Theodore could not believe his luck. His plans had been disrupted by the villagers’ surprising level of planning. He had hoped to wear them down with the mindless undead, then drop the golem and his dominated froggen upon them. If he could take out the interlopers, and grab the thief, all the better, but the goal was to destroy the gate. And it had worked perfectly, even with the setbacks. He regretted having to step in personally, and risk the mortal body of the thief, but it was all worth it in the end. And now, the thief had stopped - stopped! - in the middle of the street, in front of a horde of his undead. What a fool she must be. He would not pass up this opportunity, while she was separated from her compatriots. He rushed her on a tide of darkness, moving faster than the eye could see, and touched the fool, engaging in a battle of mental domination. And with his new powers, and needs, of his existence as a shade, he would surely reclaim what was stolen from him. From his mistress, he corrected himself. The interlopers would be next, and then the body would be his. And whoever these outsiders were, they would not have their prize. He could fight them with THIS.
Leah awoke in her mindscape, forced in by some unknown force. But this time, it felt different. Similar to when Cassandra had inspected her status page, something else was trying to get in. But this presence was forcing its way in, pushing against her mental defences. She opened the door to her sub mind, where she could feel the most activity, and the sight beyond the door shocked her to the core. Her sub mind was engaged in full scale mental conflict with… something. The scene changed and shifted, burning away and melting into new shapes with each passing subjective second - she knew this was taking place in far less time in the real world - first a tide of black ooze pouring over a representation of her, then it blinked, became a hawk swarmed by bees, the tide washing over stone and breaking it apart. She slammed shut the door. She had seen enough, and the mental strain was getting to her as she tried to process what was going on in visual terms. She didn’t need it anyway.
She knew implicitly that her sub mind had engaged its firewall protocols, and was battling the mental intruder with everything it had, to preserve her main mind. Each time, it was being overwhelmed, and it would reboot itself, cutting the connection and reengaging it just before the presence made for her main mind. It wasn’t a sustainable defence, however. Each time it did so, it was draining at her already dwindling internal mana supply, one she wished she had taken the time to reinforce before the battle. But it was too late for what ifs. She needed to fight back, because if this kept going, the same thing would happen to her - it would tear apart her mind, just like those undead had been doing in the real world, and consume it for whatever purpose it needed. That wasn’t going to happen. She needed to plan.
She ran over the first mental attack she had been under - the strange presence that was with her when she arrived in this world. That battle had taken place in her main mind, as it had already been there before her defences were raised, and so it was an internal threat. This was a contrarily easier to deal with hostile, as her defences were designed to take care of things coming from outside, not inside. However, this presence was far stronger than the first one. Not through skill, but some unknowable ‘power’. The other presence had been more skilled, certainly, and had she not activated her sub mind, it certainly would have taken her over, even though she could dominate it in a battle of power. And she just so happened to still have a copy of it saved away. One that might become quite useful here.
She turned her mental gaze to the locker wrapped in chains that represented the sealed memory containing the first virus in her mind. She had the inklings of a plan in her mind. But it would need preparations. Thankful for her sub mind, and begging it to hold out for just a little longer, she raised her status page.
Level: 7 (24%)
Race: Elf (Magalyte Doll)
Str - 9
Dex - 16
Con - 10
Int - 28
Wis - 21
Cha - 16
Lck - 10
Mana Affinity - 100
Magalyte Mana Pool - 10
Knowledge (Magalyte Technology) 1
Knowledge (Magalyte Dolls) 1
Mental manipulation 3
Ranger Stealth 3
Parallel Processing 2
Swords (Long) 7
Mana Manipulation 2
Mana Detection 4
Of Another World
Bolt of Life 3
Minor Heal 1
Free Points: 18
She realised that some of the notifications must have been her skills levelling, and the kills she had made over the course of the battle, because she had gained two levels since she last checked. That would help. She focused on one skill in particular, and with a mental push, made a change.
Are you sure you would like to raise:
Mental Manipulation 3
Mental Manipulation 10?
