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A note from InadvisablyCompelled

1/1

Starting the final arc here.

I thought Ansae was terrifying before, but after she left Chiuxatlan looking like it’d been swept with a gamma ray weapon, I had a new respect for what she could do. What I’d considered her peak power back when she utterly wiped out two mage-kings and her forces was actually her normal baseline. Something confirmed now that I finally had access to her full Status.

Ansae Ziir

Level Ω [Purified] [Primal Dragon]

Titles: Silence Fallen, The End Of Izin, She Who Is Above, The Silver Woe

Health: 410,000/410,000

Stamina: 1,225,000/1,225,000

Mana: 475,000/475,000

Skills

[Primal Magic]: You have stepped beyond the bounds of Affinities to the source of what magic is. You can freely shape mana into any Affinity and convert mana from one Affinity to another. Any Skill or Spell you invoke or create may use any Affinity you wish.

[Natural Weapons Grandmaster] 10: Your scales are more obdurate than a mountain, your claws sharper than winter’s chill, your wings more powerful than a hurricane, and your breath more potent than a volcano.

[Runic Originator]: You have created an entire system of concrete magic in the form of runes. You will instantly gain understanding of any new runes created by anyone in the world, and it will be your will that sets it into permanency.

[Pinnacle Spellforger] 10: Spells come as naturally as thought.

Abilities

[Primal Body]: Your body uses primal magic rather than any Affinity, massively increasing all physical abilities. Simple biology does not constrain you; you are a being more of magic than of flesh. Your senses reach to everything your presence touches and your shape is anything you wish it to be.

[The Silver Woe]: You are The Silver Woe. Your presence alone dominates everything nearby, expanding with your will. Your memory is perfect; your insight into the world is unsurpassed.

[Purified]: Everything you’ve lost to Depletion has been restored. You are immune to Depletion.

In a way it was a lot simpler than I would have thought, but every single one of those entries boiled down to her being able to do whatever she wanted. Ansae had mentioned that her Skills had ended up merging into superskills, and it was obvious that [Primal Magic] and [Pinnacle Spellforger] basically encompassed everything magical, no exceptions.

It was interesting to me that Ansae’s shapeshifting was actually under Abilities, the passive stuff, rather than Skills, the active stuff. That implied it was a fundamentally different method than Shayma’s, even if for both of them it was inherent to their natures. Interestingly, I didn’t see anything about her moon in her Skills, but then, [Unbreakable Promise] wasn’t part of Shayma’s Status either.

What really got me was the lack of a level number for Ansae. It wasn’t just question marks anymore, but replacing it with omega didn’t really help much. Though I supposed after level one thousand or so, numbers were just academic. At the rate of four depletion cap per level, on average, she was well over level fifteen hundred, but in real terms that was beyond any meaningful numerical representation. A fourth-tier human-kin was more than four times as powerful as a first-tier human-kin, and while dragons didn’t follow that exact tier model there were orders of magnitude involved.

I felt a little odd seeing Ansae go gallivanting off to other parts of the world, even if it was temporary. She’d been with me from the beginning and I was just so used to her being around. It had been sort of comforting having someone so powerful and knowledgeable that I could lean on just in case. Not that I really needed the protection anymore, but it still felt weird, especially since I couldn’t talk to her outside of my influence.

We’d rejected the idea of trying to make Ansae a Companion. I wasn’t sure it would work in the first place, considering she was a Power and frankly way beyond me in so many ways. Besides which, we both doubted that even if I did manage to make her a normal Companion that she’d get to a high enough rank for Transcriptions to work. So I didn’t have any eyes on her as she left my demesne for the first time in years. I knew I didn’t have to worry, and if anything it was other people who should worry about her.

In comparison to Ansae’s absurd Status, Taelah’s was mild in comparison, but her new third-tier Class was pretty well perfect for her.

Taelah Marn

Level 50 [Druid Matriarch of the Caldera]

Race: Human

Health: 475/475

Stamina: 1,210/1,210

Mana: 530/530

Skills

[Phantasmal Plant Dominion] 1: You have control over all plants in the Caldera. They grow and wither at your whim, and you may manipulate their physical or magical form. Your connection with the realm of the phantasmal allows you to permanently extract magical or physical properties without affecting the other.

