Dragging myself back to my cave was not fun. I could only partially understand why I was so beaten, my health and stamina were close to full but my Astral Power was close to empty. I regenerated a trickle due to one of my traits but I had seriously overdrawn it to snuff out that guardian. I guess it was some kind of fire or sun spirit but honestly, I wasn't sure. Interestingly there had been no experience for destroying it, I'd love to know why. For now, I had a crystal that was housing a soul that some gods wanted to remain buried. I was willing to bet good money that level 29 was not a level that let me take on gods. Hell, it was probably not even a level that let me survive out here. I had to find a way to get stronger.
At my cave, the first move was dumping the regenerated Astral Power into my mist engraving, refreshing the bank hiding my cave.
I settled down and rekindled my fire. Then, I let my mind fade, loosing myself in meditation and the flow of Astral, as it had beckoned me since using blood magic against the guardian. I felt nothing until a floating sensation startled me, it wasn't a bodily sensation but purely in my mind. I felt good so I let it happen. Then there was a feeling of expansion and I felt swept away which caused me to rip open my eyes and suddenly I was the centre of the universe, as in the world revolved around me, at least everything was spinning around me. I was feeling dizzy, exhausted and my head still hurt so I decided to end my session at this point.
With that I logged out and climbed out of the capsule. Sadly, the dizziness was still there, just like the headache. I hope I wasn't getting side-effects to capsule gaming.
I went into my living room, where I had a wide, open space to do my Wing Chun forms, I was feeling the need to move and find my centre again. I went slowly through a long sequence and when I was done, I was feeling fully human again. Still, I decided that I wouldn't head back into the capsule for now so I checked the time and felt it was dinner time. I was feeling pasta so I made myself some nice noodles with tomato-sauce, with loads of garlic, onions and carrots. Yummy.
After that, I simply headed to bed and caught up on my mail and a couple of webnovels.
In the morning, I checked the forums and found that they had released the first weeks highlight-reel some time this morning. After watching it I had to smile, it looked pretty bad-ass overall. Then I started reading the comments, the ranger and the priest had come forward, telling about their exploits. A lot of people were questioning if it was all real player played content or if it might be an advertisement, introducing the big bad with the brutal massacre of snowbolds, snuck into the highlight-reel. Then there were some righteous tinfoil-hat crusaders, denouncing the game in general and the 'monster', that was shown massacring innocents and their children, in particular as brutal murderers, claiming that games like this would cause more violence in the real world. That argument was as old as video-gaming itself but with VR-Gaming it would gain new traction because it wasn't just input via a controller or keyboard but more 'personal'. It would be interesting how Pantheon would deal with the criticism that was undoubtedly coming their way and even possible law-suits the moment one of their customers committed a violent crime. Others were calling me a cheater for being able to cast spells like that, again others said I was a plant by Pantheon, some even called it fake even if the company itself had released the footage. All in all, I got called pretty much every nasty name under the sun and was quite happy that my face wasn't clearly visible.
Part of me wanted to out myself and stir things up but a large part preferred remaining anonymous. Then I had an idea, the comments were not required to be made by beta-testers and it was on a website that I still had the account of Titania and it was 'certified' that the poster, meaning me, was the real Titania. Now, how to stir things up nice and toxic? I decided to shamelessly steal one old, favourite song of mine, just with a slight alteration.
“When fairies fall with broken wings
I can't give up, I can't give in
When all is lost and daylight ends
I'll carry you and we will live forever, for ever
Grey skies will chase the light away, no longer
I fought the fight, now only dark remains forever"
The fairy-queen, once high in light, betrayed and cast out, found solace in the darkness. Now, the world will tremble with what you have created, for Darkness shall sweep over the land and wash the light away!
She, who molded the light, Fallen Queen of the Fair Folk, Titania
Yes, this should reignite things. It was on the nose without really saying anything, perfect flame-bait.
I had an evil smile on my face when I logged back into the game and the first thing I wanted to do, was get my new runes. I rose from my camp, refreshed the fog and ate some of the jerky as I had acquired a 'hungry' debuff, reducing my regeneration and increasing my stamina consumption. But after breakfast, it was time to buckle down and get going.
First, I took out the Blood Runestone, unsure if I truly needed it but feeling that it couldn't hurt. I let my mind flow, for the first time I had no unknown runes to serve as a guide as only those I knew had been visible during the test. The thought that kept intruding was that I wanted to make Blood Magic more useable. Over a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity, a new rune condense within my mind, it was completely different looking than those I had seen before, less natural and more crude in nature, but I knew it meant to Condense, which in this context meant to greatly thicken blood without 'killing' it, keeping it a living substance. I guess with that I could create a blood paste that I could use as an Astral Power Carrier. At least I hoped so.
The second element, I went after was Ice. With the Runestone in hand, I let my mind flow. I wanted to increase the potency of my freezing magic, I had a feeling that debuffs were a lot more powerful than direct effects, at least for someone like me who was able to use the blood of my enemies against them if I could get contact with it. I focused on the Chill-Rune I knew and soon I was able to understand how to strengthen it, making it more expensive but also stronger. The rune I understood meant 'Freeze' and was quiete simply the stronger version of the chill-rune. Nothing fancy but it would prove useful. Before I could have used two chill-runes to get the effect of one freeze-rune, now I could use one Freeze-Rune and get the effect with less runes and less Astral Power expenditure.
Then it was time to delve into the Darkness. The first image I had in mind was the dark glow of the spell I used against the guardian. Soon, I was able to ascertain a rune, when it became clear I was able to understand it's meaning, Dark Radiance, the polar opposite to a light-beam, it was pure darkness given shape. Useful, I doubt anything can dodge attacks at the speed of light. It might cost more than my previous dark tendrils or icicles but it'll be hell of a lot faster.
Then, I thought of the ability to keep enemies away from me and with the Disorientation-Rune as a basis, I was able to condense the Madness-Rune, giving me a more potent approach to messing with the minds of those I wanted destroyed.
Now, it was time to experiment. I created a small bowl out of ice, then I took a deep, centring breath. This was going to suck. I cut the runes for Spout – Blood – Condense into my hand and the moment I channelled power into them, it felt as if I'd driven the knife through my palm and a fountain of blood was shooting from my hand. My health and Astral Power started to drop rapidly and in my bowl, an impossible small amount of crimson liquid was accumulating. I broke the flow when my health was at 20%, it had extracted about half my Astral Power with it. I used some of the fresh blood still oozing out of my wound the change the runes into my go-to healing-spell, Touch – Blood – Regenerate and looked at the results of my self-mutilation and was not impressed. But still, it represented half my Astral Power pool, it should pack quite the punch.
In an experimental mood, I got the block of ice with the Mist-Engraving, took it back out, and smeared some of the tar-like substance into the lines of the engraving. I almost dropped it when a surge of mist flooded out, then suddenly I heard a loud crack and the surging mist stopped and I saw that I had shaved Ice in my hands, the cracks along the lines of the engraving and the blood no longer crimson but black, the colour of dead blood. So too much magic for my feeble ice?
I'd have to think of a way to regulate the flow, maybe a maxi-pad?