CH3 - When I Am I Was Again
He had no way of knowing how long he'd been asleep.
He had no idea how long he was being born.
It could've been days, or it could've been a thousand years.
There was no sunlight above him, so he had no way of knowing.
Especially lacking consciousness as he was, in his dreamlike state, not yet fully formed and with ever more conspiring to occur as he dreamed.
Above him, the mana and spiritual essence of the lake began to thicken. Unbeknownst to its owners, their private retreat was quickly becoming a place of Mists. Where-ever Mana and Spirit conspired to mix thickly enough, Mists would form.
Highly dense with energy, they attracted all kinds of Beasts, Monsters, and Spiritual Beings. Having one of these things around could generally become quite nasty.
However, exposure to the Mists was also the quickest way to develop a magical affinity. Even the meanest beast started with nothing.
ZIp, zero, nada.
It took exposure to the correct environment to provoke a change of a magical nature. Dragons, and a few other creatures, generated Mist as part of their gestation process.
They couldn't fly or fight properly without magical support, or even grow to their full size, so it was incredibly important that they were exposed to and created their Magical Affinity early.
The resident of the egg, beyond its automatic magical functions, was also benefitting from a horde of knowledge that apparently wasn't genetic. Much of it didn't apply to him, having an entirely different form to a dragon.
However, there was an impressive store of magical knowledge that would help him out a little bit. Dragon magic was potent and had generally high mana costs. And the spells tended to focus on large, area of effect products.
Most of these he wouldn't really be able to put to use, unless he transformed into a dragon. Or managed to rude the area effect and magnitude of the spell.
He had no idea if that was even possible, modifying dragon magic or transforming into a dragon both.
There was a range of enhancement spells and perception spells he had no choice but to try out as- Wait, wait. Wait a minute...
He'd thought all of this before? Wait, I'm alive? He thought, shocked.
It all came back now, he'd had difficulty with his exit strategy. And something had caused a massive explosion, destroying the Estate and its surroundings.
He was uncertain whether the landing or the explosion killed him in the end, but it'd certainly resulted in his death. And it'd also taken place in a relatively short span of time.
It wasn't like he could've taken ages climbing that wall, he'd done it quickly. Both because he could, and because the risk of being caught was high. Now here he was, in his shell again.
He supposed he needed to find out what caused the explosion, and somehow stop it. Living might prove a little difficult otherwise. He frowned, he'd probably need to risk regular cooperation with them.
But he'd also have to somehow avoid being placed under a Contract, or multiple contracts.
Editing the contract attracted the Estate Masters ire, which resulted in the teleportation triggering when he'd moved to restrain him.
He cautioned himself against making too many assumptions here, but if he came out of this egg in the same place...
Boom boom Boom boom Boom boom
And already there was a difference, the Mists did not gather and stream into the lake. He continued to quietly awaken, without excessive pressures placed throughout his shell and body by the Mist Baptism.
Alright, he knew the Mist Baptism was a real thing but had no reason to think it would happen here. But to be fair, he'd only seen it passingly in reference to the aspect that creates a new body.
He'd been rushed for time. Breaking out of the shell was now becoming a real issue, mere human physical strength was not sufficient for this.
He experimentally gathered Mana in his hands, and struck out at the shell. The inelegant solution wasn't particularly effective, but was superior to his ill-positioned flailing. A few solid strikes managed to punch a hole in the egg, which wasn't hard to pull apart once it was cracked.
He found a lot of mud wanted to occupy his position, so he swam in what he roughly thought was upwards, a little disoriented.
He hit a current, and panicked for a while before it threw him clear of itself.
He could see light above him, so he just went for it without further thought. He hadn't even taken his first, literal breath yet, and he was already tired.
White spots had just begun to swim in his vision when he breached the surface of the water, gasping for air. He whipped his head about, gathering his bearings. Stone room, circular, a pool of water in the center. Shallow half and deep half, currently treading water in the deep half.
Otherwise empty, nobody else in the room. He wasn't sure whether to be relieved or not, but getting blasted through privacy wards probably wasn't the best introduction anyways. This wasn't too bad though, he could at least try the traditional diplomatic approach.
Just reveal himself, explain he'd ended up here through some sort of magical accident, and ask to be conducted from the premises. That way the whole place could explode while he wasn't here hopefully.
