“Sorry that took so long, Tallheart. I can help you now.”
“Do not apologize, Rain. You kept Jamus busy so I could work in peace. Did you get the answers you wanted?”
“Some of them. What are we building?”
“A <something>. It is to heat the metal.”
“Oh, a forge? Can’t you just use Tel to make it easier to work like before?”
“I could. But then I would not be able to separate the metals.”
“So Tel... what? Bind things together? Is that why people collect them?”
“Yes, and other reasons.”
“But they won’t help here? The shovel came out pretty good.”
“This way is better.”
“Ok, sure, I believe you. So what do you need for the forge?”
“Sorry, I don’t know that one.”
“It is like dirt, but not. You can make things with it. Pots. Jars.”
“Oh, clay. I know what you mean. What do you need it for?”
“I must seal the stone before I can control the fire.”
“Right, got it. So you want me to find some clay?”
“I’m on it. Oh, and Jamus wanted to know if it would be ok if he brought someone else out here. You remember I told you about the man I saved? Jamus says he’s awake and wants to thank me.”
“Where is Jamus?”
“He went back to the city. Don’t worry, he said he wouldn’t bring anyone else here without making sure they were ok with cervidians first. He told me he was going to pick up a few things that we needed. He’ll be back later tonight, maybe with a guest.”
“I see,” Tallheart said, face unreadable, “Can you find the clay?”
“I’ll try. Detection should work, probably. I’ll start by the river.”
“Bring something to carry it. The shovel is by the hut.”
Rain walked over to the hut and grabbed the shovel. He left his pack behind, but took the old linen sack that he had gotten from the bizarre merchant in town. He wadded it up and stuffed it into a pocket as he headed off toward the river, gnawing on a ration bar. He was still sore, but the morning of resting his muscles while talking with Jamus had restored him somewhat.
I feel so much better about my build now. Jamus was a huge help, even if he was a bit skeptical. It’s clarity for me, all the way. I can’t wait until I unlock magical synergy. I found it in tier 2 right where Jamus said it would be. Lets clarity boost total mana, and focus boost mana regen. Intrinsic focus has probably already leveled from all the purification practice while we were talking. Good thing I put a point in that early-on in our conversation. It should level fast because of how much mana I can chew through. Speaking of fast, velocity.
Rain switched to the second skill he had purchased. He hadn’t gotten a chance to test it out yet, but Jamus’s description of what speed did had him excited. It didn’t boost his mind at all, but it would boost all of his movements, not just walking and running. He tucked his ration bar into a pocket and prepared himself, holding the shovel at his side. He flexed his other hand, wincing slightly at the continuing ache of the burn. His muscles were still a bit stiff, but he felt up to some light exercise.
Ok, let’s see how this feels. No boosts, just the base strength of 10% at first.
Immediately after activating the skill, Rain stumbled, dropping the shovel and windmilling his arms. His body felt lighter, his limbs responding quicker and moving more easily than he was used to. It took him a few tries to stop his arms from flailing about; the faster response was causing him to overcompensate. Once he felt he had the hang of it, he started walking, struggling to adapt to the strange sensation. He managed to get back up to a normal walking pace, then broke into a jog.
Small wisps of white light trailed behind his limbs like wind as he moved, a telltale sign that something magical was at work. He couldn’t tell if he was moving faster than he could normally; the bizarre speedup to his limbs was throwing off his form and forcing him to concentrate on not falling over.
I’m going to need to practice this. Even 10% is a bit jarring.
He canceled the skill and turned back to retrieve the shovel from where he had dropped it. He glanced at his mana, seeing that the short skill use hadn’t impacted it too greatly. He was really feeling the loss of the focus ring. The point in intrinsic focus had helped a bit, getting him up to 240, but it was still quite a bit less than the 400 he had gotten used to.
Ok, let’s see how maximum power feels. With amplify and channel mastery, it should be somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. I’m sure as hell not trying aura focus on this one.
Rain activated the skill with the modifiers and started back towards where he had dropped the shovel. The additional boost was noticeable and even more difficult to deal with. He was ready for it this time, though, so he had less trouble keeping his limbs in control. He made it back to where he had dropped the shovel and left the skill on as he bent to retrieve it. He managed to grab it on his first try, already adapting to the lighter feeling in his arms.
It’s kind of like that feeling you get when you’ve been on a treadmill for a while and then try to walk around. Like I’m gliding or something. Weird.
Rain canceled the skill when he saw his mana was starting to get too low for his comfort. The sudden return of weight to his limbs made him stumble again.
Wow, yeah, coming down’s just as bad. This is gonna be tricky to use in combat. Oh, now there’s an idea. Jamus said that monsters count as entities, so without aura IFF, this should affect them. Until I unlock that, I can’t use it to get a speed advantage, but I might be able to use the disorientation to trip them up. That seems… broken. If I get this up to 100%, I don’t see anything being able to just adapt to the sudden change if they aren’t expecting it. I wonder if it’s possible to resist a ‘beneficial’ effect. Damn it, I should have brought my notebook. Even if my memory is boosted like Jamus says, I know I’m not going to be able to remember all the questions I’ll think up today.