[Ecological Integration] 10: You are able to integrate plants and animals into dungeon environments.

[Dungeon Mana Alchemy] 2: Provides identification of ingredients with alchemical import. Aids with creation of alchemical products and allows for use of dungeon stations when performing alchemy. Allows for manipulation of mana in alchemical processes.

[Caldera Druid’s Strength] 1: You draw on the land to improve your magical and physical abilities and prowess.

[Matriarch’s Voice] 1: You speak with the will of the Caldera. When you invoke this Skill, all must listen and none can deceive themselves about what is said.

Abilities

[Lineage: One with Nature]: Children are born [Purified]. Your strength grows as you nurture your land. The land becomes more bountiful the longer you care for it.

[The Heart of the Matter]: You always know truth from a lie, and can cut through prevarications and obfuscations to understand the true nature of the situation.

[Druidic Prowess] 1: You are in tune with the natural world. Living things under your care grow better. Your body and mind are enhanced, with more mana and improved spellcasting.

[Improved Alchemical Potency] 1: Your alchemical work takes less mana and uses fewer resources than normal. You may invest additional mana to improve the potency of an alchemical creation.

[Core Touched]: You are a dungeon’s eyes and ears.

[Purified]: Everything you’ve lost to Depletion has been restored. You are immune to Depletion.

A number of her Skills had merged up, some had ranked up, but the brand new Skills that she got were the most interesting bits to me. [Matriarch’s Voice] and [The Heart of the Matter] both seemed to be a little bit fate mana and a little bit mind mana, not just nature. Considering all her work with the Scalemind and the presence of the Tree of Eschaton, I thought that made a lot of sense.

“Your mom senses got an upgrade,” Shayma said with a grin. Since Ansae had been feeling restless and went out soon after we talked, the council meeting got delayed a bit and ended up only having three people on it. We did have a divination anchor to contact her, but that was more for emergencies.

“They did, a bit,” Taelah agreed calmly. She had been unflappable before, but her new Ability made her seem downright serene. “I suppose I was expecting more changes than I got, but I’m glad that nothing shifted dramatically. I’m just more me.”

“According to mom and dad that’s actually how tier-ups tend to go. The major shifts are when you’ve changed significantly since your last tier,” Shayma said. “Annit is about to break through, and I bet she’s going to have all kinds of different spells. Even a different Affinity.”

“Either way I am feeling rather more confident. And more lively, even. Not that I’m getting old, but I can feel the difference! It’s like getting the benefits of extra exercise from the past year all at once.”

“Yeah! Since I get my upgrades through Blue’s core it hits me all at once, and it’s quite a rush.”

“I certainly don’t have any complaints about being tier four,” Iniri said. “Honestly, tier three was good enough for me, but there is a significant difference now that I’m four. Coupled with Blue’s habitation bonuses, the benefits are downright unfair. ”

“So, speaking of Blue’s bonuses, what exactly did he get in the level-up? I know he mentioned something about people in the Caldera learning from each other.” Taelah looked expectantly at Shayma, and Shayma pulled up a Status readout. Not a real one, but an illusion of one.

[Companion Artifact]: May link existing Artifacts to Dungeon and Companion.

[Polyspecies Learning]: All inhabitants have improved learning regarding other inhabitant species’ language and culture.

[Intercore Linking]: An unspecialized core may be used to temporarily join two cores to increase their effects on each other.

[Mana Radiator Crystal]: Preferentially radiates mana of a specific Affinity into surroundings from dungeon mana flows.

Dungeon advancement from Companion advancement enhanced.

[Dungeon Hero] title awarded: [Blue’s Sagacity] may draw upon the wisdom of heroes.

“Those last two are kind of passive so there’s not much about them we can experiment with,” I noted. “And given that your Artifacts are already bound to you I’m not sure that [Companion Artifact] actually does anything for me.”

“I wonder if you could use it to link the Adamant Fortress to me,” Iniri mused. “And what exactly that would entail if you did. Would I be able to use it from anywhere?”

