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  “You didn’t know?” he grinned, “Real Moriarty types. The worst of them bargain the souls of innocents for sorcery, and some for the ability to reincarnate at the cost of their current sorceries, and then come back life after life gathering bits and taking it from others until they have enough and are basically gods themselves after a couple millenia. The most common way wizards use to gain sorcery is they figure out how to regularly access the realm of Chaos and capture shards of it and merge with it, using runes to channel the energy to get a particular kind of sorcery. It takes them a couple times to get a complete grasp of an element, but it does work.” I seriously had a long way to go.

  All of my plans sucked. Knowing what I know now just goes to show how little I truly know. Damn, the beginning of wisdom does suck, which maybe means that I’ve actually stepped onto the path of wisdom. My best play is to stall for time, or go unnoticed, which directly clashes with my desire to own this freaking state. The only thing in my way right now are deities. “Rath, what do gods fear?” I asked, “That’s my last question I promise.”

  “Each other,” he said, “And places like this Earth before what you call the Ripple. Without mana, they can’t manifest, and manifesting saps a lot of mana from the area before they do. Your house put out a ton of mana which leaked a lot of mana into the surrounding area, and it also had elements of purity in it from the herbs when you planted the Seedling. It was a perfect place for that particular deity to appear, a personalized calling card if you will. The ley line also helped.”

  Yup, realizing that I had crafted my own doom just made it worse. I am dumb. Ok, no more paladins, and if they come a’callin, then I’ll just bury them and dip. Dig and dive. Now, I need food and more than one place to lay my head. This bolt hole here in the World Tree works for now, but the best place would be to make a home under the river. My earth and water sorceries would make that a cinch, and who the fuck would look for me under a river? My stomach growled at me, reminding me that I also lost enough food to last me years. I used flesh sorcery to shut that shit down. I don’t need food right now, humans can last for days without food if need be. Keeping a small bottle of vitamins was my contingency plan. I could conjure water and swallow the vitamins and last for quite a long while without food.

  “Hey!” Rath, yelled, interrupting my thoughts, “Hold up your end of the bargain, gimme gimme gimme!”

  Uhg, I conjured a small pebble and put two enchantments on it, one to absorb ambient mana from the area, and the other base enchantment was the power generator for the greedy lizard. Then I conjured some copper wire and made a necklace, which I put around his neck. “There, an endless stream of mana,” I said, “decent flow but small enough to not attract attention, and an ambient mana soaker so that people don’t notice the bleed-off.” I closed the bark behind him as he left. Hmmmm, wire. Metal can be made thin enough to be turned into wire, which can be braided into cables for extra strength, like muscle fibers. Can I do the same with crystal? Or maybe I can create crystalline structures in my bone fibers, so that I am a living battery of mana, or that the overflow of energy/mana/kinetic force will charge up my bones? The best example I have of this is the blending of materials that took place when I made Gungnir. Speaking of that staff, I’ve had it charging all night and never checked on it.

  Gently touching it with my magical senses showed that it was still nowhere near full. The three element crystals and the Chaos shard seemed to be a literal bottomless storage pit for power. I could crack a mountain in half with just the raw mana discharge alone, let alone using it in an aspected way. Chaos shards! Thinking about those freaked me out, what if they hadn’t disintegrated from the blast? Leaving raw potential alone like that is not recommended. AH! MY WOMAN! I mean, she moved out of the shell into the tree a while ago and the tree survived, but holy fuck me on a stick! Man I’m a bad fiance. I ran to the wall of the room that closest to the heart of the tree and pushed everything I had into the center of Yggdrasil’s sapling. Felt way bigger on the inside, I mean, it is a tree that manipulates space, which is just a sub-section of time. Whew, she’s ok, she seems to have stabilized her position in the heart of the tree. Ok, next priority, I checked my new upgraded armor, fully charged and good to go. Then I grabbed Gungnir, leaving it linked to the generator and giving it the full flow of mana. My staff seemed to shiver with excitement. “All right, you like the mana, I got it,” I said, petting the magical mace, “Now let’s go see if your cousins are all right.”

  I linked myself to the mace’s stores of energy just in case I needed it, then opened the tree and slowly climbed down, checking my surroundings every few feet. Norn was keeping watch, but I didn’t trust the little bitch right now. He didn’t help during the last confrontation or the one before that. I need to work on my magical mind domination for beasts. Perfecting that will give me so many options down the road. Yup, still looked like a bomb went off. I went down to the hole under the World Tree, and began hunting around for the Chaos shards. I felt two immediately and stuffed them in a pocket and then spent the next thirty minutes slowly searching the backyard. The blast would have sent them towards the alley behind the back yard. I found two more embedded in the neighbor’s trees and one in the house further back than that. Two hours of painstaking searching did not lead to more easter eggs. Five would have to be enough for now.

  I set about repairing the landscape near and under the tree, conjuring dirt and rocks to fill in the hole and using nature sorcery to encourage the grass to grow quickly over it’s new real estate. Yggdrasil now looked like it had its own tiny hill to stand on. Maybe I could take a lesson from Mr. Tolkien, and build myself a hobbit’s burrow, but nuclear silo style. I went to the backyard and began to dig downwards toward the main root of the world tree. I kept going, banishing dirt and periodically turning the tunnel walls to stone for stability, until I was roughly sixty feet down. Then I began banishing more dirt and framing the walls with granite until I had a giant room to live in. Copying the plan from the arboreal room, I put another thick generator down here as well next to the main root spearing down from the new ceiling, but I also put runes of concealment and misdirection all over the generator, so anyone looking down here wouldn’t see anything, their mystical eyes glazing over my living space. Then I made another huge crystal battery and linked it to the generator, having the same rough plan as before. I made a small side room with a stone tub that had a drainage chamber underneath that was set to banish its contents whenever it got full. Makeshift shower. Then I went back to the main room and made a granite countertop and put a stone plate off to the right, which, after putting a conditional heat enchantment on it, became my impromptu frying pan. Now I need to get some food and steal a couple beds for my bolt holes, then work on the next part of my buff-me-up plan, tattoos!

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