The next morning brought its own set of worries. The last Ripple was just two or three days away and something wasn’t sitting right with me. Each Ripple has been getting weaker as the Dimensional Seal keeping Earth locked away is opening more and more, but something just wasn’t sitting right with me. Murphy’s Law is what rules my life, and it definitely carries a grudge. Lying in my bed, I was playing with a ball of rock, using my earth sorcery to mold it and shape it like a child would with play-doh. A whim of will could turn solid granite to dust in my hand, and it never ceased to amaze me that magic is real!

  My flesh sorcery allowed me to pack the necessary amount of REM sleep into just a few hours, and I spent that extra time playing around with runes. So far, I had been using runes that I had made up, some arbitrary caveman-ish drawings actually worked and functioned roughly the way I wanted it to because sorcery and enchantment works off of intent. This did not mean that it was the most efficient way. The first sorcery I had gained was related to runes and enchantments, but I hadn’t fully explored that. I had the distinct feeling after examining Reeanth’s battlesuit, which is covered in many runes, that my made-up runes were like a musket compared to a modern sniper rifle that she was packing.

  And now, playing with my baseball sized piece of granite and forming it into different shapes, I noticed that magic flowed differently through it. What made it worse is that I couldn’t be specific in how or why the magic treated shapes differently, but it did. This is one of the areas that my lack of knowledge was really holding me back. The only thing I had going for me was my overwhelming power, the unending supply of mana I had in the way of the kinetic-current converter in the river hideout and the two big generators in the under-tree hideout and the in-the-tree hideout. And those ones are going to require some serious maintenance soon.

  Damn, what I wouldn’t give to go back in time and go to college for something worthwhile, like nuclear or mechanical engineering. Shit, or even medical school so that I could fully use my flesh sorcery to its utmost potential. My problem is me. I’m too dumb for this. Other than endless mana, my other strengths are diverse powers and stubbornness, and I have that last one in spades.

  My mind randomly began turning over another subject. What Reeanth said in regards to altered states of mind, that they weren’t picked up. Which is either a really good or really bad outcome depending on the circumstances. Mine went rather well, other than my fiance incident, and is still going alright. I mean, I’m still alive and am more powerful than any human in recent history, but I guess that the leftovers might not have had such accommodating circumstances, or even made a wish when they had the chance. My skittish mind hopped around again as long term-benefits warred with short term convenience. Bumpkins one through four, there might be a way to swing this whole thing in my favor.

  They couldn’t live too far from here, and they probably don’t have much gas left. Also, they’re probably good people that would want a larger community. One possible avenue would be to build an inverted version of a skyscraper for them, an underground bunker with a bunch of apartments. Or, I could build into a mountain or even just make a bunch of Hobbit houses in some small hills. I figure they’d probably want to bring back lone souls they find out on their exploration trips and wouldn’t mind having a safe place to bring them back to. I could also train them, or help them expand their abilities as well as equipping them.

  When I got tired of thinking about it, I put my energy to good use in the early hours. By the time they woke up, I had presents for them. “Morning sleepyheads,” I greeted them as they stumbled into the main room. “Coffee is on the table, I have sugar but no milk, and as soon as you finish waking up, you’re gonna love what I got for ya.”

  Bleary eyes opened only when they heard the word ‘coffee’. Without caring that it was hot, they poured themselves a cup, threw in some sugar, and nursed it like addicts. As they perked up under the magical effects of the wonder drug, I began placing various items in front of them.

  “Let’s start with you Jimmy. You were the easiest cause you were the biggest. I don’t know how y’all have been defending yourselves up’n till now, but melee weapons don’t run outta bullets,” I said, hefting a three and a half foot bar of steel with foot long handle at the base and a point at the tip. “This bad boy right here, can turn into a solid baseball bat, an axe, a sword, or a pick. I’ve attached a diamond crystal in the base so that it can store energy automatically when not in use and it will shift based off of what you imagine. I am gonna need a drop of your blood for it to work.”

  “That’s it?” he asked, hunched over his coffee, “Just one drop? What’s the skinny? People don’t do shit for free.”

  “Honest. This was easy to make,” I answered, “And this will hopefully grease the wheels of our friendship. I got a lot of shit going on myself that I gotta worry about, and if y’all can survive with just a little boost from me, than I won’t have to worry about ya.”

