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Era of the Wastes, Cycle 216, Season of the Rising Moon, Day 34

 

Not long after Terry and the others had arrived at their home, more people appeared at the door and Terry felt himself being pulled into the hugs of Samuel and Brynn.

“I’m sorry we can’t stay long,” said Brynn. “We still have classes and the Academy is short-staffed due to everything that is going on.”

“We’ll talk more later,” said Samuel with a warm smile.

“Right,” exclaimed Brynn. “And I’ll prepare the residence requests for your friends.” She nodded towards Thena and Clayson. “But for now, we’ll have to go back.”

“Nice people,” said Emaldine approvingly.

Shortly afterwards, Matteo arrived with a dark expression.

“How are things?” asked Emaldine.

“Bad,” replied Matteo. “The situation in the north is worse than we heard on the way.”

“The gates?” interjected Terry.

Matteo shook his head. “Fortunately, no primary gate has been breached yet, but there are simply too many fires to put out at once.”

“I should also make myself useful,” muttered Emaldine pensively.

“Planning to register?” asked Matteo. “Guild or Guardian?”

Emaldine bit her lip. “As long as we are talking about Arcana, I’m happy to become a Guardian again. Uhh…” She looked at Matteo. “How about you come with me to the Guardians?”

Matteo raised an eyebrow.

“Guild-partner and all…” Emaldine cleared her throat and then spoke with a louder voice: “You still require supervision, little brother.”

Matteo smiled lightly and the two departed. On their way out, they nearly bumped into two new arrivals.

“Terry!” Gellath shouted excitedly and he, too, pulled Terry into a hug.

Behind Gellath, Calam was entering with awkward hesitation.

“Greetings, Terry, uhm…” Calam fidgeted with his hands and looked at the floor. “I’m happy you’re back and, uhm, I’m so—”

“Thanks, friend.” Terry emphasized the last word, which caused Calam to relax and straighten his back.

“I mean it.” Calam met Terry’s gaze. “I’m sorry for what happened. You were right. I did have a problem. I’m working on it.”

“That he does,” interjected Gellath. “I can attest to that.” He presented a fist to Calam. “Freeze buddies.”

On the side, Miguel snickered and grinned at Gellath’s behavior.

Calam smiled and fist-bumped Gellath.

“How is Alrik?” Gellath looked towards Jorg.

“Huh?” Terry blurted out.

“I still don’t know why you are checking up on the pest beetle,” said Miguel. “Or has he owned up to his shitty behavior by now?”

“Hmph,” snorted Lori. “No, he has not. Last time I spoke to him, he was still making excuses.”

“No surprise there,” remarked Siling drily.

“I also have no intention to be friends with Alrik,” started Jorg. “But I can sympathize with someone whose family member has gone missing.” He glanced at Terry and then shook his head. “Alrik may be a pest beetle, but even he does not deserve that.”

“Fair enough,” said Miguel.

Even Lori’s expression softened somewhat, but she refused to speak up for Alrik.

“What happened?” inquired Terry.

Jorg shrugged. “No one really knows. His mother simply disappeared around the time the barrier broke.” He turned to Gellath. “Alrik seems completely beside himself. He can get around fine, but seems nearly incoherent. He can’t even hold a real conversation at the moment. His father has stopped working to take care of him.”

“Poor father.” Gellath sighed. “First his wife disappeared and then his son had a breakdown.” He pulled back his lips and then looked back at Terry. “Good thing you’re back! Now we have at least some positive news.”

Gellath looked over the others. “Who are our new friends?” He walked up to Clayson and Thena. “Greetings, I’m Gellath. I’m the resident damsel in distress and the person to call when you have scraped your knees.”

Miguel snorted. “The fairytales always made the damsel sound less beard-y. I feel shortchanged by reality.” At this, Gellath gasped with insincere offense.

Clayson and Thena stood up to greet Gellath and introduce themselves. Despite being younger, Clayson was already slightly taller than Gellath.

When Thena stood up, Gellath’s eyes suddenly brightened and then a solemn look washed over his face. Jorg and Miguel guffawed at Gellath’s change in expression.

