CH4 - Aquarian Pools and Magical Rules
Prime's eyes flew wide as the light of perception assaulted him.
The world had suddenly become a hell of a lot more vibrant! The colors were more intense and defined, and he could see a loose webwork of life energy crossing through and connecting everything. It was transparent and difficult to perceive, but definitely there.
Through the air the mana washed like repeated waves, flying omnidirectionally through the air, crashing against walls and down corridors. Breaking like the surf and reforming along the nearest surface to flow again.
World Mana was like a violent rainbow, everything intermixed with varying compositions as it ranged about through different spaces. He was immediately annoyed to discover however, that his sight was now excellent.
So excellent, that his eyelids did NOT impede his regular vision.
Closing his eyes only robbed him of the Mana and Life senses, but he could still see totally fine with his eyes shut. Just without the vibrant colors and everything that went with it.
Closing his eyes now just made the world look a bit dull.
Well, for a partially butchered and modified spell, it could be worse. It didn't even take much Mana to maintain, which was good because he didn't know how to describe a kill trigger.
This spell was going to be on until he learned how to do so, and appended the trigger to it to cancel the spell. He massaged his temples, old habits dying hard, and looked around with new purpose.
Something in here would likely describe, in whatever esoteric form, the reason he w...a......s...........
Spread across the floor of the lake, a massive glowing golden spell formation.
Charged with several hundred, if not thousands of years of energy, it had the egg he'd hatched from at its center point. Ten branches reached out from the formation, and into the caves around the edges of the lake.
There were so many lines of sigils describing these circles that it was more than a little beyond him to just take in. He spent a whole annoying day, puzzling out the differences in the dialogue from those he'd learned describing magical language.
By this point, he was noticing hunger again, though this time thankfully not mana induced. But the body still needed fuel as well, so he'd need to eat eventually. He idly wondered if this lake had any fish in it.
Shame dragons didn't know any basic cooking spells, and most of the fire-related crafts were sort of knacks. Fire Breath and Heat Step were both good examples.
One did exactly as it described, and it was difficult to cook with anyway. Heat Step wouldn't be bad for it, heating a section of earth beneath your foot molten hot could definitely make for a cooking surface of some kind.
He sniffed, he was getting overly distracted by the idea of food. He persisted in figuring out the odd dialogue for another hour or so, before he finally gave up on it. Far too distracted by his stomach to work appropriately now.
He'd been down here a little over a day, and he was no dragon. His stomach was properly pissed with him, and his mood was started to foul properly. Wise or not, it was time to venture back out into the estate, and try to find himself a snack.
Finding a notebook would be nice too. So far he'd only managed to figure out that the magic circle under him, required ten candidates.
For what or what, he had no idea yet. However, not having the dragon egg be there. And hundreds if not thousands of years of mana stored below that. If it were released without a proper Foci.
He shivered. He was now under the impression that he'd killed everyone in this city.
This wasn't a comforting thought in the least. No, no not at all. How could he fix this? Could he even fix this? This went beyond a simple warning, whatever this candidacy was for was obvious important and secret.
He needed to tread carefully here. There was no way of knowing how they might react to someone dragon forging out of their ancient dragon artifact. Well, beyond badly anyways. He could be fairly certain that reactions would probably be bad.
And he was still hungry.
"Fuck me, what next?" Prime rubbed his head, messing his hair up into a pretty wild shape. Annoyed, he bullied it back into a semblance of neatness again. "Course I have long hair too."
He headed back for the exit, following the long staircase upwards, intend on trying for a decent meal outside.
He'd already been reborn twice, and he'd never even managed to get a decent meal.
How lame was that? He was still picturing the massive spell formation as he wandered outside, unmolested and unnoticed by anyone, and started absent-mindedly looking for the kitchens.
He was still picturing it when he eventually found the larder an hour later, though he still had no idea where the kitchen was. Starving and lacking discretion at this point, he started carefully going through the storage looking for dry edibles that needed no preparation.
He was so hungry he'd eat apricots, he didn't give a damn right now. Thank every local God there happened to be, that the larder wasn't something under heavy lock and key, like much of the rest of the Estate was.
