A note from RE Druin

In the end, both are Good people and looking to build a decent relationship, not take shameless advantage of the other. That Ael seriously wants to increase the power of the Primos definitely helps matters.


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                "I can also use the time to inscribe Soul Tats, which I will only do for Primos or Forsaken." She inclined her head at me. "Dovetailing the two, a Soulbound Weapon right out of the gate is twice as strong as a +I Weapon, if the person has tapped their Soul."

                My hands creaked on my chair. She was right. That was like getting a +II Weapon for the price of a +I. As long as you had free Soul to invest, you were golden. What else was a Primos going to do with it? All he needed was one Level of Soulshaper, two Essence minimum with the bonus Feat. Saved a Weapon-Slot, too! Get that first Soul-Tat, who cared what it was, he could promptly put the Essence into his Weapon... the Tat would be just awesome gravy to improve on.

                "For my personal down time, I will be doing as I please, but would like the opportunity to go with any groups getting daily blooding experience, if possible. I am still paying off my Masteries and the like, day by day, and I can still Advance the Oathring or my own Weapons,” she went on calmly.

                Everyone wanted to get some field time every day. A day not spent harvesting Naming Karma was one day longer before Uberness.

                "I'm willing to work twelve hours a day or more as needed to advance an agenda. However, I vastly prefer that work to be slanted towards the benefit of the Primos. Powered can, after all, take care of themselves."

                Which we were doing, of course. Most Powered were first taking care of themselves, before working on mass Gearing the Primos. After all, us dogshit lucky Powered were far, far behind where we'd been in the game. Everyone wanted the Undead Slaying Sword of Ultimate Doom, yesterday, and for nothing.

                The Powered were being constrained at this time by QL. You could do a lot with a QL 29 Sword… but not nearly enough to satisfy a Gamer. Yeah, you could get the Weapon to +III. But QL 29 only allowed 4 Slots, and Powered couldn't use Arsenal or Slaughter, which was making a lot of them weep. They Cast the effect they wanted out of a III Valence, usually.

                So, yeah, everyone now wanted a QL 36 to 40 Weapon, with eight to ten Slots, preferably the latter. The problem was that there weren't enough people who could make them, and you needed materials. Common steel's finest alloys topped out at 35. You start wanting a Weapon that was Heavy, or 36+ QL, you were looking at exotic materials, usually mithral or adamant, sometimes Energized alternate metals. None of those were common, and the fact that Argos' people were mining the crap was bringing a lot of people begging here from all over for metal to get better Weapons so they could continue to upgrade.

                Of course, that required Crafters with modifiers of +35 and better to make those Weapons, and facilities, and Tools, Forge, and Anvil.

                An average Ten downtime Crafter would have his 10 Ranks, his Class Skill bonus of +3, 5 Mastery Tiers, and a Stat bonus of +2-4. Needless to say, a +22 QL modifier wasn't much in the face of a complexity modifier of -2 to -7, depending on the weapon, and additional modifiers depending on the design of the Weapon and materials it was made of made it even harder. Beyond world-class before the fall, average scutwork makers now...

                Real Crafters had the appropriate Skill Focus Feat, which was +6 at Ten, which got them to +28. Hopefully they had a Class Bonus of +2 or higher, and they might have a Skill Affinity or Skill Knowledge Feat for an additional +2 and/or +4. That got them over +30, which meant they might be considered a Serious Crafter, conceivably able to pull off QL 40 stuff.

                QL 40 simple stuff. What gamer worth his salt wanted simple stuff? They all wanted the most uber stuff, and we were all used to the infrastructure of it all being there for the taking, merely paying for endless upgrades. The fact that it was confirmed that post-Ten Levels existed, and Vier and Funf-level Slotted abilities existed, was driving people into a tizzy of prep and slavering for high QL Gear that could hold such things.