  He grunted and stuck out his finger, and I stuck it with his new weapon. Taking a second to heal his finger with flesh sorcery, I put it down in front of him. “All yours,” I said proudly, “And . . . it can repair itself if you stick it in the earth near a leyline, which the crystal at the base will light up if you’re near one. Gungnir will fill you in more later.”

  I turned to Tommy. “So, your’s was also easy, I made two of what Jimmy got, but smaller. I used more metals in yours in case a hunch of mine proves true. And Sally,” I said, turning to her, “Yours are pretty much the same thing, but smaller. And, you get more of them. I think your ‘changing’ ability is going to become your main weapon later, but having a bunch of shape-shifting daggers will help you out as you figure that out.”

  Her puzzled look told me that she probably didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. “And! Moving on! Billy, you good sir, get something a little bit different. These are actually patterned after my own weapons. These go on your arm, and function as shields.” I demonstrated with Svalinn, flexing my will to make my gauntlets extend out to form a small round shield on each arm. “And, they aren’t just for defense,” I grinned, forming the blade extensions on Svalinn. “See, beautiful.”

  The enormity of what I had done hadn’t sunk in yet. All but Jimmy were still hunched over drinking coffee, their eyes half-lidded from sleep. My grand vision was unrealized by the simple fact that these people, were not morning people. Which is totally fine, because up till the point I got sorcery, neither was I. But, a million gamers are turning over in their graves at the utter lack of reaction from the faces of my guests. My excitement was stifled, but not stopped.

  “Annnnnd . . . I have armor all laid near your four wheelers as well and a whole bunch of goodies to go with them!”

  No applause. No happiness. Nothing. Fine. Screw it. Reaching out to each of them with my flesh sorcery, I woke them the hell up, removed the lag that sleep had clouded their minds with.

  “Holy moly! That’s better than coffee!” Billy exclaimed, “But, now it’s hair of the dog time!”

  “Damn it Billy,” Sally said, “That miracle was so good I’m gunna hafta’ join ya!”

  Tommy stood up and shook his giant shoulders, towering over the table. “Enough,” he said, his size granting him early morning authority. “This sorcerer is kind enough to give us coffee and magical weapons. We should probably hear what he has to say before y’all get shitfaced.” With that, he gestured for me to speak and sat down.

  “Thanks man,” I said as the shamefaced alcoholics sat down. “Well, I was thinking of coming to see where y’all lived. Maybe I could build an underground bunker for y’all and add some more people to your group. There ain’t much of humanity left, and I was hoping maybe y’all could find some mo’ just like you found me. And I don’t know where y’all stand with gas, like, how much you got left, but if you’re gonna be out soon, but I might make ya some kind of magical four-wheeler or hovercraft.”

  [Boss, you’re starting to sound like them too] Gungnir sent me.

  [Shut up! My accent comes back when I’m around Southerners.]

  Billy looked at me, and then at Reeanth and said, “Sorry y’all, but we don’t really know ya that well. This was real kind of you, but not sure we’re gonna go for that.

  “I don’t know,” Tommy said, “I feel like this guy’s got some answers we need. He ain’t done nothin wrong yet. Fed us, been kind, made weapons and gear, and you see the way he whips around magic?”

  “Let’s see how this goes first,” Jimmy said, finishing off his coffee. “He’s got good ideas and we’ll test out the stuff. More people, that’d be good too though.”

  Sally was not to be outdone. “Well, I like him. Nice, kind, well to do. Not like you three got’s a brain between ya. We could use a planner like him.” She looked at me and nodded, clearly letting me know that she’s on my side.

  “It’s up to y’all. I also got a few more tidbits for ya, a hunch if you will,” I said as I poured myself some coffee. “I think y’all got more magic than you realize. I’ll have to examine you to be sure, but I bet that you guys are more powerful than you think.”

  Jimmy looked at kind hard, “Explain,” he said.

  “I mean, I don’t know for sure. But Tommy is easy to figure out. He probably has some kind of metal sorcery and mechanical magic. I bet if he got ahold of a book or two, he’d made some awesome stuff in no time, and I bet metal will do more than slightly bend if he puts his mind to it.”

