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A note from InadvisablyCompelled

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Of all visitors, I was not expecting a monstrosity to swim up to the Meil canal.

I’d heard people talk about the Leviathans and I’d seen a sort of sea-serpent type from a distance, but I wasn’t really prepared for the horror-look or the sheer size of this guy.  His basic frame was a blunt wedge with a dozen cuttlefish-eyes a few meters across on either side and a shark’s mouth.  Fine, prehensile-looking whiskers jutted from the space between the eyes and the teeth, flattened against the body for ease of movement in the water.  Then there were the enormous tentacles that trailed off the rear, giving him three or four extra bodylengths, and when the body was something like five hundred meters to begin with that was a lot of length.  When I looked at him though, the overlay gave me a status.

Uilei-nktik

Level 178 [Wayfarer of the Abyssal Temple]

Race: Uphari-Blood Leviathan

Health: 22,700/22,700

Stamina: 31,400/31,800

Mana: 12,078/12,200

Depletion: 101/714

So clearly not a monster. 

Despite that, when he entered the canal it felt like my mind was twisting because he fit without any change at all.  It had to be some sort of Spatial skill, especially since he seemed to take up the whole canal without displacing much water at all, just an ominous ripple as he passed by under the few ships that had voyaged out from Meil.

This seemed to be an all-hands-on⁠-deck sort of scenario.  Sure, I had just blown up two mage-kings and hadn’t been overly threatened by the others until they deployed corekiller stuff, but I knew that anything over level 100 was scary, and this Leviathan was into the equivalent of tier eight.  Assuming Leviathans worked that way.  Then there was that Class.

[Wayfarer of the Abyssal Temple] didn’t sound like the kind of Class that got someone into ranks higher than Emperors.  Not only was it the first actually religious anything I’d seen, despite frequent references to gods, but it had nothing to make me think that combat was involved anywhere.  That was so suspicious that either my intuition or [Blue’s Sagacity] set off all the alarm bells ever, and I was still a couple hours away from my next [Contained Star].

That said, he was being polite.  Obviously he couldn’t know that I, and for that matter Iniri, instantly recognized when he arrived in Tarnil, so the fact that he kept himself unremarkable and didn’t scare any of the fishermen or sailors was a mark in his favor.  I was pretty sure a hilariously powerful and bogglingly immense Leviathan could do a lot of damage if he actually wanted to, even with all the tricks I had at my disposal.  Instead he was just swimming up the canal with casual flicks of the giant tentacles.  Or arms, or whatever, I didn’t want to presume the anatomy of something that looked like a mashup of a shark, a cuttlefish, and a squid.

“Soooo, we’ve got a massive Leviathan swimming in toward Meil,” I told Shayma.  “You might need to go back up Iniri.  Oh!  How about you take One-Eye-Green, too.  I’m not sure how Leviathans speak so she could be a useful bridge.”  While I wouldn’t have sent an emissary that couldn’t speak with the locals, or at least had interpreter like the Chiuxatli, it wasn’t a good idea to presume that same logic on the part of a totally alien being.  Uilei-nktik might be a poet or he might only be able to communicate in hypercompressed subsonic bursts.

“On my way,” Shayma said, putting down her forging hammer and making a beeline for the teleporter.

“Not to step on any toes, but if you could ask the Scalemind if they know anything about Leviathans?  This one in particular, too, named Uilei-nktik and he’s a level one hundred seventy-eight [Wayfarer of the Abyssal Temple].”  Just saying it out loud drove home how ridiculous that was.

“Uhh.  That’s a big number.”

“Not as big as Ansae’s, I bet, and you get along just fine with her.”  Shayma nodded thoughtfully, but I didn’t think she was convinced.  I wasn’t either, but we had to get someone who didn’t want to attack us eventually.

“Blue, what is swimming toward Meil?”  Iniri asked, interrupting the meeting she was in.

“Uhh, big, big Leviathan.”  I was a little surprised that she didn’t know more from [Queen’s Insight], but maybe Uilei-nktik was a little hard on the senses.  Iniri didn’t actually panic, but I could tell that she was more worried than she looked behind the thoughtful frown.  Worried enough that she cut the meeting short and signaled for Cheya.

