Later that night Tormacc sat on his bed at the inn, finishing up his final preparations before he entered the portal in the morning. Stella had taken care of gathering the supplies he needed so all that was left was using the two Blue Crystals and distributing the Essence in his Fate Wheel. He had gotten extensive advice on both using the crystals and distributing his Essence, but in the end it was on him to make the final decision, in part because only he knew what was best for himself, but also because of how the Fate Wheel worked.

He had expected Curtain to provide him with a list of all the skill trees in his Fate Wheel, enabling him to make informed decisions when choosing abilities, but apparently it didn’t work that way. While Stella could have provided him with a map of many of the early abilities, as you got into the higher tiers of the Fate Wheel the abilities starting to differ from person to person, each person’s layout of skills unique. And according to the information they had, the unique abilities you could unlock with your Fate Wheel were more powerful than their generic counterparts.

The unique abilities weren’t easy to unlock, but they weren’t hard either. The most basic requirement, and also the most important one, was to not have knowledge of what the ability should be. Extensive testing had shown that those who “knew” what abilities their Fate Wheel should have almost always unlocked those abilities, while those who were left in the dark sometimes unlocked powerful variants, skills that not only left their competition in the dust, but also suited their wielder. For this reason everyone had to choose what abilities to pick on their own. Even receiving input on specific choices had the potential to hurt your chances of unlocking a unique ability. The only advice Stella gave him was that if he was going to unlock the right side of his Fate Wheel, the side focused on physical prowess, he should go for the Impact branch, at least to start with.

That sounded like sound advice to Tormacc, as from what little he had read on the different sections of the Fate Wheel the Impact branch tended to focus more on activated abilities rather than the body strengthening the Inner Force branch favored. He didn’t need any more body strengthening; he had both rituals for that. The creatures in the portal he was entering tended to specialize in defense, and to combat that he needed an equally potent offense. He didn’t need staying power, he needed sheer explosive might, which is what he was hoping the Impact branch could provide for him. But before he spent his Essence, he still had to use the two Blue Crystals.

Carefully unwrapping the first one, he thought over the reward ranking. Out of all the crystals, the blue ones had the widest range of options available for what they could give you, and out of those, there were a few that were particularly valuable. For instance, the tattoo he obtained was on the list. It didn’t rank near the top, but it was above average, certainly better than Essence, which had been his other option. Holding the crystal in his clenched fist, Tormacc felt it pulse three times before a voice sounded in his head.

“Essence or ring?”

He couldn’t help letting a sigh slip out. It was probably too much to expect something good two times in a row. Since he still hadn’t invested his Essence yet, that option was useless. The Essence rewards from crystals and spheres was proportional to the highest unlocked tier of your Fate Wheel, so Tormacc reluctantly selected the ring, the Essence he gained would be stunted compared to what it should be had he already spent his Essence.

With a muted flash of light he suddenly held a silver ring in his hand. It was beautifully crafted, with silver strings intertwined around a sapphire core. Inspecting it closely, the sapphire core almost seemed alive, the blue color pulsing along the ring like waves against the shore.

“Obtained Ring of High Water Attunement.”

Thankfully when obtaining magical items from crystals you gained an instinctual understanding of what the item did, meaning Tormacc didn’t need to go back to Stella to get the ring appraised. The name also made it easy, as the Ring of High Water Attunement did exactly as the name suggested in increasing water attunement, which didn’t sound impressive at first, but Tormacc quickly realized it wasn’t so simple.

Attunement seemed to govern everything related to an element, from increasing his own spells and abilities using that element to raising his resistance against it. Wearing the ring would also allow his natural water attunement to passively grow, a benefit that would persist even after taking the ring off. Having a high water attunement also gave him the ability to breath underwater as well as boosting his abilities in a water environment. The ring wouldn’t be very useful for the portal he planned to enter, but perhaps it wasn’t as bad a reward as he had first assumed.

Moving on to the second crystal he prayed for something good. The ring actually seemed decent, but as a rule, equipment and Essence were some of the weaker rewards from Blue Crystals. It was only Humen to want something better. Closing his eyes, he felt the three pulses of energy before the crystal he was holding crumbled to dust.

“Weapon or box?”

Tormacc frowned. A weapon was one of the weaker options, and one he didn’t need at the moment as Stella had helped him procure some weapons suitable for the portal he was to enter. He didn’t really need any kind of equipment or supplies in general, as the Spatial Bracelet he wore held more supplies than he thought he would ever need, but less that Stella thought he should have. But if he didn’t choose a weapon, that only left him with a box.

The reward list he received had been fairly long, if not all inclusive, and a box was on the list, one of the later entries. It wasn’t there as a high tier option though; it was listed under the special options category. Unlike a lot of the other options, a box was more of a wildcard. You didn’t know what you would get until you opened it up, the rewards varying wildly. The list ranked it as a viable option to choose if you had no use for the other choice or liked to gamble. While a weapon would be valuable, even if only to sell, at this point Tormacc would rather take his chances gambling on the box. It could be a wasted choice, but unless the weapon he received was incredibly valuable it would likely rot in his Spatial Bracelet, so box it was.

