A note from InadvisablyCompelled


“I dunno, I kind of like the cottage where it is. It’s got all kinds of memories.” Shayma kicked her feet idly, leaning back in the chair I’d made for her. She was in the Caldera, in one of the spots where I’d joined Coast and Rainforest to make nice white-sand beach and where I was considering making Shayma a new place now that I had access to more and better ways to make things.

“Sure, and I can leave it there too, I’m just thinking it might be nice to have a place with fresh air and sunshine. Plus, I can do more with Climates and lots of space than I could in the core room.”

“Well, this is kind of nice,” Shayma admitted. “It feels a little odd for it to be hot here when it’s winter outside, but I can’t say I disapprove. Plus, this beach! I like Tarnil but the ocean there is a little cold and rough for swimming. This, though…”

“I thought you’d like it.” I still didn’t have anything other than plants, but the Climate had generated plenty of colorful tropical undersea plants. It didn’t make any corals, which made sense, but after having seen the fantastic stuff that Haerlish did with corals I was a little disappointed. Of course, I didn’t have any fish either. So far, the only animals that Taelah had adapted using [Ecological Integration] were some Scalehoofs, and I didn’t even get control over them. Apparently all her Skill did was make it so they’d adapt to my mana.

Which had interesting implications if I stuck them in places with more exotic Affinities than the nature Affinity that saturated the fields. I hadn’t done that yet, mostly because there weren’t very many Scalehoofs to begin with, let alone adapted ones, and it’d be difficult for any of The Village to handle a volcano or a glacier. It could wait.

“Besides, it doesn’t seem right that you don’t have a place to invite people to. The core room is way too private and the place in the Palace is mostly for when you need to be in residence for political reasons. Since you’re my Companion and my voice and all, I figure you deserve something really nice and fancy that you can actually show off on occasion. Maybe not a palace or even a mansion, but something.”

“I suppose I wouldn’t mind a beach house,” Shayma said with a grin. “Especially if the weather is like this all the time.”

“I can make it be like this all the time, I’m pretty sure.”

“I love the salt smell; it reminds me a little of Duenn. But it smells better here for some reason,” she said, rising from the chair to walk out into the surf. My Coast generated waves all out of proportion for the size and depth of the actual body of water, meaning Shayma had some nice ones to enjoy. Plus, since she was naked as she ran about the beach I had that to enjoy.

“I should certainly hope I smell good. Wouldn’t want to be known as a smelly dungeon.” Shayma laughed.

You smell like vanilla.” She grinned. “That’s going to give you nicknames whether you want them or not.”

“Only if you kiss and tell.”

“Oh, I do a lot more than kiss,” tone dropping into something more sultry. I was about to have her demonstrate what that more was when Iniri got my attention. Normally I didn’t really notice the dull roar of people talking, or even talking about me, but when my people wanted my attention, they got it.

“Blue, Huey and Nixie need to speak with you about mana and Depletion,” Iniri said from one of her meeting rooms. Apparently I was going to get to talk to the weird non-human types. Obviously I’d missed whatever conversation led up to it, since I was spending time with Shayma, but whatever it was made Iniri think it was worth my attention.

“Okay, one moment,” I told her, even though I knew she couldn’t exactly hear me. Whatever she was getting from [Queen’s Insight] was good enough, hopefully. “Shayma, I hate to interrupt your beach time, but it looks like Iniri is sending me some petitioners.”

“Aww.” Shayma faux-pouted for a moment before heading to the shower I’d made her – just to get the salt and sand off – and dressed herself. She couldn’t quite do the clothes-disappearing thing that I’d seen The Hurricane do, but with [Phantom Pocket] and [Legerdemain] she could get dressed and undressed pretty darn quickly. “Who is it?”

“Huyaceotl and Nixaceti, strange names for strange people. Eyeless bird-things called Chiuxatli. I would have thought they were monsters but nope.”

“That does sound strange! I’m kind of excited about it! Do you know what they want?”

“Iniri just said mana and Depletion, so I’m hoping not another The Hurricane situation, but we’ll see.”