I really should have noticed the Leviathan before he hit the canal but being the size of Tarnil had some disadvantages, like being unable to focus on everything at once.  I hadn’t yet restored the Spatial compression of the canal so at least we had time, though he was moving surprisingly quickly.  Like many large things, the sheer size made the speed deceptive, because by my rough calculations he was managing nearly a hundred kilometers per hour.  Without splashing all the water out of the canal.

“Talk to me, Iniri,” I said, able to only infer so much from her mood.

“Tarnil hasn’t anything much to do with the Leviathans since the Waste was created,” she confessed.  “Of the countries that do, most send someone out to them.  I don’t know how they set that up, though.”

Shayma appeared with One-Eye-Green in tow.  Iniri only gave the monster a glance, but Cheya and the Scalemind immediately entered a staring contest.  That didn’t surprise me for some reason, though maybe I should have given it a bit more thought before I invited a kid along without any preamble.

“One-Eye-Green says that the Scalemind don’t really know any Leviathans,” Shayma reported.  “How soon until it gets here?”

“He’ll be there in an hour probably?” 

“He?”  Iniri questioned.

“Yeah, I dunno.  Seems right.”  Maybe [Blue’s Sagacity], because I sure didn’t know how to tell male horrors from female ones.

“We should at least have a water-friendly receiving area,” Cheya said.  “If that can be done in an hour.”

“Oh, easily,” I said, letting Shayma and Iniri fill Cheya in.  “You know, instead of having him scare all the people in Meil I could probably put in a cave someplace underwater.  Meil and the Palace are just on big stone plateaus and they’re completely solid.  I’ll hollow a bit out.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Cheya approved once Iniri relayed it, so I got to it right away.  While it seemed like Uilei-nktik could deal with tighter spaces I figured I might as well make it big, so I went about converting the area under Meil and the Palace into an enormous moon pool.

While the crater was pretty deep to begin with, I sunk the bottom even further so I could put the entrance far below the surface while still having a good amount of clearance from the lakebed.  I wasn’t sure about Leviathan housing, or whether we’d even want it, but if we did I’d probably build it down from the lake bottom.

Making the moon pool itself wasn’t very difficult.  I just merged the Palace and Meil’s supports and opened up a big cavern in the middle, cheating with a bit of Expansion.  Then I punched a tunnel out through the bottom, running it to the exterior of the stone plateau, facing the canal.  That was the basic structure, but it needed to be nice and it needed to be obvious, so I polished up all the stone involved and asked Iniri for some light-metal.  Or rather, [Sunmetal], since it’d gotten its own official name after her fourth-tier evolution.

She chunked down my mana pool as she bulk-conjured the stuff, and I fixed it in place at the moon pool.  A good amount went around the underwater entrance, framing the tunnel in blue and silver light, though the interior got normal dungeon light.  I used more of the metal to illuminate the moon pool chamber itself, framing the lip where I was hoping a surfacer could speak to a water-dweller.  The remainder just got dotted around the chamber walls, both above and below the waterline, making sure there weren’t any patches of darkness.

Finally, on consideration, I added some plant life.  Blue chrystheniums all about, plus some stuff from my more watery Climates for color, and deepwater types at the bottom of the moon pool, in case the Leviathan preferred high-pressure environments.  I assumed that anything that lived on the ocean floor was fine with it, and magic probably helped with decompression issues, but hell if I knew what was actually expected from a Leviathan.

I could have run a physical stairway from the Palace down to the moon pool since it was magic shenanigans keeping the cavern dry rather than pressure, but that would have been quite a trek so I just put in more teleports.  It was a bit of a cheat, but if Leviathan visits turned out to be a permanent thing, I would get someone with better architectural chops than me to figure out the best way to connect and decorate everything.  All of that took maybe twenty minutes, which left plenty of time for Iniri and Cheya and Shayma to confer with each other and for One-Eye-Green to get bored of staring at Cheya and wander off into the nearby courtyard gardens.  She got a few weird looks from nobles and Classers but that was all, which I attributed to the clothes.  That, and the Chiuxatli, who probably made non-human-kin types less startling.

