“Dreams can show the past and the future.”
“The proposition to use slaves as soldiers is outrageous. The city council won’t stand for that. Who had the stupid idea? Did it really come from the emperor himself?” Nemus shakes his head in disbelief.
Oleg, a member of his political party, shrugs with his shoulders. “How should I know? Do you think that I am told anything? I am just the messenger. They want you to vote for the proposition.”
Nemus rubs his face with both hands. “Look. I am not an enchanter who creates slave collars. Neither am I a soldier. But even I know that it’s stupid to use slaves as cannon fodder. Slaves are only as good as their training. They don’t magically turn into super soldiers just because they follow orders. A soldier who blindly follows his orders can’t react to a changing battlefield.”
He waves his hands in the air. “To send them against a trained army… It’s the same as sending toddlers against adults. And let’s not forget that slave collars aren’t cheap! We have a lot of slaves, that’s true. But most of the collars are handed down to another slave once the previous owner dies. If we start sending our slaves to war, a lot of the collars will get lost or damaged. We can’t replace them fast enough.”
Oleg spreads his hands. “I understand your doubts, but nobody says that we’ll use run-of-the-mill slaves. This proposition is just the first step to legalize the usage of slave collars in war. Maybe the emperor intends to attach them to captured enemies? Who knows. I imagine that it would be very demoralizing for our foes if they get charged by a unit of their own people.”
Nemus huffs and gestures for me to refill the cups. I step forward and do as ordered.
Their discussion goes on and on, while I wait with the tea-jar in my hands. Why are they allowed to have a good time while I have to stand at the wall? My legs feel like lead.
After an hour, Oleg takes his leave and Nemus stands up to bid him farewell. When Oleg is gone, I approach the table to clear away the used dishes. But when I step into Nemus’s reach, his hand shoots out and closes around my shoulder. It’s like he is using pliers! I scream as my shoulder pops out of its socket.
He shoves me down to my knees. “If you ever again spill a drop of tea in front of a guest, I’ll sell you to a whorehouse! Are my guests supposed to think that I am too poor to buy a proper slave!?” He swings out with his foot, aiming at my head.
I open my eyes and sit up in my bed. The room is dark and it takes a moment for me to remember that I can use my magic. Raising my hand, I quickly cast a magelight and rub my shoulder. It’s still pulsating with phantom pain.
Oh, right. I got the tattoo. The skin is still irritated. That’s what it must be.
For a moment, I consider going back to sleep, but I am wide awake now. So there is probably no point in trying. I get up and dress myself, then I head back into the workshop. Orwen’s power stone is still resting where I left it. The crack which is rendering the aquamarine useless runs through the entire crystal.
I turn it around, but it seems like repairing the damage isn’t possible. I can take out the golden inlay and rebuild the entire thing from scratch. Maybe it’s for the best. As the crystal was before it got damaged, it drew in energy from its surroundings.
That worked extremely well, but it also deprived the area around Orwen of its power. Many people think that magic, or mana, is some sort of mystical power which is only accessible to people with magical talent. But that’s not the case. A properly trained mage would define mana as every form of energy that’s available in the environment. That may be a source of heat or electricity. Or matter itself.
Magic is the ability to reshape those energies by using the quantum Zeno effect, also known as the Turing paradox. It enables someone with sufficient talent to reshape the world around him. To bend the physical laws. Most mages do that on an instinctive level. It’s the reason why some are more proficient in certain fields than in others. But simply put, they don’t know what they are doing. If a mage understands what his spell is doing, he or she can cast any spell.
I sigh and take a chisel, then I start removing the golden inlays which are covering the power stone. The mage who created this thing knew what he was doing. I admit that. I would never be able to create something so powerful with just ritualistic magic.
But the crystal can be used. Aquamarine is a variety of beryl, which is a mineral that’s composed of beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate. The hexagonal structure of the crystal system makes it perfect to build a magical computer. Or a rudimentary power core. I just have to melt this thing down to remove the impurities.
I scratch my shoulder. Zimil said that it’ll itch for quite a while. The old man talked my head off while he was working on the tattoo. Maybe he just did it to distract me from the itching. He knew a lot about magical tattoos, even if he has no magic of his own. The ink needs a while to settle beneath the skin. Introducing large amounts of foreign substances to the skin doesn’t come without a price.