“Obtained sleek wooden box.”

With a disturbingly wet sounding pop Tormacc felt the newly-spawned box settle on his lap. Opening his eyes and inspecting it, he couldn’t help agreeing with the voice. It was indeed a sleek wooden box, perhaps the kind someone would use to store something of sentimental value. Trying to avoid getting his hopes up, he hesitantly opened the lid. The box was full of puffy white squiggles, but it was clear they were only there as packaging, and after brushing them aside, he felt the corners of his mouth slowly turn upwards. His gamble had paid off.

There, laying amidst the white puffs, was a bottle with the words “Elixir of Toughness” emblazoned across it.  Tormacc wanted to get up and dance for joy, but he didn’t trust himself not to drop the box and break the flask within. Elixirs weren’t at the top of most valuable rewards, but that was partly because each elixir varied in strength, as some were more useful than others. He wasn’t sure how powerful this elixir was, but from the name he was sure it was useful, definitely more so than a weapon would have been.

Lifting the flask out of the box as one would life a baby from its cradle, he gently popped the lid off before draining the contents in one large gulp. Immediately, power flooded through him, the elixir spreading its effects throughout his body, toughening his skin, muscles, and bones. It was incredibly satisfying to feel his body being remade by the elixir, and he reached his hand around to give himself a pat on the back for choosing the box over the weapon. Maybe his choice would change in the future were he presented with the same options, but right now his choice had born fruit, and that was all that mattered.  

The Blue Crystals now settled, it was time for him to distribute his Essence. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous, the feeling of bugs fluttering in his stomach a constant reminder of the weight of his choices. But there were no bad options in the Fate Wheel, only ones not as relevant to his current situation, or more specifically, the situation in the Shard he was going to. As long as he focused on the physical side of the tree he should be in good shape, or that’s what he told himself as he closed his eyes and dove into his mind.

Everyone’s Fate Wheel was separated into four general sections: the right section, which was focused on physical prowess and combat, the left section, which was focused on magic, the top section, which had more utility and support, and the bottom, which varied heavily from person to person, generally have strange options, come immensely powerful, but others almost useless, far below the power level of other abilities in their tier. Generally it was advised to choose either the right or left section to invest in, at least early on, as those had the most direct correlation to combat. After accumulating more Essence it was possible to shift into the top section for item crafting for example, but at its core, The Tower was designed for combat, and those without personal power often found themselves at the mercy of others.

Tormacc had no intention of subjecting himself to the whims of the powerful. He had been trained for combat, and that was what he aimed to do. But before he invested his Essence, he first picked up Description from the top section. All the beginning abilities were very useful, but Description in particular was a must-have for investing Essence. It allowed him to get a feel for the abilities he was going to unlock before unlocking them, as otherwise he would only be choosing based on the name. While the abilities gave clear information about what they did once unlocked, there were no redos for investing Essence. He needed Description to get a better idea of what to pick before unlocking it.

He had 1,712 Essence before he started, so after unlocking Description, he was down to 1,702. Out of the two tier one abilities on the right side of his Fate Wheel, he first unlocked Impact under Stella’s advice, which gave his blows additional power and brought him to 1,692 Essence. After Impact, he had the choice between Power Attack and Dash. Even without Description the names were pretty self-explanatory, so without hesitation he spent twenty points to unlock Power Attack. From there it wasn’t quite so straightforward, and he had to spend some time pondering his next unlock, both options viable choices.

The two tier three abilities revealed by Power Attack were Cleave and Elemental Blade. Cleave would allow him to extend the range of his attack to create a small area of effect, while Elemental Blade allowed him to choose an elemental affinity to imbue his attacks with. Both abilities seemed powerful, but without unlocking them, he wasn’t sure how useful they would be. He was leaning towards Cleave initially, as a way to deal with a crowd of weaker enemies was always valuable, but he couldn’t be sure it would actually help him. The real reason he decided against it was the portal he planned to enter. It was known for tough enemies focused on defense, not swarms of weaker fodder. If he needed cleave in the future he could unlock it then.

Decision made, he invested fifty points to unlock Elemental Blade, the choice also made easier by the ring he just got. Combining two different elemental buffs should show him higher returns than the two abilities on their own. Stella had mentioned that synergy was his friend, and he was inclined to listen to her. That didn’t stop him from moving away from elemental abilities for his next choice though. His next two options were Elemental Perception and Double Strike, and without any hesitation he unlocked Double Strike for 100 Essence, the description of the skill exactly what he wanted from his Fate Wheel. But looking at the next two abilities that were revealed he knew he would regret his choice either way, both options screaming for him to unlock them.  


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About the author

Root Greevil

Bio: Hello! I am an avid reader turned amateur author who hopes to one day write something worthy of professional publishing. Until then, I am posting my work on Royal Road for people to enjoy and so I can receive feedback, hopefully allowing me to improve my craft and write better stories.

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