“All done!”

“Let’s go see it, since my schedule is already gone for today.”  Iniri made a wry face.  “Maybe someday I’ll actually get to keep to a schedule instead of having to deal with emergencies every other hour.”  Shayma laughed at that, and gathered up One-Eye-Green from where she was staring at a purple orchid.  I wasn’t sure exactly when Shayma had transferred the telepathy circlet from herself to One-Eye-Green, but it seemed to work well enough, keeping the Scalemind from speaking into the minds of everyone she saw.

Iniri was the one who grabbed the teleport Field and shifted everyone down into the receiving area, which I’d at least had the courtesy to populate with tables and chairs.  For the most part I didn’t bother making furniture anymore, even though I could make it less rigidly uniform with [Customization], but I didn’t want to steal from any of the rooms in the Palace.  The women and two male Queensguard looked it over, probably inured to my ability to conjure up new rooms.

“Takil, go get one of our spare heraldry banners,” Iniri said to one of her guards, and I felt like an idiot because obviously it needed that much decoration.  Before she could send a Queensguard on an unnecessary errand I formed a Tarnil sigil on the four walls of the moon pool chamber using some extra [Sunmetal], and Iniri smiled.  “Thank you, Blue,” she said.  “I think we’re ready.”

I kept an eye on Uilei-nktik as he swam up the canal, but he seemed focused on heading toward Meil and didn’t bother anyone or anything on the way.  Though it wasn’t like the rearranged geography was a secret I did have to wonder how the Leviathan had found out there was a canal, and where said canal was.  It seemed like everyone who decided to visit was familiar with Tarnil’s features.  Then I realized I was being dumb, and divination was actually a thing.

“Do people usually do divinations on foreign countries to find out where they’re going?” I asked to the audience at large, but it was Cheya who answered as Shayma repeated it out of habit.

“There are cartographers’ guilds who regularly scry out the landscape and update the maps,” she told me.  “I understand it’s more difficult to get detail in Tarnil now than it was before, but any large changes will still be found out easily enough.  Leviathans probably have something similar, that’s why we have someone coming to the canal rather than the coastal cities.”

“Right.”  It was easy to forget that magic enabled some things that I really didn’t expect in a low-tech society, like underwater Leviathans having the equivalent of satellite imagery.  The Leviathan in question reached the lake itself soon enough and bioluminescence flashed along the sides of his immense bulk, which made me reassess exactly how much cuttlefish was in the mix of his biology.  I was pretty sure we’d managed to surprise him with the lit tunnel underneath Meil, which I hoped was a good thing.

Uilei-nktik flowed down into the lakebed, which involved more weirdness with relative size.  His full bulk could actually fit in the lake, but not without displacing a bunch of water — something that obviously didn’t happen.  I’d made the passage wide enough for him, but he didn’t enter it right away, extending those whiskers to trace over Iniri’s [Sunmetal] first.  Which of course was now a stellar material, and anyone with sensitivity to Affinities would notice it.  The change had been retroactive too, affecting all of Iniri’s conjurations, so it wasn’t like it was even slightly secret.

He finished his inspection and slid into the passageway, somehow having plenty of room despite the fact that it wasn’t that much larger than him.  It was a pretty neat trick; maybe not quite as useful as shapeshifting but at least it meant that not everything had to be built to the scale of a kilometer-plus beastie.  I had a lot of room so I actually could, especially with Spatial expansion, but even Ansae’s scale of architecture would be cramped for Uilei-nktik.

“He’s almost there,” I told the welcoming committee, though Iniri already knew that.  Mostly it was to give Shayma and One-Eye-Green time to prepare, because I didn’t think they had any idea how weird-looking the Leviathan was.  Though considering One-Eye-Green’s siblings, she might not be much bothered by that kind of thing.

