The next couple days sort of flew by, literally. I enchanted a new beefed up hoverboard and flew around the Fredericksburg area, going as far north as Woodbridge and as far south as Ruther Glen, and then I went east and west on the Rappahannock till I got tired. Reeanth followed behind in my old hoverboard that I linked to my new one so that she could tag along as backup. Using an old map I had stashed away, I notated all the changes in the landscape as best my ugly art skills would allow. Every bit of nature was exaggerated in size and in color.
What used to be small bushes were now easily bigger than most cars and trees definitely loved the new magical environment. A few of them even swung at me when I wasn’t paying attention. The river was wider and deeper and small hills now looked like they were straight out of Switzerland. Animals we saw were bigger and some of the tamer mutations were two-headed whitetail deer with razor sharp horns and ants the size of golden retrievers that used some kind of cutting magic to carve out their homes. And don’t even get me started on beavers. I saw one bite the tail off a crocodile while its mate went toe to toe with the front end of the croc.
And it was all gone. The mark humanity had left on this world, at least in this part, was gone. The little towns out west near the mountains were swallowed up and the string of apartments was now a treacherous gully where flying critters played. The parts of Earth that did not have magic were now gone, consumed by the wave of change. What made it weird on the instinctual level, was watching the animals as I tried to interact with them. Before the world went and flipped on our heads, animals used to be afraid of us. Stray cats ran and birds only came close for the food in our hands, and unless they were domesticated after years of selective breeding or conditioning from birth, animals stayed away from humans. This was no longer the case.
Sparrows dive bombed us. Ants spewed some kind of magic that I dodged at all costs because I saw the projectiles cut chunks out of trees. A freaking pangolin hurled boulders and shot needles out of its tail while mountain lions screamed loud enough to blow tree branches off of their trunks and almost threw me off my board. Nature was terrifying already, but magically enhanced nature with a grudge was more than enough for my lizard brain cry for its mother. By and large, the animals were generally bigger than they were before, but not many were the size of Kong or Spot. I did see a gigantic green snake in the distance, sunning itself in what used to be a commuter lot, but like hell was I going to check it out.
Reeanth was quiet during those couple of days, silently eyeing me with distrust and constantly watching over her shoulder. I mean, it does make sense. I had an inordinate amount of power over her life, literally. We did get into a bit of an argument when she found out that the stash of Centauri weapons I took from her and her gang were blown up along with my house by some insane goddess not too long after I kicked Reeanth back to her world. Even though I held her life in my hands, words such as “idiot, moron, fucking stupid’ and batshit crazy’ flew around for a bit. The best part of it all was me telling her to shut up and it worked. You’ll never see that in the modern world without magic.
I was not an ungrateful sorcerer, I did spend plenty of time making Reeanth some cool new weapons out of the results of my earlier experiments. Since she couldn’t run away or betray me without serious pain or injury, I didn’t hold back making some epic stuff. As I worked with the magical items, I also took the time to work through my own misgivings about her being a ‘slave’. I didn’t really want one, or even need one, but it did impart a feeling of safety having someone watch my back, albeit under duress. And I asked her several times if she minded or cared, but apparently this kind of thing is far more common where she’s from.
Not only did I get a lot of exploring done, but I accomplished a ridiculous amount of fortifying. Using my earth sorcery, I made the walls of my river-hideout and under-Yggdrasil hideout to over forty feet thick by transmuting the dirt and soil to solid stone. Then I added runes of hardness and strength mixed with kinetic absorption as the river was now several times bigger than it used to be. And to the Yggdrasil sapling itself, I made sure that the generator was double the size, big enough to be stable and not meltdown like the last couple. That part was the trickiest, as there were many pieces of that puzzle to consider. Is hooking a nuclear mana generator to Yggdrasil going to benefit me in any way? At what point does my over-prepping become enough? Should I create mini-tree minions to guard the square mile area around the tree in case I’m not there? Why am I so goddamn paranoid?
In my paranoia, I also created a stash of weapons at each of my three hideouts, the river-bottom one, the hold-under-the-World-Tree one, and the one inside the World Tree about a hundred yards up. Each stash contained fifty flash-bang pebbles, fifty strobe light pebbles, fifty packs of insta-grow thorny vine seeds, and ten bang batons. Yes, lame names but they work. The bang batons have three settings, one throws softball size rocks almost as fast a bullet, one shoots icicles about a meter long, and the other spits the insta-grow thorny vine seeds. And next to those were the big guns, the storm staffs, for when I have to bring the rain. Those ones were spears that had two functions, one was store and shoot pure mana blasts with mono-molecular edges to cut through just about anything, and the other to act as a leyline finding rod. Anybody could stick the butt end in the ground and light would shine out of the crystal spear tip in the direction of the nearest leyline. Even if all else fails, an idiot normal human with no magic could survive for a while in one of my hideouts.
Several days before the last Ripple
“Put it down!”