He would've liked to have asked around, learned what was going on. But inside of the city, dressed like he was, inside of this Estate? He should probably already know.
Asking would make him noteworthy.
He dragged out a bag of what looked, almost like apples? Ff apples had four lobes and were closer to a melon. It smelled good, but he had no idea how to eat it.
A few moments later, try to pull it apart, it exploded in his face. Like exploded, as though the inside was pressurized!
"A-ha ha hahaha!"
Someone next to him was now dying with laughter.
Oh hell, what next?
An Early Disparity
Sometimes Prime wondered if the Universe rolled the dice on his life, determining the outcomes based on pools of knowledge he'd already discovered.
Seeing things in life you'd never noticed, but recently learned of through other means. Dreaming of a certain vista, only to hike there the following day. They gave you a hint of nostalgia, wrapped up with your discovery. It could be quite enchanting, or quite frustrating.
The pool today was for frustration, however.
The young woman laughing at him was the 'Helpful' Mage who'd explained how naming worked. At least partially. Outside of her uniform, she was as beautiful as any other Elf he'd laid eyes on so far.
Not that he found that disarming, though if he knew more about Elves he might feel differently. She was a vision, short and buxom.
She had wide hips and perfectly sized, just barely bountiful beasts. Currently, she was wearing more maids gear than mages gear, he was almost disappointed to realize her regular station.
When she finally stopped laughing at him, he got a good look at her eyes. They were a bit more vibrant than his other introductions, being violently violet with a turquoise glow cradled gently and insistently within the pupil.
Just looking at her, you could be suffused with a feeling of inquisitiveness and good cheer. Her features were a bit less angular than her fellows, her ears less pronounced as well. He wondered if she was a different type of Elf.
High Fantasy back home depicted High Elves and Wood Elves and Dark Elves, and more.
And here we have, Elves. Commonly standing a good five inches shorter than him, they were fey and frail as far as his size and frame were concerned, but their Paladins certainly had enough physical strength to be a threat.
To something many times their size as well. He shook himself out of the thought, the girl now staring at him with curious contemplation.
"Is this normal for Elven fare?" He asked, doffing his shirt to clean his face of juices. "Exploding fruit and locked kitchens?" He smeared the juice across the back-side of the shirt, since wiping his face off with the juice already on the front was undesirable.
"Well, usually guests just leave!" She countered, sounding amused. "It's not like the city lacks in cuisine, this is a trading capital after all. Why wouldn't my people take as much advantage as possible!" She'd acquired a friendly, lecturing tone by the end of her sentence.
"Yes, my exploration only mired very mildly, by my inability to speak the local language. Or read it." Prime said sadly, looking at the ruined piece of fruit on the ground.
Only a small piece had been left in his hand when it exploded. He threw it into his mouth sadly, then brightened when he found the fruit actually rather flavorful. He stopped to savor the new experience for a while, just closing his eyes and savoring the exotic flavor.
He'd always loved food, but this was something different entirely. The fruit was damn well magical, so far as he was concerned.
A perfect description would only leave you with a lifelong, unyielding desire to possess and eat one of these pieces of discouraging fruit-based explosives. To her eyes, standing there with his excellent physique, and glistening with juices as he was...
Well, she couldn't help but tease him. "You know how long Elves live right? You aren't going to enchant one, just by taking off your shirt and playing with your food."
A musically bemused tone said, slithering into his ears. "Does thieving usually work for you, as an introduction? Used to stealing Hearts and heart-fruit from the ladies' larders?"
"Oh, its a heart-fruit? That interesting, I've heard of these before. Or, well, read about them anyways. You could say I was looking over an old mages shoulder," He said, passing over her earlier comment.
He played with the idea of spinning her a little tale, but thought better of it. He wasn't certain how old she was, but she was a lot older than him. Might as well just stick to the truth for now. Just a modified, or limited, version of it.