“I don’t know. You could give it a shot, or maybe Shayma could. It’s one of those things that’s available to Companions but not to me. I guess because it has to do with things that aren’t directly part of the dungeon.” I had thought it weird that the Skill didn’t require the artifacts to be ones I made, but there probably wasn’t anything super unique about dungeon-made artifacts to begin with. The fact that it took someone who could actually wield intent, which was to say, not me, to actually perform the action made it slightly less weird. Only slightly, though.

“Would you, Shayma?” Iniri asked, and Shayma nodded and stood.

“Hang on, I’ve got extra cores now, I might as well put one in here,” I told them. The two I’d gotten from Tor Kot and Yit Niv were just sitting there inside the giant mountains in the Caldera, so I pulled one out and set it into the wall of the conference room. After hitting level fifteen they were even larger than before, probably close to four meters tall and a meter wide, which was considerably larger than any mage-king core I’d seen. I really wasn’t sure why, other than me being a blue core and them being a red.

Shayma crossed over to the core and put her hand on it, concentrating for a moment. I never got any visceral feedback from Shayma manipulating those menus or options or whatever, only from the result. I could tell when ANATHEMA changed, but not when she was changing it. Regardless, it didn’t take her long, and I got some notifications on the overlay.

[Adamant Fortress] linked to dungeon.

[Adamant Fortress] linked to Companion Iniri Tarnil.

I looked at the Adamant Fortress where it rested in Iniri’s treasury, still in cube form, but the link didn’t give me any insight. To be fair, I didn’t really have any particular insight into [Vow] or [Unbreakable Promise] either. They just sort of existed.

“That does work,” Iniri said after a moment, sounding surprised. “It’s like I’m touching it right now. Actually, could you unlink me? The [Adamant Fortress] takes a lot of concentration to deal with.”

“Sure,” Shayma said, and the overlay updated appropriately.

“So basically works like if you were touching it? I guess through me, which is why the dungeon link is important.”

“I can see many ways that would be extremely useful,” Iniri said, tapping her fingers on the table. “I mean, if it weren’t for the fact that Blue is more powerful than any Artifact we might want to remotely deploy. Something to keep in mind for the future, I suppose.”

“I know it seems like I can make Artifacts like nothing, but I don’t really foresee new ones popping up all that often. Oh well.” It seemed a bit underwhelming, but the real value in hitting level fifteen was Ansae’s Purification. Everything else was secondary.

“[Intercore Linking], then,” Iniri said. “The description is vague as usual, any idea what it actually means?”

“Well, not directly. But I could see something like connecting the inhabitant and ecology cores might enhance things like dragon mana uptake, or make it easier for people to convert untamed land. Steller and inhabitant might mean more people with stellar Affinity, that kind of thing. I don’t think it’d be a good idea to connect soul to anything.”

“Linking the stellar core to inhabitants is actually a good idea, I think,” Iniri said. “It’s a potent Affinity and encouraging people to acquire it is probably a good long-term plan.”

“So long as it doesn’t force anything, I think that would be fine,” Taelah agreed. “It’s not a very well understood Affinity so it’s under-represented even considering its complexity.”

“I think you actually have extra cores now, right?” Shayma asked. “There’s no need to specialize any of the new ones.”

“I don’t think so. Not unless I want to buy offense or defense, both of which I kind of have covered. Besides, it probably can link into that radiator crystal which seems to be some sort of natural mana density thing? I’m not sure, I can kind of do that already.”

“I suspect it’s more for use on the periphery of your domain,” Taelah said thoughtfully. “It specifies dungeon mana flows, so it can pick things out of your dynamos and put them into the natural environment. Considering your natural mana is so lacking in normal intent, I imagine that the radiators mimic the local environment.”

“Huh, seems logical. You’ll have to tell me where to put those up, if anywhere.”

“Inside the Caldera, I don’t think it’s necessary, especially with dragons. But in Chiuxatlan? It may be very useful, especially if the crystals can be tuned to the exact same mana feeling as the vines I created give off.”

