The rest of our journey that day was uneventful, at least for the main convoy. I did notice some scouts would return with new gashes on their armor, but whatever they found was dispatched without loss of life or limb. It made for a wonderfully relaxing time, and for once I was free to sit back and watch the sights. I had originally planned to do some training with light magic, but was swiftly admonished by the priestess.
“Are you crazy? Or just plain oblivious to the danger?” She yelled at me the first time I conjured a ball of light. At my confused expression, she shook her head. “Light attracts things in the Underdark. Things that we won’t always be able to fight. No training on the way, though if you can guarantee no light will escape when we camp for the night I might be willing to let you practice then.”
“Sorry.” I replied, immediately cancelling the light. I felt her glaring at me several times after that, but she relented fairly quickly when she realized I hadn’t been practicing any form of magic, let alone light. Almost an hour after our little chat, we came across a sight that I had to record to send to the others.
We entered what looked like a massive geode. The walls had crystals of incredible colors, though they tended to keep towards the blue-green range. Some even shimmered like an oil slick on water depending on how you looked at them. Right in the middle of this was a waterfall plunging down into a heated pool. The steam in the air left a magical aura, as if this vision would disappear with the fog as soon as the sun rose. Adding to the beauty was the incredible amount of mana in the air. A swirling mix of water, fire, and shadow, the crystals would glow as mana particles made contact. Even Inkler was stirred from his slumbering to watch the sights.
“The Mistcrystal Caverns. Something in the air here seems to dampen the aggression of most monsters, and any caravan that can will take advantage of this.”
“Do you know what the cause is?” I asked the priestess, turning to find her staring around at the scene like I was.
“We aren’t sure. Alchemists have checked every variety of crystal, samples of the mists, the water fall and pool, all to no avail. Everything seems normal.”
“Perhaps it’s the combinations and abundance of mana in the air.” I mentioned.
“You can see it too?”
“Don’t look so surprised.” I chuckled. “Back when I was a kobold, I turned myself into a variant that could see mana. It’s incredibly helpful when fighting spirits.”
“No doubt.” She said with a wistful sigh.
“Do you not have the ability? I figured priestesses of Lolth would know gain that ability.”
“Some do, but I have a different gift.” She said, though her facial expression warned me to find a different topic. A warning I was absolutely going to take.
“So how long until we reach our campsite? I would think this place would be a great spot to camp for the night.”
“An hour and a half or so. And if we were camping during a blue cycle, I would agree with you. It’ll switch to a red cycle here eventually, and we will definitely want to be out of here before that happens.”
“Blue cycle?” I asked, looking around.
“You see the predominant color in the crystals? That switches roughly every twelve hours. The mana balance will switch to more fire instead of water, and the aggression levels of all monsters here will roughly quadruple from normal.”
“Oh wow, that would be terrible to be caught in. Any idea for the causes?”
“None for sure. I favor the theory of semi sentient crystals. The crystals grow by harvesting the energy released with the death of creatures in the cavern. In order to draw them in, they use a blue period to calm them and give a sense of security. When it switches, they gain the power they need.”
“Interesting.” I said, sitting back and thinking about the crystals. If the theory was correct, it was an incredible creation of the devs. Of course, I also started plotting if we could alter the crystals. Could we import plenty of monsters and slaughter them, forcing them to evolve? Would the crystals make an evolution option for monsters? Turn a golem into a crystal golem?
As I thought about all the possibilities of the crystal cavern, the caravan travelled on. We followed a river leading out of the geode, the spiders opting to walk along the ceiling rather than getting their feet wet. Wait, do spiders have feet? Eh, not important. I did notice some small shadows darting around in the water below, but nothing that was large enough to be a threat.
Eventually the tunnel we were in opened up into a large cave. The river slowed down, and meandered along the left side of the cave, leaving a large area on the right side for our campsite. Getting to the river would still be difficult, as it was lacking a beach. The water had worn the rock to a glass like consistency. The ceiling had stalactites, but the ground was oddly devoid of their counterparts.
