Cold Steel Dig

by

DragonOfRochester

Chapter 24: A Single Point of Mana

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Sitting at Meek’s desk, I read the first page on learning basic magic. Then I read it again. After one more time, I still couldn’t concentrate. Nothing came to mind except bad comebacks I should have said to Charcoal's comments.

I knew I was not dumb or uncreative. I knew I would be able to use magic; after all, I’d learned the Reaper Pen magic from Mr. Black and I knew I used that magic like I breathed it.

My stress overwhelmed me so I activated the Death Mind technique. Anger melted into apathy. I allowed myself several minutes of that state before I stopped. Fortunately, it allowed me to clear my mind enough to focus.

I studied that section of the book for several hours, afterward, I understood that magic was the most precious resource of the fae kingdoms since they used it for practically everything.

There were two types of magic sources; Internal, refined mana that came from within a magic user and constantly refilled; and External, which had various sources such as attributed ambient magic, filled crystals, magic generator items, magic abundant plants, contracted demons and more.

Internal magic was difficult to grow but was inexpensive.

External magic was quick and easy to use, but generally was attributed with a type and could only be used for specific things. Also, unattributed external mana, the stuff used to charge my bow, had a hefty price and often came with an uncomfortable level of sentience.

My book didn’t go into much detail about the why of things. It did explain that, even though most people relied on the abundant and expansive external magic, societies still needed people who could use the internal stuff. Internal magic users could power any spell or item as long as they had enough mana, but not all spells or items could use external magic, even the non-attributed kind.

I also understood that the reaper magic Mr. Black imprinted into my mind used an external ambient death-type mana. This explained why I could so easily use it.

My problem? Each of my spells required refined internal mana. I didn’t have that. Apparently, diffuse internal mana attributed with the 9 main mana types existed within everyone. An internal magic user was someone who had taken their diffuse mana and refined it into a Core, a Lake and a Satellite. Usually, a teacher helped them with that step, but I had no teacher. I had a book. It came with instructions.

At this point, I would have given up on the idea of learning magic except that I absolutely needed to shove Charcoal’s words back in her face.

With a sigh, I put my book in my inventory, closed my eyes and tried to “see” within myself.

“What’s wrong, miss? Book gettin’ ye down?”

“A little. I’m trying to create a mana core.”

Laughter surrounded me.

I glared at them. “What?”

“You,” Phenic said. “You’re trying to create a magic foundation from scratch. That’s rich.”

“Miss Knight,” Korren said, “Don’t bother. You’re a Battle Miner. You attempting that is like a tailor believing he can pick up a Nightglass harp and compose a sonnet.”

I scooted my chair back and my vision changed. When my back hit something my breath stopped. I found myself on the ground, a broken chair under me. With burning cheeks, I picked myself up and walked over to her.

“Then can you teach me?”

“Most sane dark elves would never bother to learn anything pointless. I am quite sane. Besides, you have to start learning magic as a child. My people do not remain children for long.”

“Are you alright, Miss? That chair shouldn’t have collapsed like that.”

My eyes narrowed.

“I have a cursed item in my inventory. It can’t affect anything while it’s in there, right?”

“This has not been a good day for you, has it?” Korren said.

“I meant to ask you to trade it for a weapon charging cube like you promised.”

“Let me take a look.”

I handed her my inventory. One elegant finger tapped her dark cheek. “Yes. I believe I can. But I’ll need to collect something first. It may take some time. To protect you and us you must stay here.”

A chill ran down my spine. “Is it that bad?”

“Phenic!”

“I’m on it.” He pulled out a roll of silver thread. “You’re lucky I carry unicorn hair on me for just such occurrences.”

“And I always thought you paranoid,” she said.

“Set your inventory down on that floor tile and you sit over here,” he said pointing at two adjacent squares.

After I did as he asked he took the string and circled it around my inventory and then my floor tile. He placed a crystal on top of it.

“The containment area appears stable. I’ll return within two days,” Korren said and disappeared.

Dread made my stomach churn. “So, how long do I need to stay here?”

“Until she comes back,” Phenic said.

“Can’t I use my other inventory and start mining while I wait?”

“Do you want this whole place to collapse?”

I remained quiet and swallowed.

Since I had the time anyway, and I didn’t need sleep, I decided to attempt the instructions despite everyone insisting that I couldn’t or didn’t need to.

Taking calming breaths, I closed my eyes and focused on the first step, seeing or feeling the diffuse mana within me.

Because of the Reaper Pen, I knew what it felt like to gather diffuse external death-type mana.

I didn’t know how long I sat there, searching within myself for a familiar something but I eventually found it. A small speck of internal death-type mana floated in my shoulder. To me, it appeared as a stationary gray dot.

Now for step 2, gather mana into my center. Finding my center of gravity was easy, the hard part was dragging that spec of mana to it. I pulled. It resisted, trying to stay motionless. Eventually, I placed it where I wanted.