“You always knew that people would come to you for Depletion immunity, regardless of the cost,” Shayma said.

“Yeah, yeah. Well, we’ll see.” Even if it was in some ways my most rare and valuable skill, I wasn’t really interested in random, casual sex to begin with and The Hurricane had soured me on it even more.

“Okay, I’ll go ahead and bring them over,” I told Iniri. I trusted that she’d understand the intent and I followed that with simply teleporting them to my audience chamber. It was maybe a little rude to do that, but I hadn’t yet put an official portal to my audience chamber inside the Palace. I’d have to do that pretty soon.

The interpreter said something that was probably a curse, though it was so garbled and cut-off I didn’t know what word he was trying to make, and the two Chiuxatli flashed with ridiculous colors. It was really strange to watch their fluffy down strobe and flicker, like there were chromatophores embedded in every barb and barbule. Though it was probably mana-based biology, the same as all the -kin biology.

“All right, Shayma. They’re ready for you.”

“One moment!” She was still brushing out her tail, and her hair was still wet, but she was otherwise ready to play host. Of course, she could use illusion to make herself look more kempt, but that didn’t make wet fur any more comfortable.

The Chiuxatli were still prowling about by the time Shayma appeared on the stand above the dais, though the interpreter hovered in vague indecision near the dais. For the most part I hadn’t let people wait long enough to really take in my audience chamber but the bird-people seemed to appreciate it, examining the water- and lava-falls as well as the various exotic flowers that were just out of reach of the walkways.

While I couldn’t understand their visual language, I could understand well enough when one of them nudged the other with a wing and pointed his axeblade head in Shayma’s direction. The pair of them hurried back toward the dais, gathering up their interpreter as they mounted it to speak with Shayma. Or rather, to their interpreter, who spoke with Shayma. I was starting to feel more sympathy for the people who were frustrated by not being able to talk directly to me.

“What business do you have with Blue?” Shayma addressed them, reverting to her imperious mode, cool and distant.

“Huyaceotl wishes to discuss Depletion and wind Affinity mana.” The interpreter began. “Queen Iniri has informed him of the requirements for purging Depletion, but we still seek any solutions or knowledge Blue can give us about it.”

“Huh. I can list a few things I know about Depletion, but I don’t know that any of it would be useful to them. Plus, I’d still need some sort of trade.”

“Blue cannot give you anything,” Shayma cautioned them. “He is, however, willing to make a trade.” While she was speaking I tried to think about what unique insights into Depletion I could have. Mostly that it was a soul-affecting affliction, and whatever the source of it was, the mage-kings were making it worse.

“Our primary offer of knowledge is that the potency of air Affinity has been slowly weakening worldwide for the past hundred years at the least, possibly longer. Air Affinity also shows a higher incidence of Depletion than other Affinities, by our studies.”

Okay, what. That sounded absolutely catastrophic to me, the kind of thing that ought to have several dozen larger countries in a panic. Air affinity was half of the atmosphere, so far as I could tell. I might have suspected this was the normal cycle of things, like solar radiance and sunspots, if it weren’t for the Depletion link. That made it pretty clear that the mage-kings were screwing things up, and with the Blight and the mage-king assault on Tarnil my guess was that they’d crossed some sort of tipping point fairly recently.

It occurred to me that I was going to have to do something about it.

My Companions were immune to Depletion and so was I, by virtue of not having a soul for it to affect if nothing else. From my own observation and Ansae’s comments I had unparalleled mana generation, and I could scale it without any real limit. While I had no interest in getting involved in anything world-shaking, the mage-kings were vile enough that I wouldn’t mind taking them out, and I might be uniquely suited to fixing whatever mess they were creating. It wasn’t like I could ignore it, even if I wanted to, because it sounded like it was only going to get worse and it didn’t matter how far away it was.

I’d have to weather this attack, but if I could weather it, I’d know how reasonable it was to consider moving on the offensive. Oh, I had things to take care of even before that, like Ir being an irritant and House Anell needing a good scolding, but those would serve as opportunities to figure out how I could project myself outside the borders of Tarnil. The thing was, I didn’t want to commit to it on behalf of anyone, to avoid any Bargain or even normal agreement problems while I figured out what to do and how to do it. For all I knew I might actually end up negotiating with Tor Kot in the end, though I rather doubted it.