“Why no stalagmites?” I asked the priestess.
“Easier to defend. The river took care of most of them, we simply used a small bit of earth magic to remove most of the lumps.” Nodding, I hopped down and let Inkler free and watched as the drow set about making camp. Several herded the spiders toward the back wall, while others were setting down tents that erected themselves. Three drow with elaborate robes were circling a good distance from the camp, and judging from the amount of magic flowing from them they were setting some serious wards.
“Do you really think they will need guards with the strength of those wards?” I asked as I noticed several drow taking up guard positions inside the perimeter.
“Yes. No wards are perfect, and some enemies are attracted to repelling wards. Don’t worry, you will be safe tonight.”
“Never doubted it for a second. Do you care if I set up a small training area by the spiders?”
“Just make sure no light can escape, and make the wall thick enough to protect our mounts.” She said, then headed to oversee a different part of the camp. It was nice having their trust, so I headed over and made a nearly foot thick dome of stone to practice in. To make sure I didn’t suffocate from a lack of air, I made some holes. To keep the light from escaping, I had to craft some odd shapes. Think of a lowercase n and u, and square off both of them. Now slightly raise the u shape, and merge the left arm of the u with the right arm of the n. The resulting shape should prevent any light from escaping while still letting me get some fresh air. I put in three of these shapes for safety’s sake, and sat down to plan.
First, I needed to create a light spell. Light manipulation was an inborn trait of my new species, and generating an orb of light was incredibly easy. I overcharged it, pouring in the mana while limiting the size of the sphere. Once I felt like I had hit maximum capacity, I launched it toward one of the walls. Complete failure. At least, complete failure for an attack spell. The orb of light stuck to the wall and I did receive a popup.
Spell acquired: Overcharged Magelight
Beginner level 1
A beginner spell that is a staple for every aspiring mage, it simply brings light to darkness. It is not strong enough to cut through a magical darkness, but the mundane form stands no chance.
Duration: Variable, depending upon mana used and intensity
Cooldown: 1 second
I really don’t know why I expected anything different. It’s an orb of light, no matter how much mana you put into it you will still only have an orb of light. Cancelling the spell, I moved on. Making different shapes was simple. Swords, daggers, lances, pikes, maces. I tried every form of Medieval weapon I could conceive. Each and every one failed. They would strike the wall, and stick just like the orb. I spent an hour or so in frustration, before throwing my hands up.
“Damn intractable light!” I swore, deciding to switch magics before I grew too frustrated. “I’ll be back, and I’ll win damnit.” I pulled up my menu, and opened the system spell book. There was one spell that was given to my race, and I was dying to try it out.
Beginner level 1
A spell inherent to the Oblivion Draconians, it combines shadow and light magic to create a highly destructive orb.
Cooldown: 2 seconds
Chant: Shadow and light, unite in annihilation. Oblivion sphere.
“[Oblivion sphere].” I spoke calmly after cancelling all light in my dome, making sure that I was aiming at a blank section of wall and not one of my vents. A small ball formed in my hands, roughly three inches across. Half was shadow, half was light, with a light blue line of unaligned mana separating the two. The orb shot across to the target area, where the separation disappeared and the orb exploded with a flash of light. Blinking my eyes, it took ten seconds to lose the ‘blinded’ debuff. I moved closer to examine the damage, and saw a six-inch-deep perfect half sphere taken out of the stone. It was glassy smooth to the touch, and I smiled. “Impressive.” I muttered, thinking about the devs delivery system. Light and shadow mana annihilate each other, apparently in a destructive manner. The devs created the spell with a barrier between the two that had a durability of one. Any impact was enough to dissolve the barrier, and the void left behind facilitated the mixing of the two manas.
Rather than keep blasting my walls and having to repair them, I would make small targets and blast them to grind up the skill level. A half hour of constant usage brought it up to Intermediate level 1, and a 5% boost to the damage done. I could have spent longer grinding that skill, but it was getting boring.