                The worst part of it was that they wouldn't 'pass on' their old Gear. Nope, they'd sack it and carry the Name to their new Weapon, destroying the old in the process. So, they wouldn't even be giving their old crap to the Primos, and creating a recycling economy of magic items as they did so...

                Economics were heartless. Once you could harvest mana from stuff you didn’t want or need to make something that you did, the ‘minor magic item’ economy basically burned up in mana crystals...

                "Argos intimated that you'd made a set of Orichalcum adamant-variant skinplate, and a Truly Perfect Sword,” I remembered. That someone had the time to make such things when the world was in the state it was, was already amazing. That they could do it solo, without help, was astounding.

                She just nodded. "I actually don't wear the skinplate all that often, as it interferes with some Soul Tats, which need to be exposed, but sitting under a lot of missile fire is one of those times. Tremble is, however, a maxed-out +X Weapon."

                "May I see it?" I asked softly. I could do that level of Craft on a Ring… but not Valued, like a Primos. Runesmith work was intrinsically superior to Powered that way.

                She reached behind her back, unclipped the Dagger there, and tossed it at me.

                I knew it was going to be unreasonably heavy, and used touchteke to take the weight of it as I caught it, grunting despite myself. It wasn't form-altered so much as Compressed, and the damn thing weighed at least ten kilos. An average human would break their wrists trying to use it.

                And it was also mnecromonic. Even as I drew it out, it blew through one of my thought streams with a record of the lives she had taken. I watched it Decompress into its Sword form as I drew it out, even as I watched that cavalcade of doom she had wrought upon hapless Firedwellers.

                Numbers-wise, it didn't match what we had been able to rack up against the Marches, which for all purposes had just been grinds for days, at least initially. As we'd ramped up, they'd gotten closer to slaughters, and the killing had accelerated.

                She'd been out there killing for five months by herself, and nobody had seen her. Some of the things she had killed…

                Heh, undead, and plenty of them, tens of thousands. With a magmawight, firewraiths, burning shadows, lavabones….Mithar… Rune Giants of Fire, a Firebird, and a Fire Titan-!

                Okay, the mental look on Argos' face when he reported she was alive was now totally understandable. She had soloed a Fire Titan! A Forsaken Melee, five months into the existence of magic. She, I, just, wow.

                And this Weapon! Frak. It was as good as any Ring I could temper and Mastercraft up. It was singing silently in my hand, the edge existinig at the edge of materiality for physical objects. It was transcendentally perfect, echoing with resonance to the profound ideal of a Sword somewhere Out There.

                The things she could do with this Sword rivaled the crap I could pull off with magic, albeit on the Kill Them side of things. Gods in Heaven, I did not want to be on the wrong end of this Sword…

                And it was intelligent. I could feel it looking at me, trying to judge me... and reading my Aura much more precisely than Sama could.

                It remained VERY quiet.

                I sheathed it home slowly and respectfully, and it automatically Compressed back towards Dagger form as I did so. The scabbarded Weapon flipped out of my hand back to hers, and she clipped it back in place precisely without any fuss. I think her hair helped her put it back...

                "Pursuant to what you just witnessed, I also have the materials to made six hundred and fourteen more Girdles of Giant Power, and two hundred and nine Gauntlets of Ogre Power. Including twelve Rune Giants of Fire, and one Fire Titan."

                I blinked, even as I noted the catch in her voice. Ah, yes, her Sword had doubtless passed on its impression of me...

                I'd heard that the Helmers had been crowing that they'd killed some Jotuns and salvaged materials for Girdles. Powered were tripping over themselves to get ahold of them, as the Strength boost was awesome until you reached at least Eight, and likely Ten. Once you got Exoskeleton going on your Armor, you might not need it, but until then, yeah, Girdles were awesome… and more powerful ones kept right on going.

                My eyes fell on the crisscrossing Belt around her slender waist. It wasn’t made of cow leather...