This will cost 14 free points.
Without over thinking it - she had made her decision - she selected yes, and in a moment, she was flooded with knowledge. She knew what she planned on doing was possible, better, it was something she could do quite easily. She wouldn’t be able to check without a test subject, and sadly her submind was too busy defending her to be used, but she was confident it would work. What the greater effects would be, she didn’t know, but that was hardly an issue right now. It was the choice between altering her own mind, and having it be consumed completely, and only one left her any hope of surviving intact. She turned back to the locker, and her mind scape faded away. All processing power was dedicated to the task at hand, and unknown to her, her body began to heat up from the strain she was putting on herself.
The virus was cut open, what she desired extracted with expert precision. She double and triple checked it, to make sure nothing else had been taken, but she needn’t have worried - this thing, whatever it was, had no mind of its own. It was simply a program running a basic set of instructions. Cut away from the primary systems, it was as safe as any other memory. She could safely work with it, especially with her new skill. Then, she turned to the real reason she improved her skill. She flashed a copy of her mind, just in case, and then… She cut into her own, still active mind. With no senses, even virtual ones, she felt no pain from it, but who she was shifted and bubbled, hissing through gaps in herself. Who she was, though, was held together by a tight band of willpower. She knew that maintaining her integrity was a matter of will, and that if it failed, she would die along with it. There was no fear though. Her new found mastery of mental manipulation saw to that. She would do this. If anyone could, right here, right now, she would.
A hole was cut through her personality, past that core of herself, and into her memories. Some fizzed and burst, disappearing into the ether, but she didn’t fear. They could be recovered. Anything was possible now. Through her memories she dived, and deep down within them, she found her skills. What she could do, what she knew was true. A bright, burning blue orb of her mental manipulation pulsed and squirmed, beating in time to her mental actions as she manoeuvred around it, and found a spot close by. Proximity to prior knowledge was important to integration, she knew. It would make forming the new pathways easier. And there, she placed the carefully excised portion of the virus. Its talent at mental domination, subjugating its target. With what she knew already, and the formidable power of her new mind behind it, this would be a powerful weapon against the intruder in her mind. Whatever it was, she smiled to herself mentally, it was in for a real shock.
With a new part of her mind in place, she set to work building up the pathways that would connect it to herself. It was a painstaking and exacting process - any failures would result in the memories and knowledge ceasing to integrate, and at worst, may cause severe mental damage. Even with her new skill, it took her what felt like hours, days, of carefully checking and rechecking connections, comparing it to her already existing neural structure. The bright orbs representing her knowledge and skills disappeared, replaced with a facsimile of her mind, the same pattern she had first seen when she entered this body. Then back, as she made adjustments, each time getting closer and closer to her goal. She knew she didn’t have much time. Her sub mind was reporting that it only had limited capacity to reboot with her current power usage, and it would soon fail. She did not need much time. Everything was set. She gave one final check, and activated the connections.
Knowledge flooded her mind.
You have gained the skill, Mental Warfare.
NOTE: As this skill was pilfered from another’s mind, you take with it their accumulated skill levels. This skill will start at level 10. No experience will be gained for these levels.
While mental manipulation is an important tool in the arsenal of a mental mage, it is a scalpel to the sword of Mental Warfare. Before you might change your foe, you must first subjugate them, and this skill is the first and greatest weapon you will have. Users understand and can utilise the complex interchange of ideas and concepts that make up mental combat, and can defend themselves against such attacks with equal skill. In mental combat, attack is defence, and defence is attack. It is a completely unique form of battle that few learn and fewer still master.
Each level provides a 10% bonus to your Intelligence and Willpower with regards to mental conflict.
You have gained the skill, Mental Connection.
NOTE: As this skill was pilfered from another’s mind, you take with it their accumulated skill levels. This skill will start at level 10. No experience will be gained for these levels.