I went back to my light issue. How could I make it an attack and not a support spell? I started out with a ball of light, and slowly tried to add in shadow mana. The result was a simple flare of the current orb, and it dimmed slightly afterward. That wasn’t going to work, the shadow would simply annihilate and weaken the light. “Man, a bit of fire magic would be awesome right about now.” I muttered, frustrated with my lack of choices. Instead I added just a bit of stone mana and flung the orb at the wall. To my surprise, it actually shattered instead of sticking.
“What the hell was that?” I wondered, and tried a bit of stone mana that I added light to. This time, the experiment bounced off even though I kept the ratio roughly the same. Bending down, I picked up a small pebble that was still glowing, though it was fading fast. “Huh, so order of mana matters in spells.” Keeping that in mind, I tried adding stone and light mana in equal measure at the same time. Instead of an orb, I modeled it after the dark bolt spell. Once it was six inches long, I fired it at the wall and chuckled at my success.
Beginner level 1
A unique fusion of light and stone, this piercing attack gives a physical component to light attacks.
*Double damage to shadow and ethereal opponents*
Cooldown: 1.5 seconds
“HAHAHAHA! YEEAAAAHHHH!” I shouted at the popup. This was a skill I could spam, peppering an opponent as they tried to close the distance. Elated with my success, I decided to try one more attempt at a light spell. This time, I was channeling the same power that I used with my cleanse spell, hoping to make a holy type spell. The results were instantaneous, and much better than I anticipated.
Light of the Grave
Beginner level 1
The power of Thanatos infuses this light, reminding all who feel it’s touch that behind every corner, death waits patiently. The power of this spell is boosted by level within the church of Thanatos as well as the amount of mana used.
Damage: 5/second (undead only)
Damage per second doubles with each increase in church rank (80/second for Cardinal rank)
Chance of inflicting fear. Chance arises once every 30 seconds of exposure. Targets already affected by fear, or targets more than ten levels below caster have a chance to receive terrified status. Targets affected by fear, or more than 50 levels below caster have a chance to receive Unrelenting Terror status (ticks every five minutes of exposure).
I looked away from the popup to the small orb of green light in my hand. It was a solid sphere of light, but somehow managed to pulse and cast dancing shadows as if it were a flame from the temple. I somehow felt that if I watched long enough, my shadows would morph into claws that would rake my sides or drag me away. Shuddering, I dismissed the orb and removed the dome covering me.
“All done for the night?” I jumped as the priestess spoke to me.
“Gah! Sorry, you scared the bejeesus out of me.”
“You’re scared of poor little me?” She asked with a pout, causing me to chuckle.
“Perhaps not scared, but I have a healthy respect for any and all priestesses of Lolth.”
“As you should.” She replied with a grin. “Your tent has been set up next to mine, and it already has your rations for dinner. Was your training fruitful?”
“Thank you, and it was. I have three new spells that promise to be wonderfully useful, and one support spell that will be useless to me.”
“Excellent. I want to thank you for preventing light from your training to escape, but throttle you for your yelling. Should we ever travel together again, you will refrain from yelling in the middle of camp unless you are in an extraordinary amount of pain. Am I clear?”
“Of course, and my deepest apologies.” I said with a small bow. That seemed to pacify her, and she led me to my tent where I walked in to find Inkler licking the last vestiges of my rations from my plate. “Seriously?” I muttered, plopping down onto my bedroll. I pulled a cassowack leg from my inventory for dinner, and had to give another one to distract the insatiable appetite of my pet before I could get to sleep. Once dinner was done, I curled up to sleep with the purring engine with his head resting on my hip.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Several hours later
I woke up to the sounds of battle. “Off!” I ordered Inkler with a shove, fighting with my bedroll to exit the tent. Stumbling into the camp, I stopped to take a survey of what was going on. To my right, and our path to Menzoberrazan, was the sound of coordinated battle. Spells were being called at a rapid, though measured pace. To the left, guards were placed at regular intervals, making sure that there were no flanking attacks. Satisfied that everything was in order, I moved towards the sound of battle and the figure I recognized as the priestess. Just as I arrived, two of the mages stepped forward into a gap and started a dual chant.