“Well, that’s important news for certain. Go ahead and tell them what we know about Depletion: That it’s an affliction of the soul, that the source of it is in the mage-king lands and their use of it is only worsening its effect on the world. It seems to be physically spreading underground in what the Scalemind call Blight. I am working on alternate ways of dealing with Depletion but considering that it requires soul surgery it’s something to be approached very delicately.”

Shayma laid out my points of knowledge with little alteration, and the result from the Chiuxatli was absolute silence. They didn’t even flicker their feathers at each other for a bit, standing stock-still and, I supposed, simply thinking about things. Then their axeblade heads moved in little jerky twitches for a moment and they started flashing colors at each other again.

“Thank you for the knowledge,” Huyaceotl said through the interpreter. “It is disappointing that there is little to be done about Depletion directly, but knowing it is a soul affliction is quite useful.” Considering what Ansae had said about soul magic I didn’t think it was quite as useful as he thought, but if he wanted to delve into it that wasn’t my business. I did find it odd he didn’t say anything about the Underneath, but maybe that was something they didn’t find relevant. They were fliers, after all. “We would also like to inquire about wind Affinity mana. The quality and quantity in Tarnil is quite soothing and we have been told it’s something you have done. We were looking to negotiate for something similar for our country.”

“That’s going to be a problem too. The reason why I can do this for Tarnil is because I cover all of Tarnil.” Which didn’t actually rule out fixing up their home country necessarily. If dungeon seeds worked like I thought I could plant one in their country and use that as a locus to fix things, but I didn’t even have one yet and I sure wasn’t going to commit to more when it was Shayma who had to carry them.

I might have other options though. One was the Primal Sources. I didn’t know exactly how free-floating Depletion happened out in the world, but considering that my Primals were partly based on my ability to Purify, the Primals themselves might serve as some sort of shield. Clearly they didn’t grant immunity like Purification did, but there might be some buffer mechanism.

Another option was to try and make some sort of generator, to spit out mana outside of my own body. That’d probably require something like my [Storm-Earth Transformer], only for wind Affinity. I knew it was possible to make, but I hadn’t figured out how to change anything to wind yet. Besides, I’d need to know what Affinity they wanted to change to wind to begin with. So I didn’t think I was quite ready to solve their wind Affinity problem in a major way, but I was willing to part with a few Primals.

“Providing your entire country with fresh wind mana is beyond the scope of any agreements I’m willing to enter in at this time, but I do have some unique Sources that may help. I may be willing to barter a few for select individuals.” In truth I could provide them with over a hundred wind Primals at the moment, counting ones I’d previously harvested, but I didn’t want to give them out to just anyone. “I guess go ahead and tell them about Primal Sources.”

Even though I created the things I couldn’t actually use Primal sources, so I could only listen to what actual Classers had to say about using them. Some people had only been moderately impressed with them, but they were fourth-tiers. The lower tier people seemed to get quite a lot out of them.

“We would like to negotiate for as many of these Sources as you are willing to sell us,” Huyaceotl said, once Shayma had done her bit of sales pitch about Primal Sources.

“I need to approve anyone who receives them. They’re tied to me as well as the wielder and they’re quite potent. I want to ensure they aren’t likely to betray me or Tarnil, or abuse the power the Source gives them. I will release ten to Iniri and you can negotiate the actual price with her. We can go from there.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted from them anyway, so letting Iniri work her political magic and secure whatever she could was the best way to go about it. “Uh, I hope Iniri isn’t too upset with me foisting this off on her.”

“I suspect she’ll be glad that you trust her with it,” Shayma muttered back to me, masking her reply behind illusion before explaining to the Chiuxatli. I hadn’t thought of it that way at all, but if Shayma said it then I believed it. But like everything else, it’d have to wait until after the attack to really matter.

A note from InadvisablyCompelled

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