Uilei-nktik’s eyes rolled around independently as he swam into the moon pool chamber, looking about the foliage I’d planted before finally breaching the surface.  Despite my warning they weren’t prepared for the actual appearance of the Leviathan, and everyone but Cheya flinched as the massive head rose partway out of the water and many, many eyes fixed on the welcoming committee.  Despite that, Iniri’s actual expression remained serene and recovered almost instantly. I had to admire her reserve, though [Queen’s Insight] might have helped prepare her for what was coming.

“This is interesting,” he said politely, though I was pretty sure what he meant was that the chamber was barely adequate to his standards.  I had been expecting, if he had a voice at all, something deep and echoing, but it was actually a pleasant tenor.  Obviously, it was produced by magic.  It came from the Leviathan’s direction but not from any particular spot, giving it a strange and ethereal quality.  “Were you expecting me?”

“Only for the past hour,” Iniri said, and I could tell that Uilei-nktik caught all the implications of that by the movement of his eyes.  Not that I was conversant with Leviathan body language, but he had a lot of really big eyes, so they were pretty good at emoting.  “I am Queen Iniri of Tarnil,” she added, head held high.  “We haven’t had any dealings with Leviathans of late, so am I right in assuming you are an official envoy?”

“I am indeed.  Wayfarer Uilei-nktik, emissary for the Uphari Sovereignty.”  He gestured grandly with the whiskers, keeping at least one eye on each of the people standing next to the water.  “I realize that we haven’t had any agreements with Tarnil for some time, so I am pleasantly surprised by the effort you’ve put forth to host me.  Alas, the reason I am here is less pleasant.  There was what appeared to be an attack on our territory from yours, using the same unique Affinity that I see in evidence here.”

“Oh, crap.  That’s my fault.  I kind of fumbled the second [Starlance].  It blew right through the fortress and hit the sea.”  I really should have thought of that, but I hadn’t much considered the sea anyone else’s kingdom.  It was, and it belonged to some real scary types.  “It’s not Iniri’s fault.”

“That was not an act of Tarnil’s,” Shayma said, doing an admirable job of looking calm.  “That was a weapon deployed against the mage-kings by the dungeon Power, Blue.  It was so powerful it cut through its intended target and unintentionally hit the ocean.”

“I am not familiar with that Power,” Uilei-nktik said, drawing back a few meters.  “We observed that The Silver Woe was here and thought she might be connected…?”

“Not with the [Starlance].  Umm, I think you’ll have to go official.  I’ll want to tender my apologies for the accidental impactor.  Was anyone hurt?”

“I am Shayma Ell, Blue’s representative.” Shayma said.  “Blue extends his greetings and his apologies for the incidental strike by the [Starlance].  He further enquires as to whether anyone was harmed by it.”

“There were minor injuries and property damage from the pressure shock,” Uilei-nktik said slowly, obviously not expecting the tack Shayma and I had taken.  “Mostly measured in the deaths of fish shoals near the site.”

“Well, that was certainly not intended, and hopefully I can smooth things over and aid in the recovery.  Do you have any preferred Affinities?”  I actually did feel pretty bad.  Not about the fish, but for basically dropping a nuke over an inhabited area without warning.  Sure, the damage was minor but that was just good fortune. The Leviathan didn’t reply immediately, and while he was obviously thinking he was also eyeing One-Eye-Green.

“Good of you to bring a telepath to confirm what you’re saying,” Uilei-nktik said after Shayma relayed that, which of course was not at all what I had intended to do.  I realized suddenly that he’d probably been chatting with One-Eye-Green the entire time and none of us had known.  That was probably okay this time, since it wasn’t like we were trying to hide anything and One-Eye-Green probably had gotten multiple perspectives from Shayma’s group she could show him, but it was something to be careful of in the future.  There was a reason nobody used children as diplomatic representatives.

“We have sufficient Affinity material for repairing what needs to be fixed, but we wouldn’t turn down a token of the surface world,” he continued.  “In truth, I am relieved that this was an unfortunate accident and we aren’t facing any actual aggression.  Though I am surprised.  I came here expecting to find Tarnil and The Silver Woe.  I mean no offense, but I haven’t heard of Blue before now.  Is there some way I can meet him?”  Shayma and Iniri glanced at each other, and Iniri gestured for Shayma to go ahead.

