering images into this strange isolated area hadn’t ceased.
More and more flooded in, aiming to destroy Randidly.
The Grim Chimera raised its head and cackled in reckless glee. Then Randidly clenched his left claw and began to cut the images of these fools down. “Not willing to wait your turn? Fine then. Those who follow me… let’s see how much I’ve managed to teach you about images.”