“Oh! Yeah, dang, I didn’t even think of that. Great idea.” Considering that Ansae had scorched-earth Chiuxatlan’s ecology and mana flow, though for good reason, something like that would help a lot with returning things to how they’d been. Probably. My Climates would do the rest.

“So that’s all those levelups, but what about traits? You’ve got a number of trait points now, don’t you?” Iniri looked to Shayma again.

“Fifteen. Which is a lot.”

“I’ve gotten so many recently I’m honestly considering saving up for [Spawn Core], [Manifest], or even [Antithesis]. Or maybe even [Inspiration] or [Pinnacle].” Shayma put up the descriptions of the traits in question as I named them.

Core Specialization: Companion: Pinnacle: Companions of Dungeon Inhabitant species are made an exemplar of that species. (8)

Core Specialization: Companion: Inspiration: Companions of Dungeon Inhabitant species gain natural leadership insight toward that species. (15)

Spawn Core: Allows the Dungeon to generate additional Cores. (20)

Manifest: Allows the Dungeon to condense its mana into physical form. (30)

Antithesis: Your existence becomes inimical to your ANATHEMA. Contact results in annihilation. (35)

“What about [Affinity Attunement]?” Taelah asked. “It would couple well with boosting stellar through [Intercore Linking].”

Core Specialization: Habitation: Affinity Attunement: Dungeon inhabitants gain governed Affinity Classes and Skills with less effort. (10)

“Yeah, that’s definitely a possibility. I don’t think there’s anything that would be specifically useful for anything currently on my plate. The Companion boosts would benefit you and Iniri mostly, I think. I mean, Shayma’s pretty much already an exemplar and there aren’t any other Blue Core Fox Spirits around yet.”

“How about the Soul Core traits?” Iniri asked, and Shayma answered by displaying them.

Inhabitants – Soul Protection: Inhabitants are resistant to soul-affecting processes. (5)

Companion – Soul Sensing: Companions may see souls through dungeon perception. (2)

“I don’t think either of those are particularly useful. We don’t want any of you involved in soul surgery and while protecting people from soul-affecting processes is neat, I don’t know of any other than depletion.”

“Well, the occasional madman who experiments in soul magic, but yes, it’s not terribly common,” Iniri admitted. “I suppose for five trait points it might well be a useless thing to pick. Especially since you can make soul prostheses and other things.”

“How important is [Spawn Core] now that you’ve Purified Ansae?” Shayma asked. “So long as you have enough for specialization and some [Intercore Linking], do you really benefit from having more?”

“Honestly, not that I know of. I can’t really tell a difference subjectively, though I feel there has to be one that maybe I’m just missing.”

“Plus when you take over the mage-king archipelago you’re going to be getting a lot of cores,” Iniri pointed out. “Which means more trait points. If you’re going to buy something now, it should probably be one of the Companion buffs. Or actually getting attack or defense cores just to round out your specializations.”

“Yeah that’s true. I’ll be absolutely spoiled for choice later on. I’ll buy attack and defense later though, since if I bought them now I’d not have any way to do [Intercore Linking]. Maybe just get the stellar Fields? I could see those being useful in the near future.” Shayma obligingly displayed the stellar core Fields.

Field: Depths of Space: Reduced gravity and atmosphere. (2)

Field: Corona: Lashing tendrils of intense heat, light, and stellar Affinity mana. (2)

“Considering you can join fields together, and Corona looks to be extremely potent, like [Hungering Dark], they seem like worthwhile purchases,” Taelah noted. “Not to mention, stellar Fields are depletion-immune. You’ll want that going forward.”

“Agreed,” said Iniri.

“Agreed,” said Shayma. “The wider you spread yourself the better having area-denial Fields is going to be, and [Hungering Dark] isn’t going to affect darkness or light Affinity stuff all that much. [Corona], on the other hand, will probably do very well.”

“Okay, purchased!” I went ahead and grabbed them, dropping my trait point total to eleven and started poking at the Fields. Mostly I was thinking of them in terms of how they could be used to deal with Blightbeasts, though I could imagine more fun possibilities with being able to make a zero-gravity environment so long as it was still breathable.