“Tarnil is a protectorate under Blue for now, because Blue is Tarnil.  I mentioned he was a dungeon; the entirety of the country is his territory.  He is watching and listening right now, though only a select few people are capable of hearing him.”  Shayma explained, and I watched his eyes roll around as he took another look at the chamber.

“You might as well tell him that Ansae is around, but has asked for privacy.  Maybe don’t tell him that she’s asleep.  We’ll tell her that he’s there when she does wake up, though.”  I was going to have to do more work to make Leviathan-friendly audience chambers, too.  While Shayma explained Ansae’s unavailability, I whipped up an apology package.

I had no idea which Affinities in particular would be considered “surface” Affinities, but I bet they probably didn’t have wind, storm, light, or fire.  One of each, with an explanation of what Primal Sources were, would probably be enough.  Then, on consideration, a tiny orb of a stellar Source.  I knew none of them could use it yet, thanks to my governing core, but it was the thought that counted.

I shaped the Sources into spheres and plucked them from their respective flowers, putting them inside a simple wooden box that was shaped exactly to the Source gems.  I almost left it there, but then I remembered that Uilei-nktik didn’t have hands, so I added a steel ring sized to one of those whiskers and then put the whole thing together inside the Assembler.  All of that took no more time than the three or four sentences out of Shayma’s mouth, so I had it ready by the time Uilei-nktik started speaking again.

“It’s a shame,” he said.  “I once saw The Silver Woe at a great distance when I was but a squidling, lo these eight hundred years ago, and I’ve been following the flavor of that day ever since.  Though it seems the situation here is more complicated than expected, so I may have to stay a while to treat with both Blue and Tarnil.  Perhaps she will deign to see me during that time.”

“Tarnil would be delighted to normalize relations with our local Leviathans,” Iniri said.  “For most things, Tarnil’s interests run congruent with Blue’s, but for things only Blue can provide, Shayma is the one who will handle it.”

“Speaking of, I’ve got the apology gift, Shayma.”  She stretched out her hand and I pushed the box through.  “I’m honestly not sure what the Leviathans might want from me but I’m willing to talk.  Maybe spruce up an area for him to stay, though I have no idea what Leviathan housing looks like.”

“Blue is willing to discuss whatever you like, though he’ll need more information about Leviathans if you want a reasonable place to stay.  He wouldn’t want to be rude.”  She held out the box, the carry-ring jutting from the side.  “In the service of which, Blue offers you a set of Primal Sources.  They will bind to whoever uses them, but they are significantly better than regular Sources.”

“A princely gift,” Uilei-nktik said, reaching out a whisker to take it.  “Though I find myself at a loss; is it Tarnil or Blue that is hosting me?  A Wayfarer has certain obligations to their host.”

“I have Bargained with Blue for Tarnil’s benefit, so at the moment he is Tarnil.  The major difference is who handles which sort of business,” Iniri explained.  “Tarnil handles normal politics and trade, while Blue deals with things of a more esoteric nature.  That said, since you came here to find the culpable party, I expect it is more appropriate for Blue to host you.”

“Ah, Bargains,” Uilei-nktik said.  “Say no more.  I suppose that erases any doubt that Blue is indeed a Power, though a dungeon one is new.’

“Oh, believe me, we’ve been there,” Iniri said dryly.  “We’ve had some trouble because people don’t believe Blue is what he is.  I’m glad we don’t have to worry about the Leviathans atop all that.”

“I admit I might not be so accommodating under other circumstances.  We take attacks upon our territory quite seriously, but I’m satisfied by the explanation you’ve given.”  The big eyes all rolled in their sockets.  “It helps that you can cast the blame on the mage-kings.  They’ve been a nuisance for centuries.”

“Oh boy.  You know I’m actually curious what’s going on over there, though from what I’ve seen we’re not going to see any action from them for a while.”

“Blue is curious about the mage-kings, actually.  We’re at war with them, yet we don’t really know much about them,” Shayma said.  “Could you fill us in while he makes a room for you?”

