Erick hung out in the temple with Poi, letting his [Exalted Storm Aura] wash across the land. The two of them were the only people under any sort of cover; everyone else in the fields were either working in the rain, under a personal [Weather Ward], or just letting the rain wash over their bodies.
Wary of what Darenka had said about his spell, Erick still stepped into the platinum rain for a moment. It felt like water; it tasted like water. Pure water, too, with a hint of ‘light’, which Erick still couldn’t make sense of even after tasting the water several times.
He quickly came to a decision: This was great. He loved this. It was nice to sit and watch the rain for a while, but he couldn’t do much except pop the various scrying orbs that wandered into his vision. Quite simply: this was boring. He’d better damn well get to Scion of Focus faster; not only would it remove mana exhaustion, but it would allow him to extensively train his magic during this time.
He was spending 1 mana every 4 seconds, but gaining 1 mana every 3.5 seconds; he couldn’t powerlevel his spells, like Jane would have put it, like he had done with [Grow] and [Cleanse] and [Telekinesis]. But he could do some smaller spells, spaced out further.
So aside from [Scry] eye popping whenever Erick saw one, he cast [Stoneshape 5] enough to get that up to level 6.
Stoneshape 6, 1 minute per level, medium range, 35 MP
Move medium amounts of stone and sand around you for 1 minute per level of Stoneshape, OR gain fine control over small amounts of stone and sand.
Once it was up to 6 he played with the second half of the spell, making miniature sculptures of various scenes in the fields. He made lots of tiny farmers. Several dozen small trees, maybe only a foot tall. Then he moved on to vegetables and fruits he remembered from Earth. Zucchinis, eggplants, squash, durians, dragonfruit. He moved on from there to cows and horses, tractors and cars. He quickly scrapped the tractors and cars, and went back to manual farming stuff; he was going to leave this stuff near the big shrine to Atunir in back of the temple. He didn’t want to leave any facsimiles of technology in a space dedicated to field and fertility. It just seemed wrong.
… Field and fertility.
Erick turned toward the great statue of Atunir. … Leaving her a dildo would probably be a bad idea. Atunir’s fertility aspect didn’t seem to be paired with images of genitalia, like how it was for Earth cultures.
And so, Erick made miniature people and objects on a desk of stone, for four hours. Valok, or anyone else, didn’t come to get Erick after two hours, but Valok and Krakina did come at the end of four hours. Valok looked uniquely happy; he was even smiling, which was a rare event on the gruff no-nonsense redscale. Krakina looked like a teenager holding in a sugar rush, her grey feathers flexing out every so often.
Valok walked up the stairs toward Erick, saying, “We’re ready for you to stop. Thanks for going strong the whole morning.”
“Alrighty then!” Erick stood and stepped away from his desk. He stretched, and turned off [Exalted Storm Aura]. Like taking off a pair of pants after a long day at the office, Erick felt relieved. He yawned. He asked, “Same time tomorrow?”
Krakina jittered as she said, “Yes! This was a good time! GREAT TIME! Everyone is very happy! Work in morning, count money in the evening!” She giggled. “So much counting!”
Erick smiled. “How much did you manage to harvest?”
“Two days normal harvest!” Krakina spread her wings wide as she cackled, “Multiplied by 5 farms! AhHH hah haH haH haH!”
She laughed like an old witch. Erick loved it.
Valok said, “We’re having lunch. We—”
“We can SHIP EVERYWHERE! To Frontier! To Kal’Duresh! To Vindin and Outpost! Fuck Portal’s tradelock!” Krakina hugged herself, practically singing, “We are rich! Gold! Lovely gold!”
“—we want you to come, Erick. To lunch.” Valok turned on Krakina, “And stop that. The costs of bulk transport are gonna—”
“RICH! RICH, I SAY!” Krakina spat out, “Do not impede my enjoyment, Valok, you old fool!”
Gradually, the rain stopped falling, the clouds above having emptied themselves across the land. Desert winds blew across the green fields, and as Erick looked upon the fields and saw the tired, happy workers, he was happy too. He also saw their massive loads of grain and huge carts of apples and bushels and bushels of not-tomatoes and not-carrots, and everything else they had managed to harvest.
Erick was happy for them because they were obviously happy, but what the hell were they going to do with all the food? Where did they put it all? Were there secret warehouses in Spur he didn’t know about? Did they ‘ship it out’ right away? They had to ship it out right away, right? But where were the ships?
It had to be [Teleport] ‘shipping’, right?
All good questions, but Erick was hungry, and the farmers seemed to know what they were about; that side of this farming business was not Erick’s concern.
“Let’s go eat!” Erick said, “Where we going?”
Krakina leapt in, “We are going to get piss drunk in a bar! You! Me! Drinking contest!”
Erick laughed. “What are we betting?”
“I bet you I can drink you under the table, is what I’m betting!”
Valok smiled, flashing white fangs. “Apogough is already cooking. I’m sure he’ll have beer. I understand your daughter is already there, waiting for you along with her friends, and Sewermaster Al.”
“I’ll be ready in a minute.” Erick went over to his miniatures, and activated [Stoneshape] to pick them up. “Just one more thing to do.”
He floated the miniatures through the air, tiny farmers and tiny cows, life sized dragonfruit and tiny apple trees; all of them went to the massive statue of Atunir, the Goddess of Field and Fertility. Since there were already a great deal of stone fruits and harvests as a part of the statue’s base, Erick set the fruits he had made among the harvests, but kept the people and smaller trees apart. He set those just outside of the main structure, on a small lip of stone around the sculpture. With a tiny push of [Stoneshape] he attached them to the statue.
