“Ah, you are early,” Baelin’s voice said from behind him.

“Argh! Oh holy shi-” Alex startled and whirled around to see the towering chancellor in the hallway. Alex’s force disks—filled with papers, notebooks and more of the dungeon core’s sample—seemed to shudder with him. “Gods, I didn’t hear you behind me at all, Baelin.”

“Hm, a Proper Wizard should be prepared and aware of their surroundings,” the chancellor said, glancing at the window.

The two of them were in one of the tallest towers in the main castle—one free from offices and containing only a few rooms secured by tall doors of a deep, black metal. The amount of magic emanating from each door nearly made Alex’s head spin.

“Well, here it is.” Baelin gestured to one of the doors. “This is the lab where we’ll confirm your findings—or disprove them—and where you shall finish your golem if things prove positive.”

Baelin looked at the gigantic monstrosity floating on the giant magical dolly. “Went for pure power, I see. I approve. I heartily approve! Now, then.”

He snapped his fingers and two keys appeared in his hand, and he offered one to the young man.

“Shall we begin?”

Alex understood that this was a laboratory used for Baelin’s students, but it still felt like he was coming into a chamber that had been built for a monarch.

It was enormous; judging from the dimensions of the room, it seemed too big to actually fit into the rest of the tower.

Unlike The Cells, this laboratory had massive windows overlooking the campus, though Alex had a feeling that they were made from something a lot sturdier than glass.

The equipment in the room shone as though it was brand new, and looked far more robust and complex than the versions Alex was used to using. Even the mana spectrometer was larger and probably more powerful.

“Most of this equipment is beyond you for now,” Baelin said. “But I shall train you on each piece which will grant you experience with more advanced mechanisms of alchemy, and also allow me to monitor how quickly your Mark helps you learn. You shall gain skills, as well as provide valuable data for us both.”

“That-that sounds great,” Alex stammered, gawking at the numerous advanced devices.

‘Look at all the stuff I get to play with!’ he thought excitedly, before remembering Baelin’s stern warning. ‘Er, I mean use in a responsible manner. But I’m gonna have fun anyway while I’m doing it.’

“First things first,” Baelin said, looking at Alex with an amused twinkle in his goat-like eyes. “We will go to each piece of equipment that you previously used in your analysis of the dungeon core: the devices here are more advanced versions, naturally. Then I would like you to repeat exactly what you did in your previous analysis while I observe. We will see if you produce similar results. This equipment is more sensitive, and should readily reveal if there are any anomalies.”

Alex nodded, getting his safety equipment ready and going to wash his hands. “Sounds good. Let’s hope things turn out the same way they did before.”

Baelin showed Alex everything in the laboratory, but the pieces of equipment that really caught his attention were the mana vacuum and its waste container. The container was enormous—dwarfing even the one they used in Shale’s workshop—Alex could only imagine that the sheer level of power tossed around by reactions generated from experiments in a lab like this would be unbelievable.

A mana vacuum that size would be a necessity.

“You must really like alchemy,” Alex said. “This is like the emperor’s carriage of laboratories.”

Baelin shrugged. “It is not my favourite subject of magic, actually. When I first learned wizardry, there was no such thing as alchemy. Spellcraft was thought to be the language of the spirits. Potions were brewed by way of open fire and little else. I study it, as I study all things in wizardry. In truth, some of my own cabal are farsuperior in the art.”

“Jeez,” Alex scratched his head. “I can’t even imagine that.”

“Imagine, what?”

“That anybody could be better than you at any kind of wizardry.”

Baelin suddenly burst out laughing. “Oh, you flatter me, but you know not what you say. I am mighty, yes. Very mighty. But many things in the cosmos are mighty, and many things have knowledge of magic that I have yet to begin to comprehend.”

“Oh,” Alex said. “That actually sounds exciting.”

Baelin raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Alex shrugged. “Like, if you knew everything about magic and there was nothing left to learn and discover it, it’d be kind of sad, wouldn’t it? The journey would be over and you couldn’t find anything new. At least you’ve still got more to investigate and learn.”