“What’s so funny?” asked Thena with narrowed eyes.

“Nothing,” insisted Gellath. “The brains of those two are very odd. I’m afraid even my magic can’t heal them. Anyway, first the real questions.” Gellath looked at Terry. “What the Wastes happened to you?!”

“Good question!” interjected Siling. She had been lazing on the couch and now leaned forward.

“Wait, what do you mean?” asked Clayson in puzzlement.

“Yeah, did you sneak off or something?” Thena made a dubious expression and looked at Terry. “All the way to the Wasted Zone?”

“Even Thena was not that crazy,” muttered Clayson.

“Ey!” Thena pouted. “What do you mean? ‘Even’ Thena?”

Clayson calmly looked at her. “That I remember you sneaking off to follow Instructor Sigille at times even when you were not supposed to.”

Thena continued to pout but averted her eyes from Clayson.

Gellath loudly cleared his throat. “Real question.”

Terry took a deep breath and then told his experiences after they had lost contact with each other.

At first, when Terry talked about his time in the dungeon, there were many gasps, gulps, and horrified questions. Thena and Clayson in particular were shocked to learn about how Terry had arrived in the Tiv Empire.

Later, when Terry talked about Devon’s group, his first visit to Syn City and the Chara Settlement, the questions were mostly of a curious and fascinated nature. Devon’s abilities, the Heart of Syn, and Poppy’s inventions were the most popular topics.

As soon as Terry talked about the Thanatos ambush and the time he protected Lizzy at the Bulwark, everyone became quiet. Only when he came to the part where the Divine Hammer arrived did everyone join in with comments again.

When Terry talked about the battle in Syn City, his friends were first outraged and then became increasingly somber during the parts when Terry had confronted some of the soldiers from the Devout Division.

There was another moment of shock when Terry explained what he had discovered about his oscillating mana and how it interacted with space magic.

Terry talked about his training and missions at the Libra Outpost. About his time traveling with Sigille’s group. About the dungeon scavengers…

When he reached the moment of Sigille’s death and how she had died, everyone was silent with grave expressions. Thena was already crying quietly, but she and Clayson were paying close attention to Terry’s description of the battle that followed.

Terry had spoken with lowered gaze. “...and then I got tackled by my siblings.” He finally looked up and managed a heartfelt smile.

Lori and Jorg were clenching their fists. Calam was completely pale. Siling and Gellath were staring with mouths agape.

“Huh,” uttered Miguel dazedly. “Holy Wastes, that’s uhm… So… Undead hordes, a whole army of cultists, demon fortresses, and a civil war for good measure…” He glanced from side to side. “Anyone else feel glad that their year was boring in comparison?”

Gellath exhaled a sharp breath. “Sorry for your loss.” He moved his eyes over Terry, Thena, and Clayson.

“I still don’t know what to tell Ma Isille,” muttered Terry guiltily. “I should not have left back then.”

“Nonsense!” insisted Siling. “Your aunt made the call and she understood the situation better than you. You also said that your mana interferes with space magic. So if she wanted to lock that necromancer down, then your presence would have been a problem.”

“The only one to blame are the necromancer and the cultists,” said Jorg with a grim expression. “I can’t believe they let the cultists back into power in Tiv.”

“What kind of Guardian invites a mass-murdering necromancer into their ranks?” Calam interjected in disbelief.

“Appalling,” growled Miguel with indignant eyes.

“Yeah, they should have arrested that Anand at first sight,” grumbled Gellath with a shaking head.

“It is hard to believe that they really thought everyone would just make peace,” said Lori doubtfully. “No way.”

“I’m glad they didn’t make peace,” said Miguel. “Otherwise, I would have to request that the Guardians there change their name to something else. Like ‘Unprincipled Hypocrites.’”

Terry smiled weakly but his thoughts remained gloomy.

“At least you helped in the fight against the witch,” mumbled Thena with a glance at Terry. “I did not even do that…” She pouted and leaned her head against Clayson, who was sitting next to her.