He realized his plans were hopeless as soon as he hit the exit though, as he found a single shed robe next to the cavern's entrance. The opening itself confirmed his fears moments later, a barrier having sealed off the entrance in a formal manner.
He was locked into this room, and apparently someone was already inside of it. Doing something he was unaware of. That required him or her to be without clothing.
He suspected it was a woman, and he suspected he was about to be in an awkward situation again.
Prime sighed, it'd be nice if just closing his eyes and ignoring the problem would help. Even the vision of them apparently wasn't acceptable for outsiders, that was a pretty awkward thing to sidestep.
And he had no idea how long the naked lady would be gone. He assumed she'd gone somewhere the current didn't throw him too, that was awkwardly connected to the main subterranean lake he'd originally emerged from.
He tested the ward a few times, but found himself utterly incapable of breaking it in any manner. At least, not without attempting to use a spell he didn't have access too.
His Mana reserves were empty again, worryingly.
Though for the moment it didn't matter that much, he couldn't use them appropriately beyond instinct anyways. Not really useful outside of combat, and not something he'd prefer to rely on in combat.
Deprived of any other option for the moment, aside from calling attention to himself from the unfriendly people on the other side of the ward, he simply sat down. Beyond the pile of clothing and facing the ward. In an attempt to potentially avoid placing himself in a very awkward position.
Before realizing his time limit, he'd done a fair amount of research on the foundations of magic. So he at least knew in which direction to progress. A natural downside to this naturally being it was all from memory, and soul memory to boot.
He structured his thoughts, and set about restructuring his Mana reserves somewhat.
He opened a tiny, tiny hole to the Concept of Mana.
The resulting wash of Mana was like water to parched ground, filling it with volume and life. Similarly Prime felt more vibrant and alive as the tiny portal refilled his mana like crazy.
At least it felt crazy to him, having a natural mana regeneration based on eating and nothing to eat! Not to mention, Elves who felt hostile about him suddenly having Mana for no reason.
Maybe a sign of a botched Contract?
Regardless, perhaps having Mana already would be more appropriate? Perhaps the Estate Master wouldn't assault him upon his appearance directly. Of course, that might end up depending on whoever ended up coming out of the deeper water.
He was thankful for the Soul Technique that originated his current relief, Parchless. Its sharpest upside was the Mana requirement, which was nothing. Its worse downside was the focus and technique required one to sit down and perform it, very, very carefully.
Shortly after that, he initiated the Dragons patented spend Mana to make Mana technique.
Sacrifice Mana to the World, Receive more powerful Mana in return. Normally pure World Mana would be
too powerful for the body to endure, but a specific magical enhancement to organs, bones, and tissues allow it to
cohabit a host harmlessly. This also has the result of making dragon mages typically more powerful as
combat persists. Excessive use may result in a deranged and aggressive nature, use cautiously.
It didn't take too much longer before his Mana reserves were properly full. He felt a sense of relief and fullness so profound, he couldn't remember being so content for a while.
Being a child at Christmas in front of a fire might be a fair description. It was almost like carrying around a little cloud of positivity with yourself.
He cherished it for a little while.
Then used another Soul Technique to make it feel tiny.
He was just an insignificant person, who'd had an unfortunate accident.
Nothing interesting, nothing major, nothing of note. Nothing to pay attention to at all.
Hopefully, a secret bath wouldn't be worth silencing him over. Or whatever this place was, now that he was clued in...
This could be something to do with water magic right? Giant cavern, underground. Isolated from sunlight and moonlight, never touched the light of the stars.
Yeah, that could definitely have something to do with water magic, and this city was famous for its water magic wasn’t it?
Amongst other things. Alright, he was no arch mage yet, but why a giant body of water and- ah.
Which would also explain the Contracts.
Alright! Staying in this room, maybe not such a great idea after all. The Dragons Ancient Knowledge helpfully suggested Blip to him, which would work.
Should he be capable of figuring it out quickly enough.
And assuming his soul was strong enough to take the shock of a Blip through Dimensions. Otherwise, he'd lose consciousness, on one side of the barrier or the other.
He sighed, and so began his short quest to Blip.
* * *
Eventually, the sound of disturbed water roused him from his efforts. He figured he probably wouldn't be able to figure it out that quickly. He was an excellent learner, but for difficult knacks, he averaged around a week to learn them properly.