“Certainly,” Uilei-nktik replied.  “Though we don’t have any significant relations with them ourselves.  They’ve been around for slightly under eight hundred years, though people have been living in the archipelago for longer than that.  I’m not sure how someone got ahold of a dungeon core, but less than twenty years after the first one appeared, they were all around the depletion rift there.”

“Where did the depletion rift come from?  What is it?”  Shayma asked, not needing any prompting from me.

“That, we don’t know.  It’s been there for thousands of years, but nobody cared besides the people that actually lived there.  Maybe a hundred years before the first mage-kings, people noticed it was expanding, blighting the land around it.  That’s when we left those waters and never went back.”

“Yeah, okay, I bet that’s the same as the Blight that the Scalemind were fleeing.  Could you ask One-Eye-Green to verify that?”  Maybe it wasn’t all that important where it came from originally, because it was clear that the depletion rift and its associated effects were having a deleterious effect on the world.  Depletion itself, blighting the land, and destroying the power of wind Affinity.  Uilei-nktik agreed that the Blight that One-Eye-Green remembered and what he’d seen near the mage-kings was the same, but unfortunately didn’t have any insights beyond that.  He didn’t even know what the rift looked like.

While he was talking, I made an Expanded area underneath the moon pool, and a big one.  Regardless of his ability to fit into smaller spaces I wanted it to be big enough for an actual Leviathan-sized suite.  If other countries had relationships with Leviathans, Tarnil could too, and that meant proper facilities.

“Let’s start with water preference: salt or fresh?” I asked.  “Do you need a bunch of fish or do you mostly eat mana?  Also, I know the mage-kings have a Council, do you have any idea what’s going on there?”

As it turned out, Leviathans preferred freshwater when visiting because foreign saltwater didn’t taste quite right.  He alternated between discussing preferences and talking about the mage-kings, which I kind of paid attention to.  Nobody seemed to like them, but that didn’t mean they completely lacked allies.  For all I knew, they could have a Power of their own and that’s where the dungeon cores had come from initially.  Or they had something even scarier than corekiller up their sleeves, but it’d take a full Council to authorize it.  Vok Lim and his allies certainly hadn’t fully represented their government, to judge by Tor Kot’s comments.

Unfortunately, the Leviathans only knew the general strokes.  The Council was a sort of oligarchic committee that mostly kept power because they were in charge of handing out new cores.  Aside from the blighting that rendered the waters uninhabitable, most of the archipelago was at least partly floating, the result of a massive concentration of wind Affinity. 

I worked on pulling a bunch of fish from the coastal waters into a separate larder-pond for the Leviathan while Cheya questioned Uilei-nktik about their trade, partly because Tarnil was a dungeon-fueled nation too and maybe they could learn from the mage-kings.  They were fairly isolationist — they didn’t need imports, since dungeons could make almost everything. Nor did they export, since nobody wanted to deal with depletion, and diplomacy had the same issue, especially since they tended to use monsters as representatives.  So that wasn’t helpful, but Cheya took copious notes anyway. 

I wasn’t sure that sort of intelligence was all that useful, but it did paint the picture of a nation that wouldn’t worry too much about what others thought of them.  Not to mention it was effectively immune to invasion because of depletion issues, though it wasn’t like the inhabitants of the land were much better off.  Frankly it seemed everyone was lucky the mage-kings hadn’t started expanding earlier.

I was actually more focused on building Uilei-nktik’s suite, since it turned out Leviathans liked things built in a vertical spiral or joined multiples of the same.  I made his suite on a triple-helix of rooms, with current flowing downward, but they were pretty sparse for the moment.  He did promise to get me a sample of the coral that Leviathans used, which I was looking forward to.  Despite his look, he was probably the most polite and well-spoken visitor that either Iniri or I had ever gotten.