“Wait, what?” Terry’s head whirled around to Thena and Clayson. “No. That was not a fight for you. There is no need to—”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Siling. “Why don’t you write these words down and then read them to yourself as well?”

“If you had not retreated like Sigille had told you, then you would not have been able to help in the fight afterwards.” Lori spoke firmly to Terry. “Who knows what would have happened then?”

Lori looked at Thena. “I’m sure that Aunt Sigille would tell you the same. It was the right decision for you to stay out of it. There were others to take care of that fight. For you, it was not the right time. Some fights are best left for the elder generation. Being brave does not mean being foolhardy.”

“Terry, does this mean there is now a bounty on your head in Tiv?” Miguel asked the question that had just entered his head.

“Probably,” replied Terry wryly. “Same for everyone that joined the fight.”

“Pheew,” whistled Siling. “Working on your bad boy charme there?” She quipped.

“It was not my intention to be bad,” muttered Terry pensively.

Siling’s expression cramped at the downcast reply and for a moment, she was at a loss for words.

Terry shook his head. “They made their choice, I made mine.”

The atmosphere became somber once more.

“How…” Calam spoke up. “How was it to be faced with… To confront…”

Terry looked up and shook his head again. “Not like the stories. Not like the bandits either.” Terry shrugged. “I don’t know.

“With the soldiers in Syn, it seemed…” Terry bit his lip. “...pointless. A pointless waste of life. Everyone could have fought together against the Wastes, but instead, someone gave such a pointless order and the soldiers chose to follow it.

“In the Libra Outpost, it was…” Terry grimaced. “...bitter. I knew some of the folks that stood on Willow’s side. One of them had even been a part of my group for mission work. They were not bad people.” Terry shook his head with a distant look in his eyes. “They only stood on the wrong side because they stood with the wrong person. Because they trusted the wrong person.

“I know that the Veilbinder was forced to kill former comrades as well, but…” Terry shrugged. “It seems so much clearer when reading about it and very different when looking people in the eyes.” Terry nodded to himself. “I’m thankful that Ma Isille had picked the bounty hunting class for us. I don’t know how everything would have gone if I had not been forced to face folk before.”

Silence descended on the group once more.

“Okay then…” Siling piped up. She waved at Terry with a sheepish smile. “We haven’t seen each other in a while, so just checking: You do realize that I’m just kidding and talking nonsense, right? Because this last nonsense of mine has taken a wrong turn.”

“Good point,” exclaimed Gellath. “How about some happier topics?”

Terry smiled and turned to Siling. “Any new soul spirits I should greet?”

“Hmmm…” Siling playfully tilted her head and tapped her finger on her lips. “No, not until our first spar.” She grinned teasingly. “I’ll have you know I managed to draw against Tiana a few times.”

“I’m personally curious about that aspecting technique you mentioned, Terry,” said Miguel. “Once you’re all settled in, how about we meet up on the training grounds?” He glanced at Thena and Clayson. “Perhaps I’ll even win a close-combat spar against one of our new friends.”

Gellath snorted. “Probably not.”

“Probably not,” agreed Miguel with a nod. “But it’s worth a try.”

“I’m watching you.” Gellath pointed with his index and middle finger at his eyes and then at Miguel. “I’ll be watching your spars very intently. No dirty tricks, you hear me? I won’t let you bully our new little sister.” Gellath shook his fist threateningly. “Any hair-pulling or sand-throwing and I’ll give you a good wallop, you rascal.”

Jorg snickered.

“Already bestowed the ‘little sister’ status?” Miguel chuckled. “Finally, right?”

“Yes, yes indeed,” replied Gellath. “I may have only met her a short while ago, but I’ll protect Friend Thena with my life.” He spoke with a solemn duty in his tone.

Thena looked towards Gellath with a dubious expression and Clayson next to her became wary.

“Finally found a dwarf that is shorter than you?” teased Jorg in a transparent attempt to ease Clayson’s and Thena’s tension.

Thena pouted while Clayson suppressed a snicker.

