Several hours later Alex was still sitting cross-legged on his bedroll and experimenting with pushing raw mana away from his fingers. He figured the raw mana had yet to cause an adverse effect to him except for the channeling mistake so it was safer to play around with than starting with fire right away.
What he had discovered so far was that if he directed the flow of mana into his fingers as he had done before with his whole hand he could then direct it away from his body and still sense and control the mana but unfortunately, the range seemed quite limited.
He hoped the range was something he could improve on in the future as so far he had not been able to push the mana further than about 2 feet or so in front of him. Any further and the mana escaped his control and dissipated in the air.
He wasn't sure why but for some reason once the mana left his range it was no longer a visible blue as usual either, it simply vanished as far as he could tell. Whether this was because it left that range or because it was raw mana and not something like water or flames was anyone's guess at the moment but Alex judged that he had progressed far enough to attempt fire now.
‘Here goes nothing!’ He thought as he concentrated on the raw mana floating above his index finger and said “Fire!” Aloud to help him keep focus and not accidentally think of something else at the wrong time.
To his delight, the mana wove itself into a complicated set of runes! A small flame appeared above his index finger about 6 inches up right where he had directed the strand of raw mana to reside. “Woo! I did it! I can actually use real magic.” He exclaimed. ‘Now it’s time for the real test.’ He thought before willing that little flame to move out of his range as quickly as he could.
While Alex watched, the small candle flame shot away from him and stayed visible well outside the range that his raw mana had. To his utter delight, the flame existed all the way up until it hit the wall on the far side of the room. ‘A real fireball! Albeit small, but now that I have the theory down…’ He thought to himself as he prepared a larger one.
This time the ball of fire was conjured at the maximum distance of two feet away so that he could make it around the size of his head without the heat affecting him too much. The set of runes that it wove seemed to be very similar to the ones for the smaller flame but there were still many differences. He wasn’t sure though if they signified the size, temperature, amount of mana used or what. It would take quite a lot of research to ever figure that out fully.
’Uh oh. With it at the end of my range already, can I even accelerate it? Or will it just fall to the ground as soon as it tries to? Well, the last one didn’t explode or anything so it should be fine since the ground is marble…’ He thought with a bit of worry. He could have dispelled it of course and tested this issue with a small fireball but where’s the fun without a little risk?
‘Accelerate!’ He thought as hard as he could at the fireball and it soared across the room in a straight line just like the smaller one and splashed into the far wall sending flames in every direction before they dissipated, it's fuel source gone and with nothing to burn.
‘Amazing. As long as I will it to accelerate while still within my range it will keep that command even after leaving.’ He suddenly realized he felt much more tired than he should have for what he had done since he last slept. ‘Does the mana expenditure tire me out? Or is this the recent experiences catching up to me? I don’t even have a way of knowing how long I even slept for.’ He pondered.
‘Well there’s not much I can do about it now and my supplies won’t last much longer. Time to see what’s hiding for me down that hallway!’ He decided as he cleaned up his camp once again. He decided to have another quick bite to eat and some water before heading in as he wasn’t sure when his next chance might be again.
As Alex stood at the entry to the tunnel he summoned another fireball the size of his head and sent it flying down the dark hallway, lighting up the walls as it went. “SCREEEEEECH!” Alex put his hands over his ears in pain as an ear splitting screech filled the tunnel. ‘What the hell is that!’ He thought as he panicked slightly. Focusing down the tunnel again he could see something seemingly made of shadows on fire, having been hit with his fireball.
The creature was roughly humanoid in shape and around waist height. It looked to be made of shadows themselves but at this distance, it was hard for Alex to make out much more.
Even with his hands over his ears the screeching of the terrifying creature was quite painful and Alex tried his best to summon another large fireball to send at it. “Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!” He screamed multiple times as he kept losing the stream of mana from the headache.
Finally, he managed to summon one and rather than the usual trickle of mana he drew a raging river of mana, desperate to kill this creature as blood was starting to come out of his nose. The fireball in front of him was putting off immense heat but Alex did not notice the additional burning pain to his body while concentrating as hard as he was.
“ACCELERATE!” He screamed both mentally and physically, shooting another fireball the size of his head down the tunnel. This one however burned with a blue heat and when it struck the shadowy figure it's screaming finally stopped, as the being ceased to be in an explosion of light and flames so powerful Alex closed his eyes.