  Tommy started dancing a jig. “Woooweee! If he’s right, I can get us some air conditioning going and maybe some kickass rifles!”

  “Hey now, don’t forget the best part!” Billy said, “COLD BEER!”

  Sally swooned. “Oh yeah, I’d do a lot for a cold beer,” she said, looking straight at me.

  “And Sally,” I said, cutting her off, “I bet you got some kind of shape-shifting or flesh sorcery to be able to change hair color and stuff. If you wanted, with practice you might be able to change anything you want about your body, from healing to getting taller or crazy shit like growing claws.”

  She shivered with almost sexual joy, “Look like anyone I want huh?”

  “Now Jimmy and Billy, you’re the two I’d have to sit down and examine,” I said, swirling my coffee, “Your descriptions of what you wished for and can do seem to have some kind of logical discontinuity with what my magical senses are telling me.”

  “Whatcha mean?” Billy asked, “I didn’t get much. I was thinking of beer when the damn Ripple hit.”

  “Right, and how’ve you been getting it. You got a stash or do you keep finding it?” I asked, leaning in a bit.

  “Both . . . uh, is that weird?”

  “I mean, maybe,” Tommy said, “Did you say you found a box of Coors underneath a log or somethin that one time?”

  “Yeah, and that time you found some in that house where giant squirrels were guarding it?” Sally said, her eyes getting wide.

  “Yeah, bet you got enhanced senses, and your best one is probably your nose. Human bloodhound is what you are.” Turning to Jimmy, “And you muscles, you wished for muscles, which is what you got, or already have since I don’t know what you looked like before, but I think you might have gotten some kind of flesh magic too, or something along those lines. It depends on what you were focusing on when the Ripple came. You said that you said ‘muscles’, but were you thinking of power and strength as well or just literally and only ‘muscles’?”

  “I don’t remember,” he said, flexing one thigh sized bicep, “But every cut I’ve had ain’t there no more, and that squirrel fiasco, whoo, we wuz all bloody after that.”

  All four of them shivered. “Nope, not doing that again,” Sally said, holding her arms close to her chest.

  “Ok, moving on from an obviously bad memory,” I said, trying to divert the conversation. “The point is, y’all probably got more than you asked for and can probably do some cool things with practice.” Conjuring a small ball of water and another of ice, I picked each with my hands and ‘stuck’ them in the air where they hovered above my head. Then conjuring a ball of granite and molding it into a the shape of pistol, I said, “Trust me, magic is fucking cool.” With a clap, I banished my conjurations.

  “My lord, you don’t need to justify yourself to them,” Reeanth said with a sniff.

  “What bug crawled up her ass?” Sally snorted, looking at me.

  I stood up. “Hell no,” I said, shaking my head, “We ain’t doing this. Reeanth, sit down and apologize. We treat guests with respect round’ here.”

  Her glare showed her obvious disagreement. “Reeanth. I order you to apologize and remove yourself from this room.”

  Facing the four, she put her fist to her heart and bowed slightly. “I apologize for my behaviour. It is unbecoming one such as I to lower myself to insult guests,” she said through barely gritted teeth. Standing straight, she turned and promptly left.

  “Sorry about her, she is from a society very alien to our own,” I explained, “We would be nobles where she’s from due to our magic and she still isn’t ok with the notion that ‘lesser races’ could possess sorcery. It’s a work in progress.” Using my fingers as quotation marks to emphasize my point, hoped that my sheepish look would convince the four southerners of my sincerity.

  “I think it’s time we head on out,” Tommy said, looking to the other three for confirmation. Damn, I knew the gifts were pushing the boundaries of being a good host, but I had surprises in store, and Reeanth made them suspicious, or at least creeped out. Fuck.

  Each of them picked up their weapons and then headed out, hopped on their four wheelers and left after a half-hearted goodbye. You’d think they at least would be happy to see people other than themselves, or happy with the fact that they now knew what the hell was going on.

  As I watched them roar off down the forest trail, Reeanth peered over my shoulder. I heard her breathe in as she was about to speak. Just before she did, I spoke, “Yes, I did all of this on purpose. Yes, I gave them awesome gifts. You almost fucked the whole thing up. And yes, there was a point, there are tracking spells in those weapons.”


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