“Yes, finally! About time too,” exclaimed Gellath happily. “She is precious.” He beamed at Thena and presented a fist to Thena. “Vertically-challenged buddies.” He repeatedly pointed with his eyes and his head towards his presented fist…

…until Thena eventually gave in and fist-bumped with Gellath.

“See?” Gellath turned to Miguel. “That is a sacred bond deeper than blood.” Gellath made a long face and spoke with a nasal voice. “If you don’t behave, this dwarf will have to beat you up. Even if I have to heal you afterwards.”

“Uh-huh.” Miguel clicked his tongue. “If you were trying to intimidate me, then that was a pathetically bad attempt.”

“Hah!” exclaimed Gellath. “But I know your weakness!”

“Uh-oh.” Miguel’s eyes opened wide. “Please don’t.” He groaned. “Not in front of the young ones. They’re innocent. They don’t deserve this.”

Calam rolled his eyes while Terry was already snickering.

“Here we go.” Siling raised a hand to her chin and waited.

Clayson and Thena looked around in confusion.

Gellath cleared his throat. “Riddle me this. I have a bed but do not sleep. I have a mouth but do not eat. What am I?”

“Huh, I haven’t heard that one before,” said Lori.

“Do we need to guess?” Thena whispered to Terry.

“Don’t encourage him!” said Miguel.

“Okay, what are you?” asked Calam with a grin.

“Oh, come on,” complained Miguel.

Gellath first made a solemn expression and turned to Calam. He replied with a grumpy tone: “Tired and hungry.” He shook his head and raised his shoulders as if this should have been obvious.

Miguel groaned loudly. Lori rolled her eyes. Thena looked confused and Clayson started snickering uncontrollably.

“Sounds about right,” said Siling with a deadpan expression.

“What are you doing?” Thena confusedly looked at the snickering Clayson. “That wasn’t funny. That wasn’t even a riddle. What— Pfft.” Looking at Clayson eventually caused Thena to laugh as well.

“Oh no.” Miguel shook his head while looking at the laughing Clayson. “Another one.”

Gellath was beaming. “It seems Friend Clayson is precious too. A worthy audience.”

 

***

 

Terry looked around the small bureau that was next to their living room. He sat down on a chair and reminisced about the day when he had finally discovered the Immovable Object spell in this very room.

Not long after, Samuel entered together with another man.

“Greetings, Instructor.” Terry reflexively greeted the man next to Samuel.

“Just Ser is fine, boy. I’m not your instructor anymore.”

“Ser took an interest in your disappearance and I also asked him to weigh in with his opinion,” explained Samuel. “Both on your dungeon experience as well as on what you have learned about your mana type.”

Afterwards, Terry talked again about his experience in the dungeon and his observations on oscillating mana.

Ser was mostly listening silently while Samuel repeatedly asked clarification questions or prompted Terry to elaborate on certain points.

Ser only spoke up when Terry mentioned the interaction between his mana and space magic. He cast a number of spells and had Terry demonstrate the different effects.

“Do you still have the writings of this ancient deathcult with you?” asked Samuel.

“Yes.” Terry retrieved both the copies from the Guardians as well as his own notes from his dimensional bag.

Samuel glanced over the papers. His eyes paused on the heptagram symbol that Terry had once discussed with Devon. Afterwards, Samuel handed the papers to Ser. “I’ll check with the librarian if they can find some more information about this cult or this chiffre.”

“If the annotated aspects are correct, then it was definitely a deathcult,” muttered Ser with a scowl. “Incorporating both the death and blood aspects as a ritual’s core requires sentient sacrifice.”

Terry observed the two curiously. Inwardly, he was eager to hear their opinions, but he did not want to interrupt their thoughts.

“It would be nice to get some more background information to confirm our theories,” said Samuel and then looked at Terry. “But I think we can already draw a few conclusions, at least for the easier question.”

Which is…? Terry furrowed his brow.

“Your mana type.” Samuel smiled. “The relation to the space aspect is evident. But it’s definitely not the space aspect itself.”

“Furthermore…” Samuel pointed at the documents in Ser’s hand. “There are not many aspects known to relate to space, but one of them appears in your notes.”