‘Thank god!’ He thought to himself before collapsing to the ground. “Shit…” He mumbled. ‘Well, this solves one mystery. Too much mana expenditure does indeed come at a cost.’ At this point, he also noticed the minor burns covering a lot of his body from the intense heat of the fireball before he sent it on its way.
‘Damnit, I need to stop accumulating so many wounds down here.’ He chastised himself, not that there was much else he could have done anyway. While he sat slumped against the wall Alex took out the ointment he had in his pack and smeared it on his face and hands alleviating the pain in most of the exposed areas.
After another swig of water and a short rest, he hoisted himself up and prepared to continue down the hallway. ‘I don’t seem to be feeling the adverse effects of the mana anymore so at least the recovery time doesn’t seem to be long for that level of usage.’ He thought happily.
“Fireball!” He said as he sent another, albeit smaller, fireball down the hallway to make sure no more of those shadow creatures was lying in wait. He breathed a sigh of relief as he watched the fireball continue down the hallway until it eventually hit the ground near the end of the tunnel. ‘Time to go then.’
Finally, at the end of the dark tunnel, Alex came out into a brightly lit room made of the same white marble that everything had been made out of since coming here. Things were a little more interesting in this room, however.
In the center of the room he came out in which was about twenty feet by twenty feet with a ten-foot ceiling was an obsidian pedestal about chest high. The pedestal had all sorts of intricate runes carved into it which glowed with an unearthly green and was the only source of light in the room, save for the object floating above the pedestal several inches in the air.
What he saw nearly made him faint right then and there. Floating in front of Alex just waiting to be taken was a pearly white orb the size of a grapefruit with odd lines running all over it and giving off a similar green light to the pedestal.
‘Is that mithril!? The legendary material said to be the strongest known after the cataclysm and the best item to hold enchantments? So rare that only the greatest heroes have anything made of it and even then only small items?’ He nearly fainted at the sight of it, having never expected to see even a shard of mithril in his life.
As he got closer Alex noted that the orb was made of the purest white mithril and covered in the most intricate lines of runes that Alex had ever seen, too small to even properly make out.
He speculated that without the machinery humanity used to have there was no way for them to hope to replicate such fine engraving. It was beautiful though, covered in such a fine web of enchantments.
Alex could feel the orb thrum with power as he stepped closer and the light it gave off brightened. ‘I have nowhere to escape to and this is the greatest treasure I will find in my life. Unless this is going to help me defeat the minotaur and whatever else lurks out there somehow then my life is forfeit anyway’ He thought as he set his mind on the goal of obtaining the orb despite the dangers it may possess.
Before attempting to grab the orb he reminded himself to at least check for traps and such first and took a good look around the room. The walls were made of the same smooth marble as the previous room and there was another door opposite the one he entered through.
The door appeared to be the same as the last one with the hand imprint in the middle but there was also an enormous amount of glowing green carvings on the door as well. 'I wonder what's so special about this one?'
The closer he got to the orb the brighter it got and Alex worried slightly if it would explode or harm him, but what choice did he have? As he got nearly close enough to touch it the orb was so bright he had to screw his eyes shut to stop it from searing them.
“Arghh!” He yelled in frustrated pain as he took the last step he needed and touched the orb. Immediately the light died down and he slowly opened his eyes to find the orb still floating in the same spot but dimmed down to a manageable dull glow.
‘I did it!’ He exclaimed happily in his mind while carefully taking the orb in both hands and pulling it away from the obsidian pedestal. ‘It is so smooth despite the carvings and oddly warm to the touch.’ He commented as he turned it around in his hands.
As he ran his hands over the orb in fascination he wondered what the purpose of it was. ‘These enchantments are so finely packed, I’ve never heard of something like this. People find enchanted gear in the dungeons sometimes but all attempts to replicate them have failed and we know almost nothing about how they work.
I do know though that sometimes the rarest and most powerful of the enchanted items supposedly have runes carved into them related to the enchantment but nobody has been able to get them to do anything when copied to new items. It's basically an entire book worth of runes packed into such a small shape!’ He thought excitedly.
This was the find of a lifetime - something that could secure his future even if he wasn’t now an Archon and an Arcanist. While Alex excitedly daydreamed of greatness and the implications of the orb he didn’t notice the glowing getting brighter once more.
“Wait, what’s happening now!?” He exclaimed aloud when he finally noticed the change in the orb. He attempted to bend down to set the orb on the ground but found himself unable to move! ‘Shit shit shit!’ He mentally yelled right before the orb went supernova and he ceased to think.