It felt so good in fact, that I almost shut the door hole in her face. It occurred to me, that with my abilities, I could just leave and hollow out a mountain somewhere nearby and do whatever the hell I wanted. I could burrow down and create an underground fortress, or make that mountain indestructible from the inside! Oh the possibilities. I could experiment for a few hundred years while using flesh sorcery to keep me young and energetic and go full on mad scientist. I could wait out the Ripples and the various arms races that each continent was holding. And all of this would be a helluva lot easier if I had someone capable and not completely ignorant watching my back. The lack of choices is certainly painful, but it could be worse, way worse.
“How do I prove to myself that this oath, this vow of loyalty is real?” I asked her through the hole. “What proof do you have?”
She hesitated for a second. “Blood,” Reeanth said, “Lies hurt, but disobedience bleeds.”
“If you order me to tell the truth and I lie, I will feel pain until I comply. If you order me to do something and I defy you, I will bleed.”
“How badly? Like, can I test this in a non-life threatening way?”
“It depends on the severity of the offense. The more it angers or disappoints you, the worse for me it will become. This is why our cadets follow their leaders so faithfully, one, because they swore to do so. And two, because the leaders make an oath back to be a good leader and to make intelligent decisions that keeps the soldiers’ well-being in mind. Both parties are held by magic in a pact of obedience, loyalty, trust, and decency.”
My left eye-brow rose a fraction. “Sounds like there’s plenty of room here for maneuvering around that.”
“We follow the spirit of the oath as well!” she snapped, “We are not the Fae!” Her sudden vehemence took me off guard.
“I didn’t mean to insult, but what are the Fae? The Elves or Aelves, however you say it, they are in the Amazon rainforest. That the same thing, Fae and Aelves?”
“My lord, we have a lot to talk about. Your education is very poor.”
“Of course it’s poor! How many times do I have to explain this to every fucking idiot that drops by for a visit?”
Flexing my will, I activated the weapon-rune components of Svalinn, blue energy making the blades lengthen down my forearm, and then banished the stone door, taking a few steps back. “Come on in Reeanth. Let’s test this oath.”
She gingerly walked in, eyeing Svalinn as it crackled with stored power. “That’s new.”
“Yup, and don’t give me an excuse to test it too.”
She stopped just inside the door.
Looking her up and down and noting the ragged state of her uniform, I noticed her tense stance. She actually viewed me as a threat right now. Guess I’m coming up in the world.
“I order you, Reeanth, to fetch me a can of soup.”
She didn’t move. Well, her body didn’t, but her face barely scrunched as a line of blood began to flow down her forehead originating from her hairline. This was kinda cool, but freaky, like when you watch a horror movie about a haunted house and you see blood dripping down the walls but there’s no signs of violence and you just want to make sure that your eyes are not lying to you.
“Reeanth, drop and give me twenty.”
A small cut opened up on her exposed upper right arm, a small trickle of red creating a stream down her arm. I let a little bit of my temper leak out.
She held still for a moment, then folded like a cheap plastic chair. “Oh shit! Oh shit, shit, shit, shit” I cursed, making Svalinn withdraw the blades as I jumped to her side. “I rescind all my orders!” I freaked as I pushed my flesh sorcery into her wounds, sealing them up and examining her insides. “Way too far!” I muttered as my sorcery showed me the battlefield that was her body. The damage was extensive, and I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Her own body, her red blood cells and nerves had literally attacked her on the cellular level, ripping molecular tears in her muscles and overloading her synapses with alternating hormones. At this moment, her body had stopped fighting me, but the damage was incredible. I had to reconnect the muscles fibers and seal up the the micro-tears in the arteries and regrow half of her nervous system.
Thank the Ripple that my flesh sorcery contained the instincts to do this almost autonomously. The fact that sorcery is guided by will is what makes what I do look so easy even though I can watch the million steps it to actually get something done. Without my personal generator, I used Reeanth’s own energy and the ambient mana in the area around me to power this regrowth. “Uhg, generators. Another problem to fix. Another awesome plan wrecked by the freaking Ripple.” I muttered as I dragged the unconscious woman to the cot I had set up in the corner. Several grunts and a constant stream of cursing later, I had her heavy ass lying on the cot, her feet hanging off as it was meant for a person of normal height.
“Gungnir, did you find anything about mana storage or batteries or generators of any kind yet?” I yelled over my shoulder to the docked orb.
“Not really. Dragons don’t care about mana generation as they make plenty of their own, and their bodies store the excess that they generate,” Gungnir answered, “Which is why big dragons tend to be the most powerful. They also tend to nest or store their hoard on a ley line of their preference for faster growth.”
“So, everything always comes back to size huh?”
“Yup. Ask your woman when she wakes up. That’s why they’re all so big. Their bigger bodies are designed to hold far more mana. I bet they had a flesh sorcerer long ago who came up with the template for the enhanced humans. It also might be the root cause of what got rid of sorcerers in their society.”
Ignorance. Cucked by my own ignorance. What I couldn’t give to have a greater IQ. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a smart guy, but that’s compared to humanity prior to magic returning. How do I measure up to an alien wizard with centuries of learning and experimentation?
“Ok, so the body can hold mana, right. But what else can?” I questioned. The basics most of all were what I needed to know. “Is there anything in that vat about exercising your soul so it can hold more magic or be more powerful? What about increasing how much mana my body naturally generates? There’s gotta be something.”