When he reached the river, Rain walked back to his rock, sat, and fished out his ration bar. He was really feeling the loss of the focus ring, as his mana was almost empty from the two brief uses of velocity. Thus, he needed to wait for his mana to regenerate under the influence of his winter aura. As he chewed on the cement-like ‘food’, he considered what Jamus had said on the subject of physical training.
So the strength skill isn’t just some magical boost to my muscles. It is like a cap. With base strength, I can still get stronger by training my body, up to some limit. Strength adds to skill damage for physical skills, but that’s a bit of a lie. You won’t do maximum damage if your body isn’t strong enough to put full force behind the blow. Also, no, I’m not going to turn into the hulk if I put some points in strength. Muscle size doesn’t have much to do with actual strength here, other than showing how close you are to your cap. If I was jacked, it would just mean I was close to the limit, whether I had ten strength or ten hundred.
Rain looked down at his arms as he leaned against his rock. He wasn’t exactly scrawny, but he felt like an adventurer should have a bit more muscle, just for appearances’ sake.
I should do some push-ups or something. Anyway, stats are weird. Endurance and focus work the same way as strength. You have to train your resistance and your mind if you want to get the full benefit from your skills. Endurance governs stamina, so more of it means more running without getting tired. It is related to the body the same way health is, so if your pool is high, you get less tired, physically. If it’s low, even getting out of bed will wear you out. Overstamina helps you recover from fatigue. It even reduces your need to sleep, though if you skip out on it entirely you start having other problems. As for the defense bit, it’s like building up calluses. More endurance makes your body tougher, but not if you spend all day bathing in rosewater.
Focus is… a bit harder to grasp. Jamus said it wasn’t the mind, but your soul that is getting strengthened. I’m not sure if I’m translating that right, but ‘soul’ is the closest concept I can think of. He said that’s why overmana improves memory, but not actual intelligence. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Are memories stored in the soul, then? I thought they were just connections between neurons. I guess I’m not just made of meat after all. Use magic to strengthen your soul, he said. Shouldn’t be an issue.
“Claydar, activate!” Rain said, switching to his detection aura and climbing to his feet. “Wow, that sounded even lamer than I thought it would.”
He sent out a single pulse of detection, focusing on clay and using the same combination of modifiers that he had used in his search for metal. He didn’t get a response, so he started walking up the river, searching the bank with his eyes. The skill had worked on metal, and he saw no reason for clay to be different, but he decided to search the normal way too, instead of just trusting his aura.
The range of the pulses had improved slightly due to the ranks he had earned in his metamagic, so he left a bit more time between each activation. He smiled as he got a signal on his fourth try.
That was easy.
He walked over to the source of the signal, spotting an undercut section of the bank. Getting down on his hands and knees to peer under it, he found a large deposit of clay waiting to be harvested.
He pulled out the linen sack from his pocket and rolled the sides down so it would sit flat on the ground near the river. He then pulled off his boots and waded into the water, setting himself up so he could get at the clay with the shovel. The metal shovel blade sunk into it easily, coming away with a heavy load of the grayish river clay. He moved the dripping shovel over the linen sack and inverted it, hearing the clay land with a slime-like plop. He took several more shovel-fulls of clay, then clambered out of the river. He gathered up the sides of the sack and lifted it, testing the weight. The fabric held, so he set down his shovel, satisfied.
This should be enough for Tallheart to get started. I don’t want to get more until I know this is the right kind of clay. It seems a bit sandy, but I don’t think it should be an issue for what he wants it for.
Rain sat resting near the hut as he watched Tallheart slather clay on the stones he had piled up. He’d made several trips back and forth between the river and the clearing, and had built up a small pile of the stuff for the smith to use. He’d taken it easy to avoid straining his tired muscles, so it took him a few hours of work to get enough clay for Tallheart to complete the forge. Nevertheless, he had activated velocity a few times as he walked, more to get used to the feeling of the skill than to benefit from the minor speed boost. It was also good training for his metamagic, given the fairly high mana usage.
It looked like Tallheart had the forge project well in hand, so Rain decided to just have his supper instead of trying to help further. He pulled out a ration bar from his pack and regarded the solid rectangle unenthusiastically. He’d finished off the last of his beef jerky earlier, leaving him with just the unappetizing bricks in his bag.
I wonder if Tallheart can make actual bricks with that clay. They might be softer. Bleh, I’d kill for a little variety. Maybe I’ll go looking for food in the forest tomorrow. I might be able to hunt with detection and refrigerate, though I don’t really wanna kill off a huge patch of the forest with ice.
