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  Gathering my faculties around me once more, I banished my tiredness with flesh sorcery and checked all of my gear. I felt like a tank, a tank with big arms. Svalinn was awesome, but maybe a little clunky. As the little complaints made themselves known, the dual shield-gauntlets began to creep up on the top of my shoulders, moving mass around until they connected around my neck covering the upper parts of my back and chest. There we go, somewhat sentient magical gear is awesome. I conjured water on the fingertips of my right hand and combined the five drops into one, spinning it with a flick of my will. The right half of Svalinn was softly glowing blue, the runes themselves a mix of white and blue.

 

  “Oh, forgot to tell you,” Gungnir said, making a sound as if he smacked himself in the head like an absent minded child, “Svalinn also stores energy from the environment and any excess power you give off. The dragon soul energy in there also will keep it powered for probably the next decade or so.”

 

  Right on. I checked on Spot one last time, hoping for a crack in that petrified exterior. No change as of yet. I patted his stony head and set off, intent on finding out what’s become of Norn. Stepping outside is always a strange shock, being a human from a period in our technological advancement where a time-telling device was ever present. Without a clock telling me the exact time, I came to realize that my internal clock was nowhere near as accurate as I used to think. It was roughly an hour before dusk and here I was ready to go for an adventure. Damn it, I wanted my freaking bird. Creating another hoverboard, since I lost the last one, took about ten minutes. Hopping on, I turned towards where my thinning mental link told me what direction Norn was, and began strengthening the lift enchantment. I got up to about fifty feet before common sense smacked me, reminding me that these old pre-Ripple trees were the size of redwoods now. Zipping over trees on a hoverboard just doesn’t work anymore as the higher up I go, the less I get out of the anti-gravity enchantment, which pushes against the ground for thrust and levitation.

 

  Learn from my mistakes, actually learn from my mistakes. Darkness and night in post-Ripple Earth are not safe places for soft humans such as myself. I did still have the link to Norn, however thin it was now. Maybe I could still use it? “What do big eagle-crows like?” I muttered, leaning against the hollow tree entrance to my tunnel. “Birdseed and bitches!” Gungnir crowed.

 

  “Mention bitches one more time and I’m removing your ability to ability to say that one word,” I growled. I heard the mental equivalent of Gungnir taking a deep breath to spew a diatribe of synonyms when it hit me. I already had a thug ready to do my dirty work. I conjured a ruby the size of my head, put a few enchantments on it and summoned Kong with my mental link. Turns out the great ape lizard was sleeping right above me and not very happy. He dropped down to the ground in front of me and let out a roar that shook the earth.

 

  “When you get back from this errand, I’m teaching you how to clean your mouth out,” I said, turning off my sense of smell with flesh sorcery, “And you can do this tomorrow instead of tonight, cause I’m not a douche. Take this stone, don’t drop it or forget it. It will lead you to a big bird named Norn. Touch him with this stone and return home quickly. It will make him want to follow you. Got it?” I finished as I tossed the ape the stone. I might want to rethink that thought of not having people around to do my mundane crap for me. I mean, if I could get a giant battle gorilla to do my bidding, how hard would it be? After Kong left, I crawled into my bed under the World Tree bolthole and put myself to sleep with flesh sorcery.

 

  Soup is great, but it’s not really a breakfast food. Waking up to corn chowder did not inspire great thoughts of magnanimous action towards my environment, but it did get wake me up. I grumped my way down to the cavern and checked on Spot. My magical senses didn’t alert me of any change, and after going over the runes carved into the cavern walls for an hour or two, I was bored. Very bored. The smart thing to do would be to hunker down and prep my three living areas for the new circumstances, but I reasoned my way out of that bit of intelligent thinking because fortifying the areas would mitigate their best feature, not being noticeable in the first place. Besides, Gungnir’s nightly tasks while I got my beauty sleep were to alter/update the runes so that the structural integrity of the hideouts would be in perfect shape and so that they would be unnoticed as much as possible. Part of this was me banking on the intense energy presence of the nearby ley lines and Yggdrasil tree to mask what my living areas.