"To be frank, I've actually been in something of a transportation accident." He said, embarrassed. He rubbed the back of his head for a moment, "I wouldn't usually be this keen about getting a snack, but I'm well out of sorts. I've been moved a considerable distance, against my will, to an unknown area that I've only had something of a general overview of instead of any detailed account."
He gestured as though to highlight his belt, then turned his back to display it as well. "As you clearly see, I've no pack or pouch on me, as this wasn't an intended journey. And as a result, I don't have any food either. Or cash, paperwork, or identification. It's really quite sad."
Quite aside from enjoying the view, she did see his point somewhat. Though she wasn't ready to outright believe he wasn't just a thief.
But, as though intercepting her thought. "And if I was a simple thief, there are better targets. Where the fruit doesn't explode and cause a disturbance."
"Alright," She accepted carefully, "Where are you from then?" She hadn't had her back up initially, but a penniless wanderer wasn't exactly a good background to present.
"I am from the North." He said simply. It was true after all, and it seemed like she really could tell. He wasn't sure if it was a knack or a silent spell though, useful trick.
"As for where specifically? I'm not sure I could tell you, I was orphaned when I was born." Also true. All true things, technically. Ah, the mirthful truth.
"What you don't even know the region!" She blurted, surprised, "Weren't you educated?"
Prime looked at her, surprised. "If I was uneducated, how would I have managed to get here, even accidentally like this?"
"Especially in a way that triggers your blasted family wards!"
A confused, suspicious look passed across her face for a moment. Gone in an instant, she quickly continued.
"What do you mean," She asked innocently, "I don't think we have any wards that stop you teleporting in or out of the grounds."
Prime growled, "Alright, then why do I get teleported into your bathhouse whenever I try to leave?"
He started rummaging around for something else to actually eat. The exploding fruit was good, but the attention may not be worth the payoff if a soldier wandered by to have a snack. Then he'd be having a far more awkward conversation, instead of a relatively friendly one.
She just gave him a surprised and confused look, then pointed at a basket on the top right-hand corner of one of the rear shelves. "You want the Didi Fruit up there if you're hungry and poor, it's like a dry ration that feeds you for a few days. They use it as a base in the soldier's stews, so they can remain hyperactive. They buzz with so much energy, I'm starting to think its a requirement." She gave a disgusted look at the soldiers on the wall.
"We haven't really had a proper war in 110 years now, there's no reason to keep them amped up like this all the time. Eugh, well back to the main topic."
Prime listened to her idly as he fished out the Didi Fruit, which was a large heart-shaped root type affair. It looked kind of like a beet that was molded into the shape of a human heart. Realistically. It was not cute. He took an experimental bite of it, or tried too anyways. He nearly chipped a tooth. "AAAAARRRGH! You expect people to eat this?!"
He tested his tooth experimentally, while the Elf just started laughing at him again.
"You expect me to know what everything is? I'm not a Chef, why do you know what all this is anyway's?"
It was a few minutes before she regained the composure to talk again. He had to say, she was a cheery sort. It was even a little...infectious.
"Because," She giggled, "This is the alchemy larder! Storage that you don't want to keep inside, near people who are using magic. Or doing experimental things." She took the Didi Fruit, which was really more like a Didi Root, from his hand. "Look at this wall here, its a chart of the base effects and few of the simple combinations of these plants. And also how to prepare them."
It was in Elven, but she helped him puzzle out the words, and he learned a few more things as he made his way across the list of planets. She wasn't in a rush, and took him through nearly every plant there before the Didi Fruit appeared.
The images were very simple, not exactly photographic, so some familiarity was assumed. Eventually, he learned that you ground the dust from the Didi Fruit, then shaped that dust in some sort of container. Then you added moisture to it, slowly, and it'd inflate fo the confines of the container and then balloon out of it.
It was like, a fruit you could make into a sort of... power bar.
Prime thought it was genius.
They didn't taste amazing, but they didn't taste awful either. It was the sort of thing you could add flavors too. The larder actually had a few basic alchemy tools in it as well, due to the desire to keep the raw ingredients mainly outside of the house.
"Aaaaah, it feels good to be full," Prime said, patting his satisfied stomach with relish. His first meal since being born, bland and surprisingly filling. Not nearly as flavorful as the heart-fruit, which he now knew was likely actually an expensive alchemy material.