Finding and collecting the other death-type mana took effort and time but I gathered all of the internal death-type mana that had been spread throughout my body, a whole drop worth.

Now I needed to find and gather the life-type. I searched for the opposite of death. In my mind's eye, this appeared to me as a golden swiftly spinning spec on my heart. Forcing it to my center was like herding cats that were wet, inside a burning house. Through frustratingly hard effort I did it.

It took way too long to gather the rest into a golden drop next to the gray.

I tackled the other types.

Black spacetime had a tendency to twirl at oscillating speeds.

Bronze metal/earth had tremendous weight.

White light moved with formidable speed.

Blue air traveled as if weightless.

Aquamarine and translucent water drifted unexpectedly in a direction I didn’t want it to go.

Fire sparked with flame-colored energy and burned brightly every time I shoved it.

Red heart/mind kept trying to fly back to where I found it.

I took one death particle, one life, one time, one light, one metal, one air, one water, one fire and lastly, one of mind and layered each into a lopsided ball. Then the process repeated itself.

Too many hours later I had a sphere about the size of a tennis ball.

For the next step I refined it.

I took the orb and spun it while also compressing. A surface began to form. I squeezed and turned it faster. As the whole thing shined with light and energy the excess attributes burned away, along with some of the mana, leaving a perfect spherical core.

The next step made me wait and watch. My soul reacted to my lack of mana and so, like any organ, it did it’s job and produced pure mana.

Since pure mana attracted itself the mana the soul produced, would collect around the Core like a dense asteroid field orbiting a sun. Since my core was very tiny, I watched as this happened over the course of 6 seconds. Without the mana being diffuse it wouldn’t pick up an attribute.

I continued onto the next step. On the outer edge of the Lake a small amount of mana began to form a ball. I compressed it into a little sphere about 1/100th the size of the core. I spun it and gave it a slight orbital decay so it would gather mana and spiral in.

Eventually, when it reached the core, it would increase my mana by a significant amount, of course that all depended on how much mana my core had. According to the book, most people started out with around 10 mana units or points.

Of course, the only way I could know how many points I had, would be to cast my first spell.

I opened my eyes.

“So, you’re finally awake?” Korren asked.

“Oh! You’re back? Already? How long has it been?”

“Three days.”

“Three whole days?”

“Yes. I’ve already taken care of the fork and given you the recharge cube in payment. Phenic also gave you the crystal for killing those two jadinfray.”

“Oh. Thank you!”

She handed me my inventory. I put it back on my belt and immediately took out my book. I turned to the first spell every magic user learns, “How to Light a Candle.”

Candlelight

Mana Cost: 1

Range: 2 Blocks

Description: Creates a small flame lasting 4 seconds. Used to light a candle or other flammable objects.

Below this description was the actual how to cast, which was a little like a recipe in my mom’s cookbook. It had something called a spell diagram, which appeared like a small section of a block’s tattoo marks.

“‘To cast for your first time, use a simple candle?’ Hey, Meeks. You have a candle I can buy?”

“I can give ye a whole bushel for 5 coins.”

“Deal!”

I collected them, took out one and placed it on the ground. After sitting cross legged I stared at the wick.

Apparently, each spell was different and had variations that were mental, physical, vocal or other. The candle spell, being the simplest one, required only to have a spot where I planned for the fire to appear, the spell diagram memorized somewhere in my brain, and a will to cast it.

The diagram, a simple squiggly line and two curved c’s on top of each other, didn’t take long to memorize. To be safe I spent some time actually drawing it with my finger. Similar to the Reaper Pen, I wouldn’t need the diagram in the forefront of my mind to cast it. Of course, if I forgot the spell diagram it would stop working.

With the candle on the floor in front of me I cast the candlelight spell on its wick. My mana core completely drained and a torch sized flame appeared on the wick, sending enough heat my way that I jerked back. It lowered to a normal size.

Small flame my butt.

I watched my core. It took 30 seconds but it refilled. My lake had not changed size but the Satellite orbited a little closer.

“So,” Korren said, “you learned magic after all. What do you think?”

I stared down at the flame a little speechless. “All that work and I only have 1 mana point?”

Battle Miner Magus Kelly Knight

Ore Worth: 2325

Death Saving Crystals: 516

Keys: 5 gold, 11 platinum, 2 diamond

Weapon Charge: 0/13

Weapon Range: 5

Weapon Damage: 2

Durability: 236/236

Armor Teleport Radius: 3

Armor Charges: 1/1

Mana Points: 1/1

Spells and Techniques known:

Reaper Pen, Death Mind, and Candlelight

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A note from DragonOfRochester

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story! You guys are the best!

This chapter's procrastination is brought to you by a magic system! This is me bringing some Sandersonian logic into GameLit. I hope you all didn't mind.

I wrote this chapter while listening to "Miss Murder" as performed by AFI.


About the author

DragonOfRochester

Bio: Rochester has a degree in Videogame Art and Design and 8 years of industry experience. She challenged herself to write a LitRPG with a nonstandard game type and post the result here.

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