Of course, he was on his best behavior.  I had no idea what Skills or talents Uilei-nktik had, but he could probably wreck Meil with just physical force alone.  His tentacles were a kilometer or more of solid muscle, and something like fifty meters across where they joined the main trunk.  Plus, I’d caught a subsonic rumble or two that made me think he’d shatter all the glass in the Palace if he raised his voice.  Indeed, I could well imagine how badly things might have gone if Uilei-nktik had come out of the water by the city and been attacked.

“We don’t have much of a navy yet, but when we do start sending out trading vessels, how do we get agreements from you?”  Iniri asked at length.  “Although I don’t suppose we’ll be sending anyone through the ocean east of here.”

“That won’t matter,” Uilei-nktik assured her.  “Wayfarers like myself keep our various groups connected and ensure that Surfacer agreements are maintained despite whatever power struggles may occur in the abyss.”

“On that note, House Anell.”  Iniri looked grim.  “I know they trade with you quite a lot, but they’ve demonstrated themselves to be an enemy of Tarnil.  We don’t want to have any issues with the Leviathans, but we have to punish Anell.”

“In theory, Surfacer politics are no concern of ours,” Uilei-nktik said, then chuckled.  It was with his real voice, something that made the surface of the moon pool dance.  “In practice, I suspect I shall be forced to beat some heads if such a war threatens the income of surfacer goods.”

“We can’t come anywhere near to replacing the volume of Anell’s trade,” Iniri mused.  “But pragmatically, if we provide some of the replacement goods, we won’t have to worry so much about a disgruntled Leviathan eating one of our ships?”

“Ships are delicious,” he said, though I was pretty sure he was joking.  “But we can be persuaded to leave them be.  Just these Sources that Blue provided would be a good start, depending on how many you can supply.”

“Blue?”  Iniri asked.

“I’m willing to trade Sources, but I want to keep them restricted mostly to people I know won’t use them against us.  I will have other stuff, but not in huge volumes.  Though I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that can provide any stellar Affinity stuff at all — aside from Iniri’s [Sunmetal], which probably is a great trade good now that I think of it.”

“You mean the new magic I sensed?”  All of his eyes fixed on Shayma as she spoke.  “Where did you come by a new Affinity?”

“Haha.  Now that’s a story.  Actually, hang on, I think I’m about ready to make a new Star.”  I had been feeding Anvils as they became available, and a brief check showed that I had enough materials to ignite another one.  Due to repossessing the Whacker, I even had extra Firmament for once, enough that I made a mental note to readjust the ratios of the materials I was running through my anvils.

“On the subject of that new Affinity,” Shayma said.  “It is called stellar Affinity, and Blue can actually create Origin Relics for it.  If you wait a few moments, Blue is about to create another one.”  That got a subsonic thrum from the Leviathan, either curiosity or surprise.

For whatever reason my ignition setup was still manual, rather than turning into some Dungeon apparatus.  I didn’t know if that was due to complexity, or because what I was doing was outside the scope of how Dungeons were set up.  Or there was just some logic that I didn’t understand.

Once again, the massive blast of a star being born rippled outward from the mountaintop.  This time the pseudo-night-sky lasted even longer, and I figured that the area was being inundated with so much mana it was getting some stellar attributes.  I didn’t know if that was because [Contained Stars] didn’t have that same purity that my dungeon mana did, or it was just the sheer overload, or what, but it was a live demonstration of how mana could change reality.

While I enjoyed the spectacle, Uilei-nktik did not.  At all.  He couldn’t see it directly, obviously, but the flash was bright enough to be obvious to even normal mana-sight, and the Leviathan clearly had very keen esoteric senses.  He dived down into the water, letting off a subsonic vocalization that actually set Meil’s lake to dancing, even attenuated through the passageway as it was.  It was a good thing it wasn’t audible, since as it was it came off like a small earthquake.

“What isss wrong?”  Although everyone looked at each other in confusion, only One-Eye-Green thought to actually say it out loud.

“I think it’s just—” I started, before Uilei-nktik resurfaced.

“Apologies,” he said, almost sheepishly.  “I was not expecting something of that magnitude.  No wonder you keep the company of The Silver Woe.”

Well.  Now I knew how to terrify Leviathans.

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InadvisablyCompelled

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