                "Ash Giant. Strength 33. I'm actually stronger, but I use it for the Might bonus. I'm going to upgrade it to the Fire Titan as soon as I sit down with a little time,” she informed me helpfully, following my eyes.

                There were two types of strength-enhancing Girdles out there. One was Giant Strength, the other was Giant Power.

                The former offered a straight bonus to your existing Strength, scaling infinitely. So, +5 to Strength, the top limits for a CL 10 effect, added to whatever your Strength might be. If you had a high natural strength, it was the way to go. Exoskeleton for Armor worked the same way.

                Giant Power, on the other hand, set your Strength score to whatever the natural Strength of the average Jotun was it was taken from. Tellingly, it granted the exact same Might as that Jotun had, size multipliers and everything. So, you could throw rocks, and carry around weight, as if you were much bigger, taller, and stronger.

                Now, the Power, the to-hit and damage bonus, was limited by your MAB and using an adequately heavy weapon, no finessable pokey-pokey fighting style. +10 MAB was equivalent to a Strength/Power of 30… still crazy good for most Melees at this point.

                It was freaking awesome for Primos. Every Level of Attack Bonus gained effectively made you more Powerful. What was not to love?

                If she made a Belt of Fire Titan strength… Mithar help me, that was a 47 Strength. Sure, she couldn't use it all, but the Might for a Titan was… she'd be able to juggle elephants, or something. 133 tons max load? And it would scale with her all the way to a +18 Melee Attack Bonus…

                The Immunity to Fire and rock-throwing were just extras. Oh, and any Jotun that looked at her would be able to tell she was wearing a Girdle made from a Titan. Which might have interesting effects on their morale...

                "You're going to have the toughest Primos army like, ever," I noted to her.

                She smiled, which again was a dangerous thing to see. I could clearly picture how many creatures had it as the last thing they’d seen. "Even better, I've had Girdles powering up in the lesser Nodes out in the Charlands. So, no effort, 3k a day being Infused into them. Nine nodes, 3k a day, 25 days per Fire Giant Girdle. And that's before three people sit down in shifts and make more of them at double speed out there… which they are doing, by agreement with Argos. He even supplied the Fire Resistance."

                So, forty Girdles of Giant Power a month. Now, she didn’t have the Tens who could max out the best use of them… but she'd have Primos Fighters at Seven who'd suddenly have a 24 Power and at least 31 Jotun's Might, able to bench press a small elephant... and they'd only get stronger. For a personal band of warriors, or officers for a Primos fighting force, that would be terrifying.

                The fact she could afford the goldweight for them to do it was also extremely impressive, but I knew how much stuff the Helm was sucking out of those volcanoes right now. Argos was kind of giddy over it. He was able to self-fund his Obelisks now, and it was all basically because Sama was letting him!

                Daaaaaaamn. "Tip of the Spear all the way," I muttered under my breath, and a flicker of her hair told me she'd heard me anyways. "Just, wow. You're going to be the best thing that ever happened to a whole lot of people, Sama."

                "There's a big surprise." She knew exactly how valuable she was.

                "I'm afraid that this time, however, you're not going to have a monopoly on high-Level sailing missions."

                "Meaning you're moving right to airships, or the Waterbound are getting too big for their swim trunks?"

                I winced despite myself. "There's a lot of sailors who want to take back the seas, and they are among the most qualified…"

                "Meaning they haven't been exposed enough to the shit in the sea?"

                "Oh, wait'll I tell you about the Atomic Spawn that were made when a nuclear submarine I was pulling the crew out of went up." She tilted her head in interest. "But otherwise… no, the sahaug and mass Dakonics and the like haven't cropped up yet. We did see a kraken. It ate half the sub’s crew before I got to them.”

                "So, revenge. Well, more power to them. If you want to sail on the seas, you're going to be badass, that's for certain. Speaking of which, how are the Shore Mages doing?"