Rain gnawed at the ration bar. Seeing that his mana was almost full again, he activated detection with all of his modifiers. If he was going to do more searching tomorrow, leveling the skill seemed like it would be a good idea. He managed about 6 seconds before his mana ran out and he had to switch back to winter.
Still no headache. Maybe it is a function of the mental training I have been doing by using all these auras? Like muscle soreness, except in the soul? Jamus just needs to work out more. Most mages probably avoid getting all the way down to zero because it takes them so long to regen, whereas I… statistics.
Yeah, I can do that again in 20 minutes. Damn mana pool. Damn ring. Damn adventurer shop guy. Oh well, I’ll just pump as much mana out today as I can so intrinsic focus levels like mad. I’m putting all points in clarity from now on, no matter what Jamus says about ‘safety’. I can’t risk losing my chance at super dynamo or whatever it might be called.
If I want to keep leveling, I need to raise my cap somehow. That means I need to find and fight essence monsters. I have eight levels left, so that’s eight skill points to play with. I want to take shear so I can get some physical damage. I wouldn’t think that’d be a common resistance, based on how it’s not on the defensive aura tree. Plus, it goes through walls, so broken AF! So many opportunities for abuse. I’ll need at least one other offensive aura to meet the prerequisite. I’m thinking immolate.
Rain pulled out his notebook and started making a list.
Defensive auras aren’t enough, I can’t predict what elements I’ll encounter, so I can’t use my points on those yet. They are pretty useless until I train them up, too. I need to work on that eventually, not now. I’ll have to get the well auras instead, at least the stamina and health ones. Those will let me heal mid-combat and the other seasons will help the rest of the time. Essence well would be useful, but only if I have a party. I’ll leave it off for now.
Aura synergy I want, if I’m going to be in combat. I want everything to be as strong as possible. With all these other auras, It should start making a noticeable difference. Aura IFF is a must-have, of course. Unless I’m going to go solo, I need to be able to hurt monsters and not my allies.
Lastly, magical synergy, can’t forget about that one. I didn’t see anything else in tier 2 magical utility that I wanted, so I think that’s it.
Rain surveyed his completed list.
Skills for level 18
Damn, that’s more than 8. I have to prioritize…
Rain worked through the effects of the various skills in his head, writing numbers next to them to rank them. He had to re-order them a few times before he was satisfied,
Skills for level 18
Immolate 1 2 3
Shear 1 2 3
Spring 3 5
Energy Well 3 5
Life Well 4
Aura Synergy 3 6
Aura IFF 1
Magical Synergy 2
That should be pretty good. I can’t take aura IFF or magical synergy yet because of the requirements, but I’ll get them as soon as I can. I’ll take immolate next, and train it and refrigerate so I can get shear. That should also help train my metamagic, that way I can power through summer and spring faster. Still probably gonna take a while. Healing is more important than stamina, but running out of either in a fight will get me killed right quick. Sorry aura synergy, you didn’t make the cut. Stamina is more important, particularly if I’m with someone who uses it for their skills. I might reconsider when I get there.
Maybe I should just start sticking points in the defensive auras gradually. I’ll never get them all at once, not with how the cap works.
Rain finished off his ration bar and slipped his notebook back into his pack. He noted that his mana was full again, so he drained it out with detection. Switching back to winter, he glanced up at Tallheart. The man had started a fire in the middle of the enclosure he had created. It looked like he was going to use the fire to dry out the clay and lock the stones in place, completing the forge.
I wonder where Jamus is. He said he’d be back by nightfall, but the sun is already almost down.
Rain got up and walked over to Tallheart.
“All done? Need anything else?” Rain asked.
“The clay must dry overnight. Build up the fire. I must eat.”
“Sure, you got it.”
Rain settled down near the flames and started feeding in larger and larger branches. He watched them for a few minutes to make sure the fire was burning strongly. Tallheart had wandered off into the trees, presumably to find something for dinner.
Does he seriously not try to stockpile food? Isn’t winter supposed to be coming, or something like that? It sure feels like it’s getting colder.
Rain shivered and held out his hands to the fire. He pulled out his notebook after a bit and started reviewing his language notes. Every twenty minutes, he would pause to activate detection or purify. He didn’t want to risk using refrigerate. He thought it had a decent chance of putting out the flames or damaging the forge somehow. After around an hour, Tallheart returned and inspected the fire.
“Good,” he rumbled.
“I’ll stay up for a little while, Jamus said he would come back.”
“Humph, very well,” Tallheart said. “Use your aura.”
“You got it,” Rain replied, activating purify with all his modifiers. When his senses returned after dropping the skill, Tallheart was already walking away to the hut.
“Goodnight,” Rain called after him.
Tallheart hesitated, then looked back and gave him a nod before ducking into the hut. Rain searched the darkness for any sign of Jamus, shrugged, and moved on to the next page in his notebook.