When he was done, he stepped back, then closed his eyes and bowed his head to the goddess. He made a small, indistinct prayer; nothing too specific, just a feeling of warmth and a hope for good harvests. When he was done he lifted his head and turned around. Valok and Krakina were there behind him, saying their own silent prayers. Erick moved aside, then waited for them by the short temple stairs. Valok finished first. He audibly breathed in, then turned around to Erick. Krakina finished up her prayer with a quick curtsy.
The three of them left the temple behind, talking to each other about the day’s harvest on their way back to town. Poi followed, maintaining a respectable 5 to 7 foot distance.
The rest of Erick’s day went rather normally.
- - - -
The day of the people spying on him was already in the shitter.
Look now, a ways away, over the fields away from town, to the edge of the farm. Right before green became brown, on a bit of flat land undisturbed by grasses or weeds or anything else, there was a disturbance in the air. Most anyone looking would have seen nothing; that was the point of standing on nearly barren ground.
Merit, the orangescale Guardmaster of Spur was not just anyone.
She appeared out of nowhere, directly behind the disturbance.
The Disturbance almost shat itself.
Merit spoke, in her deep, handsome voice, “Howdy, stranger.”
The Disturbance dropped to the ground.
“What say you drop the [Invisibility] and can have a Nice Little Chat.”
The Disturbance complied, revealing a skinny young human boy, barely 16. Merit almost felt sorry for him, but he did have several parasitic needles stashed on his body, and likely the spells to drive them straight through any [Ward]. He would have been a classic assassin, if he lived to see his 20s.
Merit said, “Strip naked, please, then after some questions, you’re free to go get lost in the Forest.”
The boy instantly complied, quickly stripping down to bare skin.
“And the needles in your hair, and in your mouth, too.”
The boy spat out his last ditch poisons and pulled the parasitic needles out from their secured ties in the hair on the back of his head. The dried critters burned to ash the second they left the boy's fingers. He couldn't even tell what spell Merit used.
“I’d shave you, too, just for a bit more humiliation, but your masters will probably have enough of that to give you when you get back.” Merit asked, “Who are your masters?”
The boy said, “The Green Circle.”
“Are you going back to them?”
“I’d like to, ma’am.”
“Will they send you back here?”
“No, ma’am. I was just on reconnaissance, not on a mission, and I’ve seen what I needed to see.”
Merit nodded. “Thank you for being much more cooperative than your friend.”
The boy broke out in a cold sweat. “May— May I please know my associate’s fate?”
With a practiced motion, Merit reached for a loop on the backside of her belt, bringing a severed hand into the light of day. It was a human man’s hand, from someone in their 50s who had done delicate but difficult jobs their whole life. She tossed the hand at the boy’s feet. A dark green jade ring adorned the ring finger.
The boy reached for the hand, but could not bring himself to pick up the dead flesh. He whispered, “Master...” A dampness clouded his eyes.
“He was caught parasitizing food in the Flatt Estate and in his new garden. That was smart of your former master; Erick [Cleanse]s that place rather damn regularly. Still didn’t work, because we’re here, but it was a smart move. A lot of you types are moving on from the cheap poisons, but it won’t help you, because, like I said, the Guard is here and Spur knows all your tricks.” Merit looked across the farms, and felt great. “I have a message I’d like delivered.”
The boy reached down to the hand. With a smooth, detatched motion, he plucked the ring from the finger. He stood tall, staring into Merit’s bright orange eyes. “I’m listening.”
Merit nodded. “We like taking care of people who cannot take care of themselves. That’s what it means to be an adventurer, after all. We’re here, on the front lines of the greatest danger on the surface of the continent, keeping the Shades in check, making life easier for people like those in your Greensoil Republic. And we got lucky. A fantastic person from another world walked into our town. He decided he wanted to stay, and thus he become one of the many swords we raise against the Shades. He might be a bit naive and indirect sword, but I severely doubt Erick Flatt will remain this way for long.” Merit paused. She asked, “Did you know that volcanoes are a function of Particles?”
The boy paled.
Merit continued. “I was surprised myself. They teach you certain things in school, and then you learn that no, that was wrong, this is how the world really works.” She explained, “You know Maia, the girl from Oceanside Academy —who you would also make an enemy if you continue along this path— you know her? Just the other day she made this spell that turns rock into lava. I thought lava was rock with elemental fire inside, and that’s sort of true, from a certain angle, but also fundamentally not. The thing about Maia is that she already has [Lavashape], so she can swing that lava around like nobody’s business. Now, for Erick? An S.L.R version of Maia’s spell is one rhyme away, and if push comes to shove, we can protect him long enough for him to turn your world to ash.” Merit asked, “Do you understand? Did you get all that?”
The boy said, “Yes, ma’am.”
Merit took a big step to the left. She extended her right arm toward the Crystal Forest. “Run along now.”
The boy ran, and kept running.
When his heart stopped pounding and his fear waned low, far away from Spur, he stood still, and stared at the wide blue sky. In the wide open spaces between crystal agaves and what was probably a crystal mimic, there were no bugs around that one, the boy slipped the band of green jade around his own ring finger. He stared at that ring for a long time, until he didn’t.
In a wisp of air, the boy vanished, his [Teleport] carrying him far to the east, far from the growing town of Spur, far from the towering walls of Ar’Kendrithyst.