Shame it wasn't a simple, easy trick. Prime was pretty good with those. He was just about to say something, try to guide the situation towards a less horrific end than the last go. Unfortunately, the new inhabitant of the room wasn't interested.
Once again, an explosion blew him clean through the barrier. With a mighty shout, he flew across the cavern again, eventually slamming into the waters below.
Alright, whoever that was, not friendly. He poked his head out of the water, and took in exactly what he expected to see.
Alright, a mixed blessing. At least he hadn't caused a huge disturbance to draw the Estate Master below this time though.
"Hello there!" He called uncertainly, "I've had a teleportation accident?"
His attempt at diffusing the situation wasn't amusing apparently. Several Knights pushed aside their light bending cloaks, directing flat looks and sword blades at him. He nodded to himself, that's about what he'd expect from Knights.
Or Paladins. Or Police. He smiled to himself, and started swimming towards the shore. Specifically the shore that would make the Knights walk the farthest to deal with him.
Three Knights just jumped straight to the shore he was headed towards though. He frowned, that was disheartening. He stopped, staring at the Knights while treading water.
"I'd really prefer not to get stabbed, would you mind putting those away?" Prime asked irritably. The Knights did nothing of the sort, naturally.
Prime responded with a murderous look, that actually caused them all to drop their swords. Only one of them doffed his confusion and quickly regained his sword.
Five more Knights landed on the shore in response.
"If you feel like attacking me, there will likely be another teleportation accident." Prime said flatly, "Though this time you'll be coming with me, to Gods know where."
One of the Knights coughed. "We might believe you, where you in any way reasonably presented. However you're clearly a peeping nudist."
Ah, being naked wasn't exactly the best start to negotiations. Though he didn't have much of a choice here.
"Oh no, surely my nudity couldn't factor into how the teleportation was accidental? Or maybe you'd like to take in the location the spell failed too, underground somewhere? Because teleportation spells love being underground, near lots of solid objects right?"
Prime growled, "What you think I snuck into, where-ever we are, physically? Naked? Bare foot on stone, in I assume broad daylight?"
They didn't shift. Prime was getting annoyed though, it was a little too much to just make someone tread water forever.
"Not planning on letting me out? Too cowardly to stab a man to death properly? Got a fetish for watching people drown?" He said cuttingly.
This caused some uneasy shuffling, but still they didn't seem interested in making a space for him on the shoreline. He shrugged, to hell with it then.
He struck out for shore, and the Knights readied their weapons. He came upon shore, and they advanced upon him. The first Knight was on him faster than any fighter he'd ever experienced, but he stilled dodged.
Though it was barely a dodge, he still fed a shot into the Knights stomach. The armor bent and spell wards lit up, deflecting the force. He flew across the room into the wall, with an almighty crash that deafened everyone in the area.
He flourished his former opponents sword, cracking a properly confident smile.
"Being naked really is terrible," He said, storming into motion. Between the raw strength of being dragon forged, and the very technical experience of his former life, this was a joke.
He moved amongst them, barely at all. Far from being an athletic acrobat, or a dexterous duelist, Prime was a minimalist fighter.
You only just needed to move, and the motion needn't continue beyond its purpose.
With a chorus of crashes and bangs, the Knights found themselves disarmed and their armor trashed. The beautiful scrap metal lay across the ground, under the surprised expressions of the Knights.
Prime leveled a disappointed frown at the sword he'd took, which had broken off near the tip during the short fight. He hadn't even broken it on the flat! The hell was it breaking during a normal skirmish for?
He clutched it anyways, might still need it.
"You're all terrible swordsmen. Strong though, I'll say that much." Prime said, giving the weapon a few more experimental swings. It was faster now as a shorter weapon, but didn't make much difference from the original.
Especially given the amount of casual strength people seemed to possess here. These Elves had only managed to match his swordplay due to their excellent dexterity.
"Alright well," Prime said, stepping forwards. The Knights closed ranks and blocked his progress. "I really must be going."
"Halt foul demon, surrender to the Paladins of Raenine or be destroyed!" The now obvious Lead Paladin demanded. "Paladins, stand ready for annihilation!"