“The void aspect?” Terry thought out loud.

“Yes,” confirmed Samuel.

“However, your mana is definitely not void-aspected,” interjected Ser with a glance to Terry. He handed the documents back to Samuel.

“Which brings us to this…” Samuel pointed towards the heptagram symbol from the deathcult that had raised Devon.

“While we don’t have a complete description, I’m willing to make a guess based on aspect theory.” Samuel pointed at the symbols. “Life, blood, death. A triangle of major aspects. Blood in the center as the bridge between life and death. That triangle could explain the abnormal regeneration you described.”

“And the blood giant,” added Ser. “But that would require one hell of a ritual. Possible in theory, but more complex than anything I have ever seen before.”

“You’re the Academy’s expert on rituals.” Samuel nodded. “If you say it’s possible…” He traced the triangle with his fingers.

“Of the remaining four, two are between life and death.” Samuel tapped the two symbols. “I would interpret those as falling outside the triangle, which would best fit the abyssal aspects: hellfire and netherfrost. Each one is overbearing on its own, but they balance each other.”

“Balanced in theory they may be,” interjected Ser. “But whoever goes through that ritual would have to suffer through them nonetheless. That’s lethal and even if it wasn’t, it would still be horrifying torture.”

Samuel nodded pensively. “Perhaps there is even more to picking these particular aspects beyond their obvious power.” He rubbed his temples. “The martial sects teach something of a meta-relation for some aspects that has never really been verified in spellwork so far.”

“Life, fire, yang.” Samuel pointed at the locations of the life and hellfire aspects. “Death, ice, yin…” His voice trailed off.

Ser furrowed his brow. “That goes beyond my expertise, but it’s not impossible to introduce a second layer of relations in a ritual. If it accentuates the death and life aspects and is organized correctly, then it would amplify the blood aspect’s effect. It might turn less lethal, but it would do nothing to alleviate the tormenting pain.”

“That leaves these two spots.” Samuel pointed. “One between blood and life, one between blood and death. Both shielded from the abyssal aspects.

“Unfortunately…” Samuel sighed. “We can’t know exactly how the bridge of blood works without knowing the exact ritual, but as a first conjecture…” Samuel pointed towards the symbol between blood and death. “Void, if we assume void as the intersection aspect between space and death.”

“An intersection with space could shield the blood aspect and stabilize the center of the bridge,” affirmed Ser. “But set up like that, such a ritual would take forever and you would need a very powerful catalyst to finish it.”

“Mhmh.” Samuel nodded. “Only a hypothesis for now. We’ll have to see how its predictions align with reality.”

“And if you still have the meta-relation in mind, then the void aspect should go to the other side – between blood and life,” said Ser. “That way, the death relation crosses life. Life between netherfrost and void – both assumed to relate to death in your theory. Balancing instead of amplifying. Everything crosses and leads to the blood aspect that is compatible with both sides.”

Samuel nodded and then pointed at the last remaining symbol. “The other side should have to be symmetrical for it to work. That means the intersection between space and life.”

Samuel looked at Terry. “Currently, no such aspect is known to us.”

Terry almost heard a clicking sound in his head when things fell into place. “You mean that oscillating mana could be that intersection aspect?”

“Could be,” affirmed Samuel.

“That explains why they would talk about it,” muttered Terry. “I was wondering why they would possibly have an interest in oscillating mana…”

Samuel snorted amusedly.

“Are you kidding, boy?” exclaimed Ser loudly.

Terry’s expression froze.

“From what you have told us about the interaction with space magic, I am even tempted to lock you in my lab for further study,” said Ser.

Terry gulped because Ser’s tone appeared entirely serious.

“At least until we have found a way to detect oscillating mana more easily.” Ser grunted.

Samuel explained for Terry: “That would be the prerequisite for researching possible mixed aspect spell structures.” Samuel looked up in thought. “Same for the mana cultivator perspective. Hard to know if your structural design or aspect refractor is working correctly if you can’t easily distinguish the type of mana you are emitting.”

“Anyway, the applications are obvious,” said Ser.