He felt some guilt about that, but hopefully, he could work something out. "But I believe you said something earlier about the primary issue?"
He didn't want to rush matters too much, but it really would be nice to be able to leave. Technically, he hadn't actually stolen anything from them. So even if they searched him, they shouldn't find out anything that would cause them suspicion.
Aside from the magical marker itself, which stopped him from leaving as though he had a stolen item of import on him. It was a shame he didn't have access to any magical writing implements or regents, he'd pen a dispell and be done with the situation.
Admittedly it'd have to be a powerful dispell, but he had Mana to burn.
It was so very frustrating, so have so much use for nails, but with no hammer to hand. He wanted to use his head as the hammer, but that wouldn't help anything.
He needed access to a Scribner, which is to say, a magical toolset meant to write spells into a Tome. Generally, they looked a bit like an artist's table, so not something totally unfamiliar to him already.
But also not something you find just, casually laying about.
"Well, I could talk to Master Penheart. He should be able to tell you anything about the wards, but he's also a very busy and important person. Hmmm," She pondered for a while. After spending a few hours teaching him botany, she seemed to have warmed up to him a little bit.
She seriously concerned look on her face was actually adorable, she was cute when she looked serious. Prime idly started staring at the ceiling, instead of her.
Or he would have if he could take his gaze off of her. For once his eyes were welded to the visage before him, and he was finding it far more difficult than it should be to pull his gaze away.
Eventually, he justed clapped his hands over his eyes and muttered an oath under his breath. "Bloody Elves and their bloody Charisma stat." He peeked at her, but now she was looking at him with that serious look, which was unhelpful in many ways.
She really was very attractive, and his impression of her grew more firm as she insisted on spending more time with him. She was probably trying to sound him out, see if he was really being honest. But he still appreciated the attention, most of his socialization back home was professional.
It was a dangerous world to be a man, back home. Not that this place seemed like much of an improvement really.
There wasn't much respect to be earned back home, aside from for your utility. This was the first time he'd had a qualified instructor take the time to dote on him, and really concrete his understanding of the subject. It was an extremely strange sensation.
He usually had only a passing interest in botany, but being around her made the subject much more interesting. He started to suspect it was because she was teaching him so wholeheartedly, that he was enjoying himself so much.
"It's probably better to talk to Anri," She said eventually, "She's the librarian here. She'd probably be a little less suspicious about this situation, especially given you're half-naked and without possessions. Also teleporting into the bathhouses every time you leave, that's pretty easy to confirm."
She started putting the pans he'd been making Didi Fruit bars with away, after giving them a brisk cleaning. He'd made a few, he'd been considerably hungry. And each tray only made two. Intriguingly there appeared to be a special cabinet for cleaning solvents or potions, and there we quite a number of bottles in there.
A large, copiously available substance was selected for the cleaning in this case. He wondered what the others were for, but also didn't want to cause her to go forth on another long lecture.
Normally he'd be all for it, but this place was going to explode at some point he couldn't yet identify. He'd already tempered his nerves a considerable amount to indulge his curiosity. And his appetite. Hunger was a good motivator.
When she finally finished, and they both left, he discovered why she hadn't been upset with him. She locked up the Alchemical Pantry, Larder, storage, supply closet. Whatever it was, she locked it up.
It was her job to lock it up, which was why she wasn't saying a lot about his being in there to begin with. You couldn't break into what wasn't locked.
She gave him a cheeky smile when she noticed him watching.
"Come with me, the Library is inside the main building. Sort of anyways." She said cheerily, "Don't worry, you can cross the threshold if you hold my hand."
Prime gave her an uncomfortable look, "Well nameless stranger, you have my thanks for inviting some unknown person such as I into your home. Let it be known, that I am Prime." He said formally, "But what name might I address thee, honorable savior?"
She gave him an impish smile, "Getting clever are you? Its been interesting to meet you, Prime. My name is Aria Epitaph. You should brace yourself though, Anri is a little more intense than me."