But once the itching stops, the tattoo won’t just be a protection against mental attacks. It’ll also be a control circuit to interface with my creations and to make it easier to channel energy.
I place the cleaned aquamarine inside a steel keg which was enchanted to withstand high temperatures. This world may lack the technology of other worlds, but magic gave them the ability to further their metallurgical knowledge far beyond what’s normal for a medieval setting.
Magic also made technological advancements unnecessary. There are simply too many mages in this world. If people have a problem that can’t be solved with muscles, they get a mage or an ability user. There is a large rock on your property and it’s in the way? No problem, hire a mage to blow it up! You have a broken bone? The healer will fix it.
There is simply no pressure to develop a complicated pulley system, or to study the world in order to use the laws of physics. Oh, there is a basic understanding of how things work. I assume that the consortium of mages is far ahead in that department. There is simply no way to create something like the spacial backpack with experiments alone. It would require an incredible amount of luck to discover spacial magic by accident. They must’ve had an idea of what they were doing.
While the aquamarine is melting inside the little furnace which came with the workshop, I design a casting mould. It doubles as a magical refrigerator which is supposed to protect the magical circuit which I want to encase in the aquamarine.
The problem is that metals like gold and silver melt at approximately one thousand degrees. Steel melts somewhere between one thousand three hundred and one thousand five hundred.
It takes over one thousand five hundred degrees to melt beryl, so I have to protect the circuit. Otherwise it would simply melt away once I cast the power core. If everything works out, the power core should convert water to pure energy. All it takes is a disintegration process and something to convert the energy to a useful form of power.
I work for the whole day and by the point at which I am ready to crack open the mould, the sun is already setting. The ceramic crumbles under the force of my hammer and I free the power core.
It’s surface is rough and I lost some of the aquamarine due to the casting process. Though, that shouldn’t be a problem if there are no major impurities which render the magical circuit useless. I carry the hexagonal power core to the big whetstone and start the arduous process of cleaning the surface.
I could try to use magic, but I am too afraid to damage the aquamarine. The crystal is an eight on the Mohs scale, but it’s also brittle. I assume that Orwen’s power stone cracked in the first place because it was hit by some of the debris.
It takes four entire days to clean each surface of the resulting prism. My purely aesthetic choice of adding a pyramid to the top and the bottom of the prism means that I have to clean eighteen surfaces. To finish the process, I had to drill a little hole into the top. This had to be done to allow a little water into the core, which functions as the disintegration chamber.
It would be wrong to call it a fusion chamber, since the power core makes full use of the water, converting a hundred percent of it to pure energy.
In the end, my arms and my back feel like liquid fire. Even magic can’t protect my muscles from the stress of hard work. But I must say that the result was worth the effort.
The blue crystal has no impurities and it even allows me to check the magical circuit inside it for damage. After checking everything thrice, I decide that there is no other choice but to test it. Either it blows up, in which case I and a part of the city won’t live long enough to feel anything, or it works as intended and I’ll have a power source which is on par with Orwen’s power stone.
I fuel the power core with a cup of water and use my own magic to jump start the reaction. At first, there is nothing, but then the crystal starts glowing with a soft, blue light. The tattoo on my shoulder starts itching as the two circuits connect and an interface pops up in front of me.
Using my fingers, I interact with the hologram and check the power core for malfunctions. I wasn’t able to do more than hard-code a basic control system. For the moment, the magical computer is running on nothing more than BIOS. But that’s okay. I can build on that.
After a few minutes of giving instructions, I realise that there is mad laughter coming from my mouth. I quickly clear my throat and try to concentrate on my task. When morning dawns, the people of Hormundad will have to look up to me.
Tendrils of blue energy lash out and start scanning the entire building. Then the ground starts shaking. The crystal began its work of lifting the entire building and a large piece of the surrounding garden into the air. Earth is compressed to rock and a solid basin forms beneath the house in order to hold the biosphere.
Take that, assassins! I wonder if you have someone who can fly? I start chuckling as I type four words into the interface and add them to the basin which is holding my property.
“Observe.” “Formulate.” “Test.” “Apply!”
It’s not quite the scientific method, but it should cause a little philosophical discussion. Especially since everyone can see it.