“From what you have told me about your friend Devon, oscillating mana would counter his biggest remaining weakness,” said Samuel. “Spatial transfers.”

“The realm should feel glad that the ritual was interrupted,” said Ser gravely.

Samuel held his hands behind his head. “Oscillating mana as the intersection between life and space. It’s a theory. We’ll see. If it is true, then there should be a few parallels to the void aspect.”

“It passes the sniff test at least,” said Ser.

Terry raised his eyebrows.

“He means that there are some parallels already in the observed behavior and that the behavior could be explained using that theory,” elaborated Samuel. “So it is not complete horseshit. Doesn’t stink.”

“Like how?” asked Terry.

“How familiar are you with void spells?” asked Ser.

“Not at all,” replied Terry immediately. “I only remember some theory on the aspect itself, but nothing beyond the classification.”

“For starters, void spells appear like a subset of space magic,” said Ser. “They allow teleportation. With the inconvenient difference that you will arrive naked.”

“Huh?” Terry blurted out.

“Void-based teleportation can only be cast on beings on the life-spectrum,” said Samuel.

“Initially, at least,” said Ser. “The lowest level Void Step spell can only be cast on yourself. With enough mana control and a link in chained spellwork, you can extend that range to another being that will be anchored to the caster.

“With sufficient mana intensity and shielding techniques, the spell’s effects can even be extended to include the spell target’s equipment,” continued Ser.

“If you are willing to sacrifice an insane amount of mana as well as some life energy that is,” added Samuel and Ser nodded.

Terry tilted his head with mouth slightly agape.

Samuel looked at the stunned Terry. “The first parallel is actually a systematic one. There is only a single recorded pure spell of the void aspect: Void Step. However, that name is a bit of a misnomer. We will get to that.”

“While there is not much information on void-aspected spellwork, there are some records among the martial sects in the Free Factions Union,” said Samuel. “They have encountered mana martialists that rely on the void aspect. Their information is what led mages to be certain that it is, in fact, a separate aspect of its own.”

“The system classification is a bit shaky.” Samuel shrugged lightly and tapped his fingers on the desk. “The Void Step spell was first observed in a lower realm. Most of the subsequent encounters were on beings from lower realms as well. However, the records from the martial sects point more towards the outer realms as the origin.”

Samuel raised his gaze from his desk and looked at Terry directly. “You probably noticed another parallel in the spell’s target. Living beings for one. Non-living objects for the other.”

Samuel weighed his head from side to side. “A second parallel could be interpreted into the space interaction.”

“There are no known records of a pure void-aspected mana cultivator though,” reminded Ser. “Hard to make a direct comparison for the bursting behavior.”

“True, but with what we have, I would posit that it would allow such a person to move through space,” said Samuel. “Like making a single step and moving three.”

“It would match what we know of how the void aspect functions,” muttered Ser pensively.

“How?” Terry cleared his throat. “How does it function?”

“With space magic, you manipulate space directly,” explained Ser. “You connect two different locations. With void magic, you phase yourself onto a different plane you control and then you move that plane. The mechanism is different.”

“This also makes the void aspect a popular research target,” added Samule. “Going beyond a pure spell, it can be combined with the space aspect. They can amplify each other’s effects to cross vast distances more efficiently. There are also further combinations with other aspects.”

“Considering the mechanism, Void Step is something of a misnomer in spell names,” said Samuel. “The caster does not really have to move. They can use the spell for teleportation, or to move through solid objects, or to defend against attacks. Aside from the movement distortion, phasing makes the caster appear ethereal and practically untouchable.”

“Which gives us a working theory for oscillating mana,” said Samuel excitedly. “If the void aspect shifts a being to a non-colliding plane, then a parallel could be a shift to a colliding plane.”

Samuel made a few notes for himself. “In that framework, the reason that the object appears unbreakable is that no force from the original plane actually reaches the object in its new plane. The reason that it appears immovable is that you would have to shift the whole plane in order to move the object.