A mental mage is nothing without their ability to access anothers mind, and this skill is one of many ways to do so. By touching a target, the user may enter their mind to engage in mental combat. This can be either physical or mental, in the case of ethereal constructs. Once contact is established, a battle of wills is engaged to open the mental pathways that allow assault. The higher your skill in this, the greater your success at forcing open the way will be. If the target allows you in, merely having this skill is sufficient to provide access.
Each level provides a 10% bonus to your Intelligence and Willpower with regards to establishing a forced mental connection.
With those skills, and their maxed levels, Leah also received a third notification.
For your dedication and mastery of a chosen field, you have been granted a new trait, Mastery of the Mind.
For taking your skills to the limit, and unlocking the potential inherent in your mind, you are now considered to be a Master of the Mind. No mental fortress is too great for you to assail, no memory too hidden to see, no mind too stubborn to change. Under your influence, all will be shaped to your will.
The effects of all Mental related skills are doubled.
Certain creatures and individuals will recognise your talent from your presence alone. What effects this may have are unknown and varied.
A new trait? She would take it, though. She could use any advantage she could get, even if the description of the trait was slightly unnerving. She turned her attention back out to her mind, and her mind scape reappeared. She commanded her sub mind to shut down, and stay shut down. She didn’t need its defence any longer, and preserving what little internal mana she had was important. No sense wasting it on a pointless defence. Not when she knew what was needed. The attacks really were pathetic. The attack was wasting so much energy just to destroy a target that reformed. Did it even know the sub mind wasn’t her? No matter. The fact it didn’t even try to evade the defence of her submind spoke volumes. She pushed through the point where her sub mind was, and intercepted the oncoming attack. Both forces collided, and the battle was joined.
Theodore was frustrated. It had been almost a second in real time, and yet this portion of her mind refused to be devoured. Each time he though he had it all, more would appear, and he would divert back to grab it all. When would it end? Again and again, he flickered through the fields of battle, concepts and ideas shifting and changing the world around them as he fought to consume the information in front of him. No matter how much he ate, he was always hungry, always yearning for more. This mind had new information, dangerous information, wonderful information, and he could not get enough of it. A little frustration was a small matter for this beautiful source of food. He learnt of a world beyond this from it, one of wonders and ideas he had never heard of. How this thing, this soul, managed to get here, was irrelevant. He would consume her whole, and learn of how to get back. With the body he would be taking, it would be a trivial matter, surely.
Then, the tide of information halted. His mind lurched forwards, anticipating more, but was met with… nothing. A void where once there was mind. Surely that wasn’t it? There was so much of her, and that was just a small portion of her mind. There must be more. There must! He drove on, pushing through the emptiness, with a slowly growing sense of dread following him as he entered. No, this couldn’t be it, it couldn’t be right, there was nothing-
The world twisted, and lurched 90 degrees, and he was real, physical, falling down an endless pit with stars chasing him. They tore chunks through his mental body, and he screamed in very real agony. Agony he hadn’t felt since he was alive. Alive. How was he feeling, he wasn’t alive, he was a shade! He died! What was this? No, its a mental assault! Where did it come from? He twisted his mind, attempting to right himself and fight back, but as his body changed to match the environment, it changed again. He was underwater, and now a fish, no, smaller than a fish, a microscopic something, and there was a giant grill, a mouth he realised, and it was about to swallow him- he changed, he was a dolphin, diving down to avoid the maw, and now the maw was a shark, pursuing him down, ripping a chunk from his fin. Bubbles exploded around him as the breath left his mental lungs, and he forced a change, pushing back against this sudden mental assault.
The mind scape changed and changed again, as each party fought for supremacy. Theodore desperately tried to work out where this attack had come from. Was it the outsiders? No, he would have felt them coming, and they had never attacked him like this before. Could it be her? Why didn’t she start the attack like this? Was it to lull him into a false sense of security? To open himself up? The dread became panic, as he realised that she wasn’t just fighting him. She was playing with him. It was her, and she wasn’t fighting for real. She was letting him choose the battles now, and she was winning. This was too much. He needed to retreat, to recover, the come back and fight again. He left her mind, and his real hand, only two seconds after it had touched her head, began to withdraw, then. Stopped. He couldn’t move it. No. She had followed him. She was in his mind now!