Burning blaze of brilliant blue
Churning air of emerald
Sate your hunger upon my endless foes
Carry forth the flames of war
Combination magic, [Azure tempest]!
Both mages spoke the final phrase at the same time, and a swirling vortex of blue green flames shot forth to greedily consume . . . nothing? Activating [Mystic vision], I finally saw what was engaging the drow. Ethereal bugs of varying levels, most of them in the mid to upper thirties. “What in the world is a hordling?” I asked the priestess as I got next to her.
“A rather annoying and dangerous group of foes.” She explained. “Somewhere out of our range is the Ghastly Hivemind, a much higher level spirit that enslaves these pests. Each time we kill one, the hivemind will resurrect it at a cost of one level. They kill lone adventurers and small groups by sending wave upon wave of minions until their stamina and mana are depleted.”
“That sounds like a pain in the ass. Why aren’t the wards repelling them? And shouldn’t your mages be saving their mana?”
“These are one of the foes that are attracted by our wards.” She explained. “And normally yes, we would be saving mana. However, when using a boosted element, the death penalty for resurrection is increased to five levels.”
“Ah, I see. So your non mages are using their magics to contain and group up the waves, and your mages will use boosted spells to rapidly lower the hordes effectiveness.” I nodded in understanding, impressed with their plan. “These are undead, right?”
“Yes, why?” She asked, turning to me. “You realize that we won’t allow you to fight them, no matter how proficient you are with spirits.”
“No worries, I was wanting to try one of my new spells. Do you have a dagger I could try and enchant for you?” As I asked, she reached into her cleavage and pulled out a dagger. Shaking my head to clear any images, I placed a hand on the blade and slowly fed it mana until I felt it was ready. “[Enchant: Light of the Grave].” Her dagger glowed with a flickering green light, and I saw her eyes widen as she read through a notification.
“HA! HAHAHAHAHA! Oh this is wonderful! Guards, rotate through for weapon enchanting! We have a hivemind to slay!” At her words, the drow lined up. I burned through my mana rapidly, but I eventually managed to enchant nine of the scimitars they favored before getting a notification that I had reached the maximum number of weapons I could enchant with my level of skill. Once the last one was done, I turned to watch the slaughter.
And it truly was a slaughter. The hordlings would rush toward the drow, only to flinch in fear as they neared the light from the blades. The merciless drow would cut them down, the normally ineffective physical attacks gaining a massive damage boost from the enchantment. While three of the dual wielding guards held the line against the onslaught, I noticed two following the priestess as she crept around in the darkness to attack the source of the creatures. I turned back after only sparing them a glance, not wanting to draw attention to them. I needn’t have worried though, as the attacking insects showed no signs of intelligence. Minutes later, and a piercing psychic scream resonated through the cavern, and all of the bugs exploded.
“That’s that.” The priestess gave a grim smile as she and her two guards came back into camp. Strolling right up to me, she bent over to whisper in my ear, “My thanks for such a wonderful time. Any girl would go crazy for an enchantment perfectly tailored to slaughter her enemies, even if it is only temporary.” She gave my ear the tiniest nibble, and sauntered away. I turned to watch her go, surprised that she could put that much swing in her hips without breaking her back.
“Watch yourself, draconian. Seems she has taken a liking to you.” One of the mages chuckled as he slapped me on the back.
“Apparently so. But is it a good thing, or a bad thing for a long and healthy life?” I asked, much to his delight. Shaking my head to get rid of any images, I headed back to my tent and ordered Inkler to not let anyone in. I still found myself waking up every so often to the slightest rustle of fabric, only to find that nobody had infiltrated the tent.
Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.