“Dude, there’s like tens of thousands of years of memories in this big brain, and this little brain on the side of the big brain has literal ENCRYPTION in parts of it. This is gonna take a while.”
A while. Fuck a while. I wanted to explore. One Ripple left. No personal generators. A horde of living animals that were former slaves circling my forest. Boredom. My new greatest enemy. It may be the death of me. Fuck boredom. I sat my butt on the floor next to Reeanth’s cot. Normally, my hermit instincts serve me well, the natural drive of the introvert to chill and wait out the situation is perfect for this situation. But even I need a group, a place to be social, once in a while. The human condition requires a pack, companionship. It seems to be a built in weakness, one that I am not immune to.
I scanned Reeanth, noting that her body was back to normal. Guess oaths are a thing. I’m going to have to be very careful with my words from now on. “Hey!” I shouted, “Time to get up!” Using my flesh sorcery, I forced her pain-induced unconsciousness to recede. “We’re going to test this oath for real. I have experiments and things to do outside, and you’re going to watch my back. Protect me with that over-sized body of yours and I’ll make sure that you’re always in one piece.”
Not sure she caught all of that. Her wiping the crud out of her eyes did not inspire my belief that she heard me. “Reeanth!”
“Yes my lord. I heard you,” she said sitting up, stretching like a cat after a long nap. Her grey eyes seemed to convey no emotion whatsoever. “In order to accomplish my duty properly, I will need to repair my suit and find a suitable weapon.”
My sarcasm trotted out like a proud knight peacocking around in brand-spankin new armor. “Right. Because I can repair high-tech alien magical armor. If that were the case, I would have already made some. I’d be walking around in some Iron Man suit wrecking zombies if I had that kind of power. But no, my dumbass didn’t choose fire or energy or light, I picked earth and water.”
“You can conjure metal right?” she clarified, her voice holding a hint of amusement.
“Yes. All day. But I don’t see how that helps. I already examined your armor. It’s freaking platinum mixed with iridium. Both of those are super rare and my sorcery takes a long time to conjure stuff that rare. Besides, after I’ve conjured it, it’s almost impossible for me to affect platinum.”
“I don’t need those for now. Regular steel works.” She said smugly.
“If you would be so kind, my lord, I shall show you.”
Conjuring a bar of iron in my hand, I held it up. “Steel doesn’t occur naturally. We got iron though.” In my other hand, I conjured a small diamond. “Diamonds are easier to conjure since they are made from carbon, which is the most abundant element.” I banished them both and then conjured a small block of titanium. “What about this?”
“That, that actually works.” she said, eyeing me with new respect. “How does conjuring work? Our mage-techs can’t do that. In order to build, we have to gather the materials and place them in an assembly circle and then load a schematic into the guidance diamond. Then it tells us the missing elements from the process before we begin, and then using the supplied mana from the storage batteries, the circle manufactures whatever the schematic wants once the required materials are present.”
“Dude, that sounds like freaking alchemy.” I said, my inner nerd getting excited.
“No, alchemy is the science of transmutation. Wizardry is the science of building. We use alchemy for body augmentation and potions.”
Totally cannot wait until we break into her cloned brain. I’m gonna learn so damn much.
She took the block of titanium from my hand. “And we use nanobots for this.” She reached down and pulled a small block of translucent material the size of an ice cube from a hidden compartment at her ankle. Then she squished it to her chest and then held the block of conjured titanium to the new wet spot. I watched fascinated as the block of titanium shrank and the tears of her armor slowly filled in. “Quick my lord, I need more. I don’t have many repair cubes left!”
I quickly conjured several more and handed them to her, which she quickly put them on different parts of her suit that were being repaired. The blocks sank in, dissolving before my eyes as her ragged and torn Centauri battle-suit fixed itself. My eyes were huge, then they quickly narrowed as I looked at Reeanth in full battle-rattle.
“So, can you make more nanobots if you had the raw material? Cause I want one of those suits.” I said enviously, images of me in an epic futuristic combat suit running through my head.
“I can,” she said, “But they would all be keyed to my DNA. It’s to prevent the enemy from copying our abilities. These suits allow even untrained wizards to use their full power. The only training required is the mental part, where they learn to activate the runes which does the magic for them.”
Her words rocked me. “Hold up. You’re telling me that pretty much most of your soldiers don’t actually know how to use magic?! Their suits do it all for them? THEN WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT OF HAVING MAGIC!” My voice got louder as my body caught up to my surprise. “You have this incredible ability, this amazing power, and you let something else use it? What the fucking hell is wrong with all of you?!”
“We are at war sorcerer,” she snapped. “I don’t expect you to understand, but we, the Great Centauri Empire, don’t have time for the traditional apprenticeship or schooling of two decades to teach each generation how to feel the magic, and then guide the magic, and then integrate it into yourself, and then how to create the tiny building blocks of magic with conditions so that it does exactly what we want it to without burning us out from the inside. The wretched Hive does not give us time to train. All the Hive does is eat and enslave. Wizardry takes a long time to properly use and train. We haven’t had combat sorcerers in so long that their ranks were taken out of our manuals. These suits, saved our civilization millenia ago and keep us alive today.”
Great. More enemies. Woohoo.