A titanic beast, walking on two legs and covered in scales, chased a smaller four legged beast, and he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t escape, he couldn’t win, he could only run and run and run until he couldn’t run any longer, and he was consumed. No. It couldn’t end like this! He was trained by the best mental mage in the world! He would fight back and win! He shifted the world again, and now they were swordsmen, faces blank and unidentifiable, on the top of an unknown wall. They swung and clashed blades, and he fought back with all he was worth. He would not lose! He would WIN! He saw an opening, and swung for it, catching his opponent on the leg and forcing them to a knee. This was it. He brought his blade up, to decapitate them, and then… He froze. Was that her? No, it wasn’t. The faceless man looked up, and he could swear he saw it smiling. He lowered his sword, and turned. There she was, holding some unknown device in her hand, a stubby metal box with a handle. She smiled.
“So, in all that time, you didn’t realise you were fighting two minds, then?”
“Two minds? What?”
“What did you think you were devouring, monster? Of course, you weren’t to know. It doesn’t matter anyway.”
She tilted her head, and shrugged.
“While you were fighting that sub mind - freshly restored with my new memories, by the way - I was busy cutting into your mind. Didn’t you wonder why you turned back to fight at the end there? That was me. I’m in your head, and I own you now.”
The shade laughed. He laughed and he laughed and he laughed. Impossible.
“Impossible! You fool, you think you dominated me? I still exist!”
“You exist because I will you to. Kneel.”
He did so, without thinking, and true panic and fear rose up within him. He had been dominated.
“Like I said, I own you. I tore apart your mind, just like you wished to do to me. Unlike you, however, I know what I’m doing, so I kept enough of you around to run the body. If you can call it that, anyway. I’ll be diving into your memories at some point, but I have a copy of those saved, so you won’t be needing them any longer.”
He blinked, and… what was he doing? Who was he fighting? Was he he? What was going on?
“Good, good. Now, servant. Transfer command of your undead to me, then, oh. Just die. Its about the worst I’m willing to do to you, even though you tried to destroy me.”
She waved her hand, and he complied. He felt the countless connections from the undead assaulting the village detach, then attach to her master. They were hers now, no, they were always hers. Now it was just official. Then, he stood, bowed to her, and faded. What was left of Theodore Selle disappeared, not even knowing who he was.
Leah opened her eyes, as the misty black figure before her faded into nothing. A pity she hadn’t got more out of it, but that wasn’t important now. She felt the connections that it had traded over to her before its death, and looked between them, analysing them all in a split second. They would make it to the church before the doors closed. Unless, of course, she stopped them. Which she would. Wouldn’t she? Of course she would, dammit, Cassandra and Liam were in there. And, of course, the villagers. Don’t forget the villagers. The mental slap hit her again, and she realised what she was thinking. Where was that coming from? Was it a side effect of the mental integration? Or worse, had the shade contaminated her? No, she would have detected that if it had happened. She had control over it for now, whatever had happened. And she would evaluate herself properly once the battle was over, but there was one last thing left to do. She stood up straight, tall and confident with the power she knew she had, even if it was fleeting. She turned to face the church, looked at the undead that were assaulting it, and simply spoke.
As one, the assorted zombies, skeletons and bloated masses of fallen forest creatures collapsed, like puppets with their strings cut. One moment, they were all standing, the next, the ground was carpeted with hundreds of bodies, corpses rotting once more, bones waiting to be picked clean by carrion birds. Leah alone stood amongst the devastation. She saw the man that had fallen, partially covered by bodies. His body moved, ever so slightly, but it had moved. That was good. She had inadvertently saved him. At least, should Alistair get to him in time. She was in no condition to save him herself, she noted, as her body tilted forwards to collapse with the undead. The corner of her vision flashed red, her internal mana supply reading zero. Well. She guessed it was time to see what would happen when she ran out. She hit the ground hard, and vision left her once more.