“This is a serious matter. Are you certain?” Skarch asked him for the fourth time.
Randidly did his best not to roll his eyes. Although he understood the connection that Skarch had to her spear, this was getting ridiculous. “Yes, I am sure. Based on my understanding of your spear, this should be an exceptionally simple procedure. In addition, you now have your own Soulstone from the tournament; with it, you will be able to continue using your spear’s abilities indefinitely as long as you take a break to slaughter Wights.”
Skarch released a pleased smile in response. “Hooo. Such a thing would be a great boon to my family. Although, you realize that you have sealed your own doom? When my spear is activated, none can stand against me.”
“Aren’t there other Spear School individuals in the tournament?” Randidly asked with a bemused expression. “If it were truly such a simple thing to win here, wouldn’t the Spear School dominate.”
“You speak of the fumblings of amateurs. My spear… it is one of the greats. Only the top three Styles of the Spear School would possess comparable spears, and they would not dare allow their heirs to take them out into the world. Alas, due to one small mistake of my father, to think generations of preparation came to nothing…”
Smiling slightly at Skarch’s boasting, Randidly laid his hands gently against the spear. His eyes traced the many interlocking engravings that crisscrossed the shaft. Truly, Randidly could understand how Skarch’s father could have made a small mistake to ruin the entire thing; without Lucretia’s assistance to parse apart everything that was going on, just trying to calculate all the energy exhaust made Randidly’s head spin.
With a construction this dense, you needed to have systematic methods to deal with that ambient energy, and also needed those methods to not conflict with the true performance runes on the spears. It was absolutely commendable.
For all that, Skarch had mentioned in passing once that the problem was not with the spear itself, but the power source. That comment from a few weeks ago had stuck in Randidly’s head. Once they were here in the Hall of Stances, Randidly didn’t want to bother with the crowd viewing images of heroes past, so he instead wandered over to Skarch’s room to ask about the issue.
And, luckily, his suspicions proved right.
“This is it, right?” Randidly asked grimly, looking at the tight swirl of runes near the base of the shaft.
Skarch nodded. “It is so. The designs for this spear are a hundred years old. Materials were prepared centuries in advance, as our ancestors prayed for this day. But, who was to suspect the careful storage of the specially selected wooden shaft would be in a dry environment, and the shaft was to shrink a minuscule amount due to this? Due to the small variance, it wasn’t noticed until the rest of the Engraving was already done. As an unfinished product, it was set aside and hidden for 10 years, when my father believed he had found someone who could fix the transferal procedure…”
As Randidly touched the rough swirls of the energy absorption rune, he was able to intuit a little as to their functions. And just the small bit that he was able to see left him flabbergasted. To think that Skarch’s family was so far ahead of him in terms of understanding Engraving…!
Compared to this failed product, Randidly’s work on the Ghost’s tank-like body was an embarrassment. The thought of destroying even a shred of the spear made Randidly’s heart hurt.
“...as I explained, I will need to defile this. Sand away the old runes, and drill a hole through to store the Soulstone. Is that fine?” Randidly asked.
“If you are certain, it is fine,” Skarch confirmed. Then her eyes softened as she looked at the spear. “After all, I am just barely to activate a few of the lesser runes with my own Mana. If this were to give me access to the full complement of tools… a small marring is not significant. For all that I treasure its form, this is a tool of function.”
Nodding, Randidly began to work.
Originally, the power system at the base of the spear was supposed to be accessible directly by the spear user. Their Mana and Stamina were combined in an esoteric way to form a raw sort of energy that would be pumped into the spear and fuel the runes on it. This would increase the demand on the body of spear wielder, but it seemed the Spear School cared little about that.
To transfer energy through the palm of the hand from Mana and Stamina into a consistent form of energy was a feat of genius. Randidly saw the parts that took in the Mana and Stamina, the part that he believed would enable it to pass at the user’s will, and also exhaust to the main energy line that powered the spear, but there was a giant whirling mess in the middle that basically meant nothing to Randidly.
He even broke out his old Engraving Encyclopedias to puzzle over it, but ultimately he just made a charcoal rubbing and decided he would investigate more thoroughly later.
Obviously, Randidly couldn’t repair this. But he figured he had an easy workaround: stuffing a battery in it.
For all that most people viewed the Soulstones as useful only for boasting, they clearly absorbed usable energy from Wights. This energy wasn’t anything that the human body could use, but that didn’t matter to a spear. So Randidly planned on chopping the complicated design down the middle and stuffing a Soulstone into it.
After sanding down the base of the spear to wipe away most of the power of the previous engravings, Randidly gave Skarch a look. She nodded stiffly.
With a smile, Randidly began to drill through the middle of the shaft. After a short talk, Skarch admitted this would be the best method, even if she didn’t like defacing the spear. In order to distract her, Randidly said casually. “I’m honestly surprised at the workmanship of the spear. These Engravings… a met an Engraving clan once, but this… this is much more sophisticated.”
Immediately, Skarch’s expression grew stiff, but after a second of studying Randidly, she sighed. “...yes. Well, it is something you likely do not know much about, but before the Censure, my family was a powerful force within the Engraving Clans. When the Censure came and all who knew of Engraving were to join the Guilds or perish… many in my family were forced to leave. But because they went, most of us survived, with the teachings of our elders occurring only in secret.
“Even then, we dare not move lightly. We waited 150 years, simply accumulating wealth through other means before we began preparations to forge this spear…” Skarch trailed off, staring at the smooth hole the size of a strawberry that Randidly made in the spear shaft.
Randidly frowned. “They certainly take controlling Engraving seriously. Is it the same in all Schools?”
“Yes, it is known,” Skarch bowed her head.
In spite of himself, Randidly chuckled. “Then why are you telling me this?”
Blinking at him, Skarch said. “Are you not in a similar situation? Otherwise, how would you have the capability to do this? If the Engraving Guilds find you, your fate will not be a simple one. What point is there in hiding things between us?”
That took a lot of the cheer out of Randidly, and he turned his attention back to the spear. Grimly, he raised a silver Engraving Needle and began to work. The Needle was Level 40, and let to him by Skarch, which cemented Randidly’s impression that her family was incredibly talented in terms of Engraving.
The Engraving Guild. An old enemy. Not even an enemy. An old worry. But it was difficult not to realize that if Randidly did as he planned, the Engraving Guild would likely have no qualms about moving against him. Especially as he attempted to research more of the history of this world, it would be decidedly inconvenient.
But did he have any choice?
The next ten minutes passed in tense silence. With great care, Randidly channeled his Mana through the silver needle and into the wood around the hole. At this point, he couldn’t do anything more sophisticated that creating the means of the spear drawing the energy. But, in this case, that should be enough. It would be inefficient, but that could be improved in the future.
After a bit of fiddling, Randidly placed his Soulstone into the shaft and attached it with thin metal strips. It burned with a bright light, still filled with all of the energy he had gathered from killing Wights. One part of him wondered how much energy he had gathered, but the other knew it was more than the next closest by a lot. There was no point and showboating here. Better to use the energy productively, like this.
“Well, that should be that,” Randidly announced. “Now we just need to try it.”