                She'd been fairly closely associated with Redshore because of her shuttling business to and from Coralost. A lot of people tried horning in on that business, and most of them lost their crews and their ships at one point or another. Eventually it came down to just Sama bringing people back and forth between the most dangerous playground in the game, and staying alive long enough to bring us back when we were done with our Quests. Nothing had been able to take her ship from her.

                And now here she was, more dangerous than ever!

                "Rebuilding their strength, like everyone else. Focused more on shore defense then shipping at this time, of course."

                "Mmmm. Did Briggs make it? I imagine he'd link up with them." Naturally she and the former Commander of Redshore had a decent relationship.

                "Umm. Briggs and his Amazons staked out an area in the Thumb for themselves, not far from Bay City east of here. The Amazons took over a lot of the horse-raising and training."

                Her eyebrow did that raised-sword climb again. "'His Amazons?'" she repeated, amused.

                "Ah. Well, he was visiting his little sister at St. Catherine's University in Saint Paul on the day of the Fall. Well, he turned into an Ancient, but managed to get the surviving girls together and decided that fighting back was better than hiding. So, he told them about the Amazon Pacts to the Five Goddesses, and asked them if they'd rather hide, or fight back."

                She tilted her head. "And he ended up with over two thousand warrior supermodels to beat on zombies!" Her laugh was throaty and rich, and went right down my whole body. Okay, I had to admit I hadn’t met ANYONE with Night Rose ki at the subtlety she had...

                "Twenty-two hundred and seventeen, to be exact. In short, almost every single Amazon Pact open on the planet. They went out and took back the Twin Cities in a remarkably short period of time, started clearing the surrounding area, arming up, and the like. They fought against the New York March when I called for more people, and ran into Diana when she was cutting across the Dakotas and working her way across the country to us.

                "He liked what we were doing up here, the Amazons liked the fact that they didn't have to become the pets of every Priestess who thought they deserved a bodyguard, and they really liked the fact that their people could get free of the plagues.

                "They are a Primos melee crew, albeit an exceptionally powerful one, and so they moved up here to manage and help train the cavalry."

                "Amazons are basically driven to set up a feminist society. Has this not become an issue yet?" she asked, rather surprised.

                "Briggs is an Ancient and a Source," I reminded her by way of answer.

                "Ah," she blinked. "Well, I suppose that is answer enough." Sources could bend a lot of things that should be otherwise. "Well, I'll be having to go out to see him. He's involved in the Primos military and smithing, I assume?" It was a logical guess.

                "He's running the largest smeltery and basic war gear factory in my lands. It's not the equal in magical production as the Forge Arcane below us, but he's got a lot more labor working there then there are Powered working below. They process a LOT of car-casses."

                "Ran out of Gear from the Caches of the Archmage, eh?"

                "Equipping a quarter-million troops wasn't the primary purpose of the Caches. Even with the QL too low for long term use, there really wasn’t enough."

                "It's something I'll get to work on." Said without an ounce of arrogance.

                Six magic swords a day solo. If she chose to not Add Value, not that I believed she would even consider doing that, she might be able to make dozens of QL 30+ weapons a day.

                Heh. I wanted to rub my hands and take a picture now, and see what all she was going to change in the next month. Months.

                Damn if the Marches weren't going to get another kick in the teeth!

A note from RE Druin

Note that Tremble is intelligent at this time, but is simply remaining quiet... because she can feel Ael's Caster Level...

Sama is very smug with having a 50 Null. Ael can beat that with every single spell he casts...

Tomorrow, Sama meets a certain someone, and his harem!


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About the author

RE Druin

  • Auburn, Michigan
  • Author

Bio: Editor of online webnovels, mostly at Webnovel and Wuxiaworld. Also edit Ebooks. Long time video gamer, former MMO player, lifelong [email protected] fan and RPG guy, fan of both science fiction and fantasy. Don't ask me to choose between Trek and Wars, I love all the Stars.

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