While most of my intention and attention was oriented toward preparing for the final push to take over the Archipelago and deal with the depletion rift, I didn’t want that to consume everything I did. It got a little tiring to view everything through that lens, and there was always the chance that just by fiddling a bit I’d come up with something useful.

“So while Blue’s doing that, how are we looking on the Archipelago planning?” Shayma gave Taelah and apologetic look. “I’m not sure there’s anything for you to do there.”

“I’m just as happy not to have to deal with that mess,” Taelah said, waving it off. “I have enough with the Caldera. If something does come up I can pitch in, of course.”

“Well, there’s only so much we can do before the event, but I’ve gotten a number of administrators here, and Cheya is interviewing them.” Iniri made an equivocal gesture with one hand. “Most of them are from other continents entirely, and this isn’t Tarnil so I’m not worried about people’s loyalty as such, more their integrity. Since Blue is going to have to take over these places, the biggest issue is making sure people don’t starve.”

“If they’ve been eating dungeon food this whole time things might get a little weird.” Shayma grimaced. “The Leviathans say that there’s not really any sea life for fishing there anymore, so they almost have to be eating that stuff.”

“I’m really glad they’re not my subjects,” Iniri muttered. “Anyway, I think we’re about as prepared as we’re likely to be.”

“I think that’s everything for now? Just bank the rest of the trait points?”

“Yeah I think so. Probably will be able to buy Antithesis before delving the rift if Tor Kot’s information on how many cores and mage-kings there are is accurate. Which I imagine it is.” I wasn’t sure how many I’d end up getting, but there were almost one hundred cores left, surrounding the rift. Which meant the sheer number I’d destroyed or converted was actually quite a lot, relatively. Over ten percent of their total. Even if I only got one trait point each, and I only got half of them, that’d still be enough to buy up what I wanted.

“All right, back to work then,” Iniri said with a smile, and got up to return to the Palace.

“One-Eye-Green has been asking about you,” Taelah said to Shayma, standing as well. “You should swing by to say hello.”

“Sure! It’s a shame she doesn’t go out hunting with us anymore, but I think what she’s doing is more important.”

I wasn’t sure how much it was due to her influence, and how much of it was just encountering the other races at the trading pavilion, but the Scalemind had really stepped up their civilization game and started carving out and assembling genuine houses. Small ones, but instead of being a sprawling camp their cavern was starting to look more like a village. Plus they were trading for rugs, which had become extremely popular.

While Shayma went off to visit with her friends, I turned my attention to my two new fields and started experimenting. Like all my other Fields they were a little bit tunable, so I could emphasize one part of it or another. For [Depths of Space], that meant I actually could emphasize the gravity part more than the vacuum part, and vice versa, while for [Corona], I could slide between more a saturation of fiery plasma and something more like a room full of flailing whips.

I had basically two brute-force ways of messing with Fields beyond what they naturally could do. Overcharging them and combining them. Considering the nature of them I wasn’t sure how well either approach would work, but I sequestered off a small area for testing anyway. Fortunately there was no way that even accidentally exploding anything would be an issue.

Overcharging [Depths of Space] got me [Essence of Emptiness], which didn’t seem like much until I experimented on some trees and grass, which instantly froze and desiccated before exploding from decompression. Basically like all the worst traits of hard vacuum on fast forward. [Corona] was similarly horrifying when overcharged, just a solid mass of nuclear plasma called [Star’s Heart]. Unlike a [Contained Star] it didn’t generate stellar Affinity mana, but rather consumed it, enough that I wouldn’t be able to sustain too large a Field. Though I had no idea why I’d want to.

I had four base fields I could combine my two new ones with: [Greater Regeneration], [Greater Light], [Deep Murk], and [Greater Growth]. Frankly I expected that the new Fields would be completely incompatible, but instead they all had some seriously potent outcomes. Though considering the original Fields, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

[Stasis]: Combines [Depths of Space] and [Greater Regeneration]. Living things are held in abeyance, neither moving nor aging nor dying.

[Distant Starlight]: Combines [Depths of Space] and [Greater Light]. Fills area with illumination that does not use light Affinity.