 

  So what’s a bored sorcerer to do with a wide open day full of promises and opportunities as well as no guiding force? Build an army. Gungnir popped out from whatever dark corner it was hiding in, “AN ARMY?!” it screamed, playing death metal music in my head, “HELL YEAH! Finally a plan worthy of us!” Following me, Gungnir and I exited the river-bottom hideout through the escape hatch, I took my time popping my head out, using water sorcery to breathe as I looked around the the murkier bottom of the river. Using my sorcery, I could feel the current around me and the creatures aligned with this wonderfully wet element, and my flesh sorcery could detect their hunger. A giant set of jaws from a crocodile bigger than Spot was coming straight at my head. I instantly ducked back into the escape hatch, sealing it shut, then went back down into the cavern. “Fuck me,” I said, emerging back into the cavern and going down the stairs, “Hell no,” Gungnir said, bobbing next to me. I muttered to myself the entire way down the tunnel to the Yggdrasil’s root. “I heard that ya know,” it said, only making me say even more vile things under my breath.

 

We reached the stone door and used magic to check the immediate vicinity for anything that could reasonably eat me if given half a chance. I also took that moment to check my mental link to Kong, seems like he left not too long ago, which didn’t bother me. Any disobeying my commands and I could do any kind of nasty things to him from afar. The place that used to be my front lawn, with an asphalt street in front of it and surrounded by neighborhood with white picket fenced in houses, was no longer that idyllic picture. Where children used to run and cars chugged along was now a wilderness, pretty much all traces of human progress wiped away. I felt along the earth with my magic, thinking that the street was still there, ten feet in front of me where it used to be. Maybe it was just covered in dirt. A minute of examination with my senses revealed that all hints of the street were gone. “The Ripple of Chaos probably just broke it down to its component parts,” Gungnir said, “And also probably superpowered up some of the plants and animals which had their own magically induced feeding frenzy. Just wait till you find some bugs, gonna be some B-horror movie madness!” The excitement in its tone did not inspire the same for me.

 

  “The plan is for you to fly high and find something I can dominate, like I did with Kong,” I told Gungnir, “And we use whatever that is to do it again, and again, until the woods within a couple miles of the hideout are relatively safe.” The orb took off, squealing with happiness. “QUIETLY!” I yelled after it. A soft hiss above me stopped me cold for the barest half second as Gungnir was already well away from me. Diving forward was all that saved me from an impact that resembled an explosion due to the force. Svalinn came alive, forming two bladed shields along my arms as I pulled out of the tumble and turned partly in mid-air. A quick mental message to Gungnir is all I had time for as some kind of twisted snake pulled itself out of the crater, spider-esque arms gripping the crumbled rim. Its slit pupils had a rounded point in the center that wasn’t the same color as the rest of it. It’s head was the size of a country boy’s four wheeler and two sets of small black wings flared out from the back of the base of its skull. Perfect.

 

  I hopped backwards while conjuring water and channeling it through Svalinn, turning a normal blast of water into a firehose that froze on contact with the twisted snake. It was all I could think of, as reptiles tend not to be a big fan of the cold. Not liking my cordial welcome, it shook itself, breaking the first layer of ice and reared back, searching for the meal that fought back. A scream of “Tally Hooo!” accompanied a blast of lightning from the sky as Gungnir dive bombed right in. The animal caught the blast square on its soaked head and I swore it snickered. I kept up unending blasts of ice water that froze while running backwards. I saw that the tip of the snake’s tail was shoved into the Earth. “It’s grounded,” I sent to Gungnir, who was sending bolt after bolt of lightning at the snake, “Knock that off till it isn’t.” I kept walking backwards conjuring blasts of water, hoping the snake would get angry enough to follow me, but it kept flexing its coils to break the newly formed ice. I started only using one arm to blast water while holding out my other arm, which Gungnir flew into in spear form. A quick mental back and forth changed the whole plan. Stopping the water conjuring completely, I lined up a shot, and hurled Gungnir, who guided my aim straight into the grounded tail of the beast.

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