Every sword before his eye's started to glow with blue white light. Prime couldn't decide between grinning or frowning. Diplomacy was so difficult when you enjoyed a fight sometimes.
Still, this was obviously magic. This place was very magical. He was getting giddy as the reality slowly sank in that, yes, this was indeed magic.
This was a magical universe. And he was probably caught in, either a magic ritual, or some type of time loop.
Not that he was interested in death!
"Move." He said darkly, his expression sinking. He grip on the sword was reaffirmed, he took his stance. "Move or die."
"Surren-" A wash of blood struck the wall, dying the stone red. The surprised Knight watched with confusion, not understanding as his swords light went out.
"I believe I already said." Prime growled amongst the Knights, "Move." Seven more stars of blood streaked through the corner of the room, creating a awful mess across the stone and tainting the waters with blood.
"Shoved into a world such as this, how could I allow my own convictions to stand aside for yours?" He said over the body of the Lead Paladin, "If might makes right, then with might I will craft the world." The man was divided quickly and efficiently.
He slung the blood off his sword with a sharp arc, looking over at the group of Mages. They had wide eyes, and hadn't made a move to interrupt or intercept the short blood-bath. He nodded amiably to them, and headed straight for the exit.
Hopefully they'd remained mixed up in whatever was going on down here, long enough for him to leave the entire Estate. Hopefully this would even be quick enough to avoid the explo-
A bright light was coming from behind him...
He turned around in time to see the lake shining with crazy white light, followed by everything going dim forever.
* * *
What the hell was going on? That was the second time the lake exploded when he left. He could only assume it was the lake at this point, given the white light and the sudden ending.
Pretty similar to the first time really, aside from the lack of a place for his body to go. He'd probably impacted the wall and died immidiately. But this time his panic had roused him considerably earlier than he would've otherwise awoken.
He punched his way out of the shell, and headed straight for the surface. This time avoiding the current, thankfully.
When his head breached, he found himself in a familiar space.
The lake looked the same as it ever had, the walls around the edges darkly concealing the chambers around the perimeter. A large, vaguely diamond shaped landmass took up the center of the lake.
This was where the Knights had formerly been positioned, though at the moment the cavern was blissfully empty.
He kept a careful eye on the lake, walking backwards slowly as he went about his exit. But this time, the lake didn't respond or react at all. In fact, nothing made any response to him. He was left completely to his lonesome, all the way up the kilometer or more of stairs leading to the surface.
Eventually, he found himself staring at the other end of a T section hallway. His vision warped a little as he crossed the threshold from the stairs, and he turned around to find a stone wall barring the path behind him.
Alright. Whatever was down there, it was meant to be kept a secret. From who or how many people, he had no idea. But it was indeed a secret of some kind.
This would definitely explain the hostility of the Paladins. Prime rubbed his chin thoughtfully, peaking around the corner of the T section.
He could see change rooms on either side of the hallways, cheerfully labeled with art. Nice to see something so familar in such a foreign place, even if it was such a small thing.
He strode out of the bath house, snagging someones clothing from a basket on the way, and into the grounds. Nobody paid a single iota of attention to him though, as this time he wasn't some big event to be unraveled. He was just another man, admittedly without pointy ears, walking out of the bath house.
Raenine was a trade capital after all, the sight of him wouldn't as unusual as in other Elven towns and more minor cities. He hitched a happy smile on his face, pushing the beautiful women he'd so far encounter well out of his mind, and headed for the exit.
It was 'not' worth exploding for the sake of your junk.
His grin slowly slipped, however. As he approached the gate, a familiar sensation of extreme foreboding overtook his mind and body. His soul almost felt pulled, back in the direction he'd come from. He stopped, staring at the gate.
To all appearances anyways.
He was actually lost in his own mind, attempting to discern somehow the source or purpose of this strange attraction. It lessened and became indistinct if he walked away from the gate, and became more perceptible as he approached it.
More and more he was beginning to think that this house knew about the dragons egg. Or perhaps the Elven Kingdom knew of the dragon egg. Either way, there was a possibility he couldn't leave this place because of a spell or restriction.
After all, what magical empire wouldn't protect its treasures? Though his leaving the premesis couldn't be what triggered the explosion, that was an awful measure for something primarily defended with secrecy.
He really had no way of knowing what might happen, should he pass through the gate.