[The Emptiness Between Stars]: Combines [Depths of Space] with [Deep Murk]. Creates area of crushingly empty nothingness.

[Orbital Greenhouse]: Combines [Depths of Space] with [Greater Growth]. Creates area of rapid adaptation to low-gravity environments.

[Of Light and Fire Born]: Combines [Corona] and [Greater Regeneration]. Burns away everything within and remakes it anew.

[Nova Light]: Combines [Corona] and [Greater Light]. Creates an area of harsh, damaging light. Bright, brighter than the sun. Brighter than anything.

[Event Horizon]: Combines [Corona] and [Deep Murk]. What falls through the horizon will not come out.

[Expanding Star]: Combines [Corona] and [Greater Growth]: Creates a [Corona] Field that expands over time, but cools as it does so.

[The Heavens]: Combines [Corona] and [Depths of Space]: Mimics the heavens.

I had more than doubled my list of total Fields, though I wasn’t sure how much use some of them would see. [Orbital Greenhouse] was something I was absolutely going to set up for Taelah, and I could see some really interesting uses for [Stasis], but a lot of the others were just too intense.

[Nova Light] was so bright it actually shone through the rock walls of the test chamber, without actually damaging it. [Expanding Star] I got rid of before it ate the test chamber, and [Event Horizon] was just terrifying. [The Heavens] was maybe the most interesting one, since I could use it to make a little miniature orrery, or fill it with tiny but still intensely hot suns.

The standout was [Of Light and Fire Born] because it did exactly as specified. When I formed it over a tree it disintegrated the tree and rebuilt it at the same time, cell by cell or atom by atom, and most importantly, mana piece by mana piece. I went from an ordinary Tayanten tree to a [Coronal Tayanten], complete with leaves made out of flame and bark made of diffuse plasma.

What that would do to a person, I couldn’t imagine. Probably a quick way to get stellar Affinity, but I didn’t think it would be pleasant and I wasn’t sure what would be left in the end would actually be a person. Maybe something more along the lines of a mana beast. That wasn’t something I was particularly interested in finding out.

If I was really curious, there might be mage-kings around to test it on in the not too distant future. Or maybe I could use it on blightbeasts and see if it turned them normal or what. Though I suspected that it would only make stellar type reconstructions.

Ultimately I wasn’t sure the Fields were really worth the trait points, but some of the damaging ones were so thoroughly hostile that I was sure even Ansae would be impressed when she came back. [Event Horizon] seemed to even have a touch of Void to it, which meant I was going to treat it very cautiously.

Once I had figured out the Fields to my satisfaction I started putting together some miniaturized versions of the gravity drives I’d put on my Fortress. I had two dungeon seeds arriving very soon and I wanted them to be mobile, beyond Shayma just putting them wherever. Since I had the floatstone ships from Tor Kot and Yit Niv, I had the raw materials to make a little floatstone darter for each.

Instead of tiny dodecahedrons, I made them into spheres, five meters in diameter, just large enough to fit a dynamo inside so I could power the thing. I went with a metal plating instead of black, but I had to wait a while because I wanted to use mind Affinity metal. Going by the name and effect of the chrysthenium, the default effect would be for people to not even notice the things. Which was really a better protection than a bunch of wards, anyway. Even if that wasn’t exactly how the mind metal worked, I was betting that One-Eye-Green and Shayma between them could fix it so it did.

Without the dungeon seeds I couldn’t do anything but make the shells, as it were. They were still anchored to the ground, but I had the dynamos and the gravity metal and all that ready for when I could add a seed and detach them. My fiddling around with that made me remember that I had to ask the Chiuxatli to go reattach all the wards, though. I’d broken them by taking away their mana crystals, but they should be fine once they were connected again. All the plates that had the actual framework were still intact, just unpowered.

To be honest I felt a little bad about it. It was necessary, and definitely worth it, but I didn’t like making more work for other people. On the other hand, considering that I was fixing up Chiuxatlan instead of just purging it, they would probably not be too irritated by it. If there was time, I might even see what suggestions they had for my little seed-craft.

Of everyone, they had the most reason to want to see the depletion rift gone for good.

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