“Put the knife down!”
“Woman! This isn’t your call!”
“This is overridden by my original oath!”
“Fuck you! I order you to shut the hell up and let me experiment!”
“Fuck your interpretation!”
I guess from the outside looking in, it may look bad. I was sitting on the ground in the river-hideout beneath the river kinetic-current mana converter surrounded by various crystals and magical materials that I had gathered. And, oh yeah, I had a wickedly sharp stone dagger poised over my left wrist and I was doing my damndest to stick it in with Reeanth doing hers to keep me from my goal. Not explaining myself may not have been the smartest thing to do, but who cares, I’m the boss.
“There’s a point to this!”
“That’s what I’m keeping away from you, you most idiotic of Sorcerous lords!”
She was right. I was an idiot. I didn’t need a pitiful knife. I have flesh sorcery. Letting go of the knife, Reeanth stumbled back and fell on her ass, to which I gestured with my right hand and used earth sorcery to make the stone beneath her swallow up her lower half. And there we sat, glaring at each other.
“If you die I die!” she yelled, “And I swore and oath to you and your cause, which means I can’t let you die!”
“Who the fuck said anything about dying? I’m trying to work here.”
“By summoning a demon?!” Her look of sheer terror convinced me that maybe I overlooked something.
“What, the, fucking, hell, are you talking about? All I’m trying to do is use my flesh and earth sorcery to add some crystalline fibers to my body and maybe carve some precious metal runes on my bones. I can’t compete pound for pound with anything outside these walls without my magic.”
“You truly don’t know?” she asked, her legs and butt and hands still encased in stone. “This is almost exactly how you summon a creature from the Infernal dimension, or protect yourself during a treacherous summoning.”
Maybe I’m not the idiot.
“What part of my actions makes you think that I can, or would want to summon a demon?” I asked, incredulity dripping from my voice. “Your body is fundamentally wired differently than mine with some kind of crystalline fibers, and so I was going to see if I could do a better job, but I need exposed flesh for that. You, are just getting in my way.”
Bowing her head, her voice quietly cracked, “But why? You’re a sorcerer. You don’t need to do that.”
“What am I missing here?” I asked but kept going. “All of the power I have accumulated so far has either been a big success or a ridiculous miss. Enslaving various beasts hasn’t worked because the damn Ripples set them free. My dog ate part of a dragon and now is a lovely statue, my woman is in a tree, and my best weapon now sings all the damn time, OUT OF TUNE BY THE WAY!”
The soft humming in the background quieted.
“And, the only things that have worked or lasted are the things that have to do with me personally, like exercising or experimenting with my abilities, or crafting armor and small enchanted weapons or my hideouts. It stands to reason that enchanting or enhancing my own body is probably the best way to increase my power permanently. Summoning a demon is not on my list of things to do. I have a distinct feeling that they aren’t fun to work with.”
“But my lord, they are easy to work with. They will do anything you ask, but the price is always greater than the gain.” Her gaze met mine, her intensity creeping me out just a little. “I have lost many a friend who has done what I thought you were doing. Some in pursuit of power, and others as suicide soldiers when all seemed lost on the battlefield.”
“Besides all the questions that just popped into my head, let me assure you that I am not going to summon a god damned demon.”
“Can you let me out please?”
With a wave of my hand, the stone released its hold on her. “Now that you know I’m not going to do anything stupid, are you going to let me work in peace?”
“Yes my lord.”
“Finally,” I muttered, turning my focus back to my wrist.
“For pete’s sake WHAT NOW?” I yelled and turned, my exasperation getting the better of me.
“I feel that it is my duty to tell you that your dog is not a statue, not truly. It isn’t dead. My suit detects most threats and your stone canine is most certainly one of them.”
“I know that,” I replied, “Spot is in some kind of stasis. My flesh sorcery showed me that a weird kind of metamorphosis is going on. He’s also not a threat. I gave him a seed of flesh sorcery when I bonded with him so that as he ate magical things or creatures he could instinctively take on some aspects of his prey to become stronger, so, I fed him the tail of a dragon I killed. The same dragon whose brain is in that vat over there. Now, no more questions, please.”
Now, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but two hours of examination later, I concluded that I didn’t have the knowhow to actually do what I wanted to do. The concept was easy enough, blend molecules of graphene which are properly chained carbon atoms, to my cells to make them more durable on the fundamental level, and then do that to every part of me. But no. I did not possess the necessary knowledge to be able to do that. And, the worst part was that my flesh sorcery did not want to help me for some reason in this regard. There was deep-seated unconscious fear every time I tried to merge a red blood cell with the graphene, my flesh sorcery rejected it.
So, if merging doesn’t work for some unknown reason, maybe the runic enchanting will. But if I’m going to go down this route, I have to figure out a more basic question first. How does my body produce and store magical energy, or is it something that my body takes in from the outside and assimilates?