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  Momentarily pinned, Gungnir began channeling my flesh sorcery, attacking the snake from the inside. I felt it using the soul of Rath to establish a struggle for dominance as I took up the freezing blasts of water again. As the water pooled around the snake, I began drawing on the vast amounts of energy in Svalinn, and conjured a huge torrent of water with chunks of rock in it above my head , and hurled it at the snake. My impression of an unforgiving waterfall smashed the snake into the tree behind it, where I began spraying it again and freezing every bit of water near it. I split my focus and made the earth underneath the grounded tail force it up. “Now!” I sent to Gungnir. Yellow sparks formed a cracklin current that seized up the muscles in the snakes body, its two spidery front legs twitching, a beautiful dance that I’ll never tire of. “I got it! I got it!” Gungnir sent back to me, “Quick, dominate it! Rath’s soul and the current made it vulnerable, get in here!”

  I formed stone over the creature to trap it and put my hand on its wide head. Drops of blood were slowly leaking out of the corner of its eyes while its tongue hung limply from the side of its mouth. I conjured ice with one hand to force its mouth shut, and with the other hand I shoved my focus into the snake. I wasn’t drawn into a mental battle at like I was with Kong, the creature too simple to fight me on the mental level. Using flesh sorcery, I bound its will to mine and sculpted runes of domination on the scale plate protecting its forehead, and then a rune of enslavement on the bones in its skull. So weird, this twisted snake felt like several creatures mashed together, not just physically, but mentally. Bits of thoughts and memories clashed with angry instincts. I felt around the mismatched body and mind of the creature finding a snake, obviously, some kind of big spider, a raven, and even weirder, a ferret.

  As far as I could tell, these creatures were fighting in pairs, the snake and ferret and the raven with the spider, during one Ripple and combined to form two sets, which during the next Ripple, combined the conjoined critters to form this chimera. And what I really wanted to know, was how in the world on the mental level is the ferret still alive. I could clearly in this thing’s brain how the ferret was scampering around the spider and its web while dodging the dive bombing raven and pissing off the snake. I reached in and grabbed each translucent animal one at a time in my left mental hand, while the other hand grabbed the other critters and jammed them together. Forcing my will, my hands together, I poured mana into the disparate minds and created something with new instincts, my very own sapper.

  For those who don’t know the lingo, a sapper is, in short, a combat engineer, but an offensive one, and I planned on twisting this to be a trap setter. The sneaky nature of the ferret with the creativity of a raven combined with the ambush instincts of the snake and trap making nature/capabilities of the spider, I had the perfect recipe for an evil sapper. Redoing all of my domination runes took some time as I had messed with the mind and soul of this creature, this sapper chimera. Healing it took a bit as I had to make sure that all of the non-compatible parts of the creature were taken care of. Chaos didn’t seem to plan when it threw their bodies together. I fixed the symmetry and healed the wounds. “Huh, it’s warm blooded, no wonder the ice didn’t work as well as I’d hoped,” I muttered, while rooting around magically in its body. Fixed the defunct spinnerets, grew the wings out some more and made the feathers harder than steel while correcting the mixed up nerves that governed its heat sensing glands. “Gungnir, take over,” I said, pulling my hand back from my new trap maker, “It’s mostly done, just needs to know who’s boss. Time to get this army party goin!”

  “My turn to name it!” Gungnir burbled, bouncing around happily, “John! You’re name is John! There, that’s easy to remember!”

  “John is a human name,” I said, “Go with something better, like ‘Arachne’, or ‘Kimerak’.”

  “No, you’ve picked stupid names so far. I’m calling it John. It’s short for John the Bomb!”

  Shaking my head, I left the nutty weapon to its own devices. And on it went, the whole damn day. Find some weird looking creature and beat it down with Gungnir while it gave them very human names. A beast army, man that felt good, not really what I wanted, but kinda convenient. When Kong returned with Norn in tow, tossing the gigantic bird in front of me, I had the snake chimera John, a fox-wolf pack about eight strong called pups (1-8), a dog-sized racoon crossed with a praying mantis named Kimmy, and a couple lizards as big as motorcycles that seemed to eat rocks named Huey, Duey, and Louie. Not as many creatures as I was hoping for, but it would do for now. “Look what the ape dragged in,” I said, eyeing Norn up and down, his feathers now streaked with a bit of gold. I dismissed the other creatures to patrol the forest. Kong huffed at me and scratched at his chest and leg where blood dripped out of long scratches. “The bird do that?” I asked, getting an angry chuff in reply. I put my hand on Kong’s leg, closing up his wounds. “Sorry to do this to you mate,” I said, looking at Norn, “But I can’t have you going anywhere. Kong, sit on him.”

  The big ape grinned and smacked Norn so he was flattened to the ground, spread eagle, putting his ass crack right on top of Norn’s beak while holding Norn’s wings with his hands. Norn squawked and struggled, his eyes going wide as I approached, sending me longing thoughts of freedom and open skies through our thin mental link. “You know what,” I said, lowering my hand gently to his head, “That’s fine, but the tree, this tree,” gesturing to the World Tree, “Is home. The forest is home. I am in charge.” I took the idea of the forest around my domain and put it carefully in Norn’s hindbrain, the place where his instincts ruled him, and made the concept of home synonymous with nest. I needed him to be the ‘king of the sky’ for me, the ruler of the creatures in the forest as he was already almost as big as Kong now. I spent thirty minutes using flesh magic to imprint runes of domination to me in his skull, and then put a rune of sky ruler, a crown on top of a cloud, on his breastbone.

  I also healed him as Kong lifted his ass off of Norn’s beak, the great ape stomping twenty feet away. “No sir!” I said loudly, “Not done with you. We got one more scumbag before you take a break.”

  Kong grunted while scratching his stomach, empty growls resonating through our mental link. “Fine, go eat,” I replied, “But be back when you’re done. We got a croc to catch.”

  I hadn’t forgotten Mr. Big and Bad scalyface that chose me as prey earlier today, freaking giant crocodile wanted to snack on me. He’d be a perfect guardian for the river. Now, I didn’t want to have a beast army, honestly, but that’s what I had available. These freaky creatures all around will serve as guards for my majestic hermit self. They’ll also serve as distractions or shock troops if I need to defend or attack mystic invaders. Once I get this all set up and have most of the woodland freaks under my control, then it would be time to hunt down the rest of the gates.

  Another hour’s worth of prep was really all I needed for my next conquest. Kong returned from his lunch and I had a giant Kong-sized net grown from sorcery-enhanced plant fibers complete with thorns and a vitality draining enchantment woven through it. What took me the longest was folding the damn thing. Gungnir wasn’t any help, flitting through the forest messing with the various creatures I’d dominated. “All right, you’re not gonna like this,” I said, standing over the net, “But we are taking down a croc, which won’t be as bad as the dragon, I think, but we won’t know till we try.”

  A feeling of smug arrogance rolled off Kong through our link. “Yeah, yeah, cocky fucker,” I said, rolling my eyes, “This would be a lot easier if Spot were here too. You throw the net on it and jump on its head while Spot wrangles it by the tail. Fine, we can do this the hard way.” Kong picked up the next and slung it over his shoulder with one hand while picking up his axe with the other, cooing to it like a psycho with his knives. “Enough of that,” I said, twanging the mental link to get his attention, “Let’s go fishin.”

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