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I was inspecting the magical traces left behind by the backlash that had torn the centaurs arm apart when I noticed that one of the other centaurs had slumped down, obviously unconscious. What a wimp, just because he was hit by some flesh and blood, maybe a bit of bone, he was losing consciousness? Pathetic.

In my mind, I heard Lenore laugh at my thoughts, the sheer disdain I was having for the supposed warrior. What would he do in battle, if he had to cleave apart an enemy or be struck down, would he faint there as well? I could understand that the one who had just lost his arm was unconscious, even if the paralysis should have kept him from feeling the loss of his arm, but there seemed to be a shock-effect involved.

“I don’t think you should continue with this one.” Lenore warned me, as I used my Blood Magic to stem the bleeding from the ruined stump of the centaur’s arm. A quick Observe told me that she was right, the Centaur, only level thirty, had lost over half of his life in the process and the resulting explosion, if he died before I could finish and inspect my work, it would be wasted effort. Luckily, I had three more that I could experiment on, maybe by the time I was done with them, he had regenerated some of his health and astral power, allowing me to try again, on his other arm.

Looking between the three possible subjects, I observed them, deciding to go with the single female, mostly because she had the lowest level of the them, making her the least interesting subject.

As I stepped up to her, I could see the panic in her eyes and, just from the remnants of Mind Magic within her, I could feel the panic. That part was new, maybe something to do with the deeper invasion that had happened while they slept? Or something else, maybe there was an affinity for mental resistance or something along those lines and I had invaded her mind on a deeper level, that seemed possible as well. Sadly, while I would have loved to keep her around for further study, that was just not in the picture. Maybe I could expand my experiments once I found some place to study in peace, possibly at the Nexus where I planned to delve deeper into the mysteries of the soul-prison. At least it should be nicely cold there.

Pushing those ideas from my mind, I created another icy needle and, gently and carefully, pushed it into her spine, trying to limit the damage I was causing. I wanted her to be paralysed while keeping as much of her vital essence, or whatever the correct term for health was in the lore, inside, so that I could draw upon it later. As soon as the needle penetrated her spine, I channeled a little extra Astral Power into it, essentially turning it into a blade that neatly severed her spinal cord, leaving her paralysed from the neck down.

“See, that wasn’t so bad. Now, there won’t be any pain.” I told her, curious about the effect my words had on her mind. I was still able to feel the change, the fading of sensation, when her body stopped reporting to her brain and the sudden surge in panic was impossible to miss, despite, or maybe because of, my words.

“Let’s see, using shadows to conceal from magic, that sounds like a plan.” I muttered, grabbing her arm and using my Athame to carve the runes into her arm while my Blood Magic linked them to her Astral Power, so that she would automatically power them. Now that my test-subject couldn’t struggle and ruin my work, it was a lot easier to work and this time, there was no interference from another runic formation. Curiously, I could feel pain bloom in her mind, despite the fact that there shouldn’t be any connection left. Maybe because I was directly dealing damage to her health, siphoning off her vitality? That would explain why the pain caused by Blood Magic felt a little different, more direct and a lot worse, than any other pain I had experienced in my Avatar-Body.

While it took longer to carve the formation into her arm than it would have taken me to cast it directly, I was soon finished and felt the formation take hold. I took a step back and tried to scrutinise the results.

“It seems to have worked.” Lenore said, observing our test-subject. Looking through her eyes, I had to agree, there was a shadow around the woman that kept me from seeing her clearly in Lenore’s vision. What I didn’t know was whether it was only while the woman was in the Darkness, the shadows of night, or if only the formation had to be in shadow.

“Yes, but to what cost?” I replied, closing in on the woman to taste the air around her and even pricking her skin to get a small taste of her blood. I wasn’t sure, and Lenore’s sight was the wrong tool to quantify such a thing, but I thought that her Astral Power was lower than it had been. Which would fit with what the Grandmother had told me, that the formation would permanently drain some of the Astral Power and Health, reducing their maximum-values to fuel itself. I had just hoped it wasn’t as drastic as it seemed to be with the Centaur.

“Maybe the cost depends on her affinities. Isn’t she constantly casting a pure Darkness-Spell, without any skill or affinity to reduce the cost?” Lenore asked, making me reconsider. With that in mind, it was quite impressive, the effect of the formation was low but only by my standards.

But for now, the proof of concept had worked and I had to figure out the limits. The first attempt had shown me that starting a new formation too close to a damaged one was a bad idea, but had that problem occured because of the damage or was there something to the formations itself that forced them into a certain distance? Was there a way to combine multiple formations into a larger one, like I could when casting normally? If I wanted to use that way of creating permanent buff-effects on myself and possibly my group, I’d have to investigate more.

Looking through Lenore’s eyes, I was searching for the strange, chaotic disturbance I had seen earlier, with the damaged formation but there didn’t seemed to be one near the carved formation. After making sure that the centaur-woman had enough health to let me carve another formation, I grabbed her arm again. The first formation was on her upper arm, near her shoulder, so I was planning to carve the second one into her lower arm, just below the elbow.

“What do you think, repeat the same formation or try a different one?” I asked Lenore, not sure how to proceed.

“Let’s go with the same type for now, I think that should keep them from disturbing each other.” Lenore reasoned, making me nod in agreement. I wasn’t quite sure, either felt plausible, that maybe having two formations of the same element would cause them to create an imbalance in the person’s Astral Power flow, or that it was the other way around. Somehow, I had a feeling that I needed more test-subjects.

Sadly, I had only those four and one of them, the first one I had worked on, looked rather rough.

With a shrug, I began to carve the formation into the centaur’s arm, making sure I wasn’t making any mistakes. Sadly, once the first rune was created, the flow of Astral Power turned chaotic and I had to retreat behind my Ice-Wall, while observing the power-build-up. At the same time, I made sure to cut all lingering connections into her mind, there was no telling what would happen if I kept those open when she died. I had felt the backlash of a dying mind once and was not too keen on repeating the experience.

“We could simply cut off the arm.” Lenore muttered and I agreed. Sadly, it didn’t really matter, the centaur was weakened to the point that the shock from losing her arm would kill her, just as the explosion a moment after Lenore said those words did. Again, my Ice-Wall was splattered in blood, only this time, the Centaur was quite obviously dead, her life snuffed out by the build-up of chaotic energies and their bursting.

“So, are you going to faint like your friend has?” I asked the one unharmed centaur? Not that he could answer or move but the mix of anger and despair in his eyes was quite interesting.

“No? That’s good, I need to try a few more combinations but, hey, if I succeed, you might get a permanent strengthening-effect out of it and if you don’t struggle, I won’t have to sever your spine. That’s a good offer, isn’t it?” I asked, watching my third test-subject.

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Tsaimath

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