“It doesn’t fit perfectly, which means that there must be something missing, but I believe that can give us a few ideas to look into.” Samuel dropped his pen again and turned to Ser. “It would be great if you could help us narrow down the details for the interactions with space magic.”

“If it can be done quickly or after things have calmed down in Arcana, sure.” Ser nodded. “I’m curious as well.”

“Which brings us to the more difficult topic.” Samuel clicked his tongue and turned to Terry. “The nature of your disappearance. Unfortunately, we have too little information to ascertain the precise reason, but I have a few theories…” Samuel nodded to himself. “And all of them have one thing in common. I believe that you were transferred by the dungeon.”

“What?” Ser spoke up incredulously. “I agree it is a strange phenomena, but that does not mean we need to come up with such scenarios. Don’t tell me you believe in this dungeon fairy nonsense?”

“No, of course not,” denied Samuel firmly. “Fairies are weak aspect beings. I don’t believe they have anything to do with Terry’s abduction, nor do I believe that they have anything to do with the frequent disappearances of that Devon.

“I am talking about the dungeon itself,” stressed Samuel.

Ser frowned but remained silent.

“The proximity to dungeons in both the source and target location stands out,” said Samuel. “I can also not think of any reason why a regular mage would target Terry.

“To me, the dungeon appears to be the least strange candidate,” stressed Samuel. “Dungeons are capable of space magic.”

Samuel raised one finger. “Encountering a spatial lock in a dungeon may not be common, but it’s also not rare.”

Samuel raised a second finger. “We also know that a dungeon core is capable of teleporting freely in its controlled area.”

Samuel raised a third finger. “While it has never been observed directly, it is a popular theory that dungeons sometimes rely on transfers to set up dungeon rooms. Adjusting their terrain to move creatures into place works, but that appears too slow to explain some encounter sequences that have been observed.”

“But all the way to the western edge of Tiv?” questioned Ser. “And without leaving any trace in the manipulated space? Impossible!”

“Impossible?” retorted Samuel in deep thought. “Like one plus one equals three? Or just very very improbable…” Samuel raised his brows. “...and if true, very very interesting?”

Ser became pensive.

“But why?” asked Terry. “Why would a dungeon – or anyone really – send me to Tiv?”

“Like I’ve said: too little information to be sure.” Samuel made a helpless expression. “There could be many reasons and I am not convinced that the reason for your abduction is the same as for your friend Devon’s incidents.”

Samuel subconsciously traced the burn scars on his face with his finger tips. “It could be that the source dungeon perceived you as a threat.” He shook his head slightly. “Given the interaction between your mana type and spatial seals that could be a possibility, but there was no perceivable urgency that would reasonably justify such an intervention.”

Samuel frowned and continued shaking his head. “We detected no traces of a veil tear or anything that could explain the dungeon taking such measures. Drastic, immediate, and most importantly, after you had already left the dungeon itself.”

Samuel shrugged. “Bottom line, either the source dungeon wanted you gone or the target dungeon needed you there.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Considering the transfer distance, I am leaning more towards the latter.

“It could be that the target dungeon needed someone to eliminate the undead and was unable to deal with them itself.” Samuel furrowed his brow. “It could be that the target dungeon encountered a mana balance problem and required an outside mana source to reestablish balance.” Samuel wrinkled his brow further. “It could be that there was something special about you, something that was required in the target dungeon.”

Samuel bit his lips. He paused and after a moment of silence, he narrowed his eyes.

“Or it could be that a dimensional mage played a prank,” reminded Ser.

“A dimensional mage at the level of a magic sovereign playing prankster?” retorted Samuel.

“Point taken,” admitted Ser begrudgingly.

“Anyway, hard to say with the current information,” said Samuel and sighed. He looked at Terry. “I assume you did not kidnap a living dungeon creature?”

“No?” replied Terry. “Not that I’m aware of…”

“Didn’t think so,” muttered Samuel. “If you still have the remnants of the inscribed earth giant’s core, I would like to do some tests on it. It would also help if you can write down all the details you remember. If you want, you can check the report that was created based on the statements of the others to jog your memory.”

Terry nodded.

 

***

 

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