He spent a while pacing and brainstorming, heedless of the attention he called to himself. It wasn't as though anyone would know about this measure, and he wasn't known to anyone here. He was obviously foreign, and torn about something.
This shouldn't be unusual enough to be remarked, he'd likely be thought to be a trader or noblemen of some type.
On one hand, he'd love to walk into their library and find out the full scope of the situation. On the other hand, current thought process suggested that was pointless.
True he might run across something useful, but his presence in their libraries would likely be remarked. He actually had no idea where they were either.
Logically, they'd be in a seperate warded or shielded building. Shielding was actually the preference for books. Shielding kept things from getting out and getting in.
Barriers tended to be one way.
Wards tended to be keyed to a specific person or group of people.
Eventually he stopped, and simply turned towards the gate. The stones grinding under his feet, their sound oddly comforting in his ears. It was kind of nice that the paths weren't magically supported, so you could still tread a path with satisfaction.
He might be tempted to put some kind of hearty, magical grass everywhere. But this place obviously didn't have pavement, ah but he was side tracking again. He needed to just walk through the gate.
He hesitantly strode forwards, subtly looking for guards keeping people in or out. But it seemed the double sentries and iron portcullis were quite enough in their minds. He wondered if the gate somehow detected malicious intent, and slammed shut on its own.
He wouldn't be surprised, and hoped that it might leave him alone. After all, he just wanted to leave. He didn't mean the family any harm. He had done them harm, but it was a difficult situation. And that hadn't happened now, so it should be fine right?
He was breathing deeply and visibly tense, by the time he finally passed under the portcullis. As he passed through it, he had the momentary impression he was home free.
The next moment he was stuffed in an Egg.
He wanted to curse, but he was surrounded with water. Confused, he noticed the shell was already broken. Bloody hell! He'd been teleported back to where he was supposed to be. He growled, bubbles erupting from his mouth underwater.
This was becoming a real pain in the ass! Alright! Alright! The secret egg is tied to this location, I get it! Prime massaged his temples vigorously.
He was thankful he'd gotten a full breath this time though, swimming out of the depths seeking your first breath was pitiful.
He breached the surface far more comfortably this time, walking to the center of the vaguely diamond shaped landmass. Of what he'd learned personally, there was only one way to go about learning what was going on here.
The library was out, it was likely either heavily shielded and warded or inside of the main Estate. Or potentially even well hidden, should it actually contain any of the information he needed anywhere.
Chiefly, how did he leave? And what was triggering that explosion? Additionally, it would be nice to know just how early he'd awoken. If the explosion was a fixed event right after his 'birth', then he'd need to strive to awaken sooner should he die again.
Having no time to deal with...whatever it was. It didn't work out well. He barely had time to ask any questions, let alone examine his environment for answers.
But as the local Archmage Nautil Nemes said, take a few steps back and use your intuition. Magic wasn't mathematics, and sometimes moving with it produced more than manipulation.
Prime had previously taken to watching that Archmage, because a lot of his interests aligned with his own needs at the time. But he learned a few other interesting things besides, like Mana Manipulation Exercises.
You apparently needed to be very, very good at Mana Manipulation to support an interest in dimensionality.
Most other Mages would otherwise tend to focus on somatic spellcraft, as casting through Mana Manipulation was a far more exacting process. Scribing a spell might take a night, casting it a moment.
Learning to form it, and throw it. Or whatever else it needed to do, was more akin to the process of learning to use a clutch. Or a ping pong table.
You sort of acquired a knack, to begin with. And then as your skill built, you could start to actively make decisions about the interaction.
But Mana Manipulation was also the best way of drawing out your Mana the first time. Unlike other methods, it was the cleanest and most measured manner of tapping your Mana.
His mind reached, down through his body and into his Person. This wasn't exactly soul magic, but passed through the soul as part of its dimension.
The Personal Dimension was contained within the Soul, and therein lay the gate to your personal Mana. The dimension that described your power. It was a large and obvious thing to your mind, easy to feel.
But it could be difficult to connect with. Prime sat down in meditation, and began.
Darken the World and your Perception of its Places. Black out the Connections you Share with its People. Turn the mind inwards towards a Single Thread of Destiny. The World is reflected in the Mirror of your Mana, its people and places captured within your Soul. Remember as they should be, not as they are. Determine their fate, perceive it not. The world is confused before the perception of your mana, so Twist it with the Power of the Mind. Draw a single thread to connect the Worlds, Bridge the Destiny between the inside and the Outside, and connect the world to the power from within.
Prime rehearsed this a few times in his mind, before he began to speak it in chant. He repeated it several dozen times, allowing it to become muscle memory.
The strange intonation, pace and tone. Each piece describing a portion of purpose. And its purpose was to enchant mana into sharing his purpose.
An hour passed, before he began accompanying the chant with the appropriate visualization. A simple, powerful exercise.
He fell in his mind, over and over again.
He fell from the real world, unto the unreal world. He repeated this over and over, failing again and again, as he slowly came to understand the ritual.
First he established the bounds of the spell, then he held them in his mind while he fell from real into fantasy.
The fall must last exactly as long as the chant, connecting the Mana at the precise moment the thought ended, and once it was done correctly...
A small cloud of dust enveloped Prime, as the initial tiny thread made its connection. He felt the new piece of himself curiously in his mind, a little excited by the completion of the process.
It was a strange thing, he didn't know how to describe it but.... But it was almost like...pooping.
The more he pushed, the more he was 'rewarded' for his efforts. A similar feeling of emptiness accompanied the sensation.
Errant Mana gathered in his palms as he did this, awaiting his input. It was unsurprising most mages would choose somatic, aural, or tactile spells, with a natural setup like this.
He experimentally cast one of the dragons flight maneuvering spells, Fining Funnel. A thin twister like vortex formed in the air, manifesting around Prime and snaking off into the distance, to the point he was looking at.
If he looked at the ground in front of him, it make a sharp arc through the air, and returned to that point. He jumped experimentally a few times, and it did help him leap a considerable distance further than he normally could.
This was a better process, because he didn't need to turn it off now. He could just stop exerting himself, and the mana would stop coming. Where-as with other Mages, they needed to practice until they could manifest this type of connection at a moments notice.
He was lucky the Archmage Nemes had a Grandson, or he might never have learned something like this.
He slowly tempered his excitement, and schooled himself against figuring out the dragon's breath knack. He needed to figure out why this room was exploding.
It would also be nice to know whether he was having prophetic dreams, or was legitimately stuck in a real time-loop. Or if he was skipping between different timelines.
There were plenty of options really, and he hadn't narrowed them down a lot up to this point. He kept awakening literally right ahead of the main event. He looked around the room, and stowed his normal plans for Mana Manipulation.
Normally he'd want, very much, to develop a method of self defence first. But that explosion was a thorough death, and he couldn't leave the grounds apparently. He needed to focus on its origin first.
And so he needed to map out this room, and whatever warded, shielded, or otherwise protected it. This was hindered naturally, but a lack of Mana Perception. He could neither see nor sense Mana that wasn't his own, merely see the effects that it produced.
Many of which could be minimized if a spell was cast well. He'd have to rely on the dragons melee methods of dispelling hostile magics, should he find himself in combat. Right now he needed to see Mana, and he needed to see it quite badly.
He thought about it for a while, carefully. Very carefully. But it kept coming back down to his lack of options. Technically he shouldn't be on these grounds already, so approaching the Estate Master or his people outside of the right context was very risky.
They probably wouldn't be willing to offer him access to the library anyways, on instruct him in magic without some method of compensation. He could offer compensation of course, but most of what he could offer was knowledge and technology.
These things would take time to verify, and he wasn't sure how much he had to spare.
He would only know how early he'd awoken, on the day the place exploded. Assuming he couldn't find out what was going on down here, which led him back to his carefully considered choice.
"My eyes that do not see are unseeing. They see not the light of life, nor the thread of fate, they cannot see the beauty of the Manaflow across the world. To the Lightless, let their be Light. To the Sightless, Let them See. In the Dark bring a Twig of Dawn to a lost Brother."
It took another three hundred and something repetitions and a little interesting visualization, but it did eventually work.
Crafting a spell was different from casting a previously known spell. Some people apparently referred to the practice as 'teaching' magic.
It was difficult and time consuming, and also governed at least in part by luck.
He hoped the current trend wouldn't continue here. His eyes grew heavy as the hours mounted on his efforts, but eventually, he harvested his reward.