Baelin gave him a warm smile. “My thoughts exactly. A Proper Wizard never stops learning: if they do, they’re no longer a Proper Wizard. Still, things that surprise us become increasingly rare...and that’s what makes your dungeon core so exciting. Come, let us see what is what.”

With that, Alex jumped into his analysis again.

Now that he’d completed it once—and with The Mark guiding him—he was able to go through the processes a lot faster. Having access to better equipment and not having to hide what he was doing also made things go quicker and smoother.

In short order he’d run a solid and liquified sample through all the previous devices he’d used, and was amazed at how these machines displayed results.

Not only were there paper read-outs, but results were also displayed on floating illusions right above each device in full three-dimensional detail.

Alex blinked in wonder at the illusions, but Baelin looked on in indifference as though such a thing was as commonplace as rocks by the side of the road. What did clearly excite him, though, were the results themselves.

Each test continued to confirm what had been determined in the previous analyses, and Alex took abundant notes with increasing excitement.

Baelin then took over, showing Alex a few new devices which measured the substance's planar alignment, its vivacity—its ability to produce life or healing effects—and its age.

“Interesting,” Baelin said. “See this diagram, Alex?” He pointed to a circle composed of smaller, multicoloured orbs. “This shows a breakdown of the planes of existence as we know them…an extremely simplified breakdown.”

He pointed to a circle in the middle. “That is where we are, the material plane. And the four surrounding circles are the elemental planes, with the para-elemental planes between. The outer circles are the many outer places, though this is simplifying the structure.”

“What does it actually look like?”

“Like a four-dimensional mess of constellations, geometry and swirling masses of power. Even the deities of our world—or any other—can’t fully codify all of the planes.”

“Huh, and what’s that green dot mean?” Alex pointed to a dot that appeared in the central circle.

“That indicates from which plane the substance originates. And this indicates the material plane.” Baelin frowned. “Remarkable, chaos essence and chaos essence-like substances are rare in the material world, and yet your Ravener seems to produce cores made out of the substance…the age test indicates this dungeon core and its substances are only months old. Fascinating.”

Alex nodded. “So it makes the material from scratch?”

“Yes, think of it like carving a piece of furniture, only that you conjured the wood as you built the furniture. This is an incredible fabrication.”

Again that book and quill appeared, hovering around Baelin’s shoulder and jotting down notes rapidly.

“So…do you think I can use it in my golem core?” Alex asked.

“Absolutely. It would please me greatly to watch and see how it would work.” He gestured to the wall and there was a shimmering in the air.

With a hiss, six humanoid forms manifested that looked to be made of solidified air—only the strange refraction of the light passing through them made their presence known.

“These are my Unseen Aids. They will aid anyone in this lab that has my permission to use it…or harm anyone who is not accompanied by anyone who holds one of the room’s keys, if I so desire. They have no intelligence, but will follow verbal commands and have the ability to perform actions required in alchemy. They can also understand the names of any tool or device in this room.”

“Right, uh…” Alex paused. “Um, second-from-the-left.” He pointed to the unseen aid that was, well, second from the left. “Raise your left foot.”

The half-visible construct raised its left foot into the air.

“That is Secundus, actually,” Baelin said. “Now, if you’re quite done playing…”

“Ah yeah, got it, got it,” Alex said. “Alright, here’s what I need,” he addressed the constructs.

He gave his orders quickly, in the same decisive manner used by Lagor in the golem works. The constructs paused for a moment, then Baelin nodded and they sprang into action.

They quickly set up the main devices Alex would need for the process: a symbol-cauldron, the mana vacuum, and a long handled mana conductor. The cauldron could heat itself with a command word, and Alex did just that while the constructs prepared his ingredients alongside his Wizard’s Hands.

The main ingredient for the golem core would be the dungeon core remains: roughly half of what he had taken from The Cave of The Traveller. It would form the mana generation centre of the core’s structure and shape the connections that would conduct mana to the rest of the core. Its similarity to chaos essence would also grant the golem its ability to evolve, and he would need to work around that.

He had slowly obtained the other ingredients over the past few weeks: pyrite or fool’s gold, which helped a golem mimic life as pyrite mimicked gold; tungsten, which was very compatible with the flame magic for the fire-gems, the ‘flowers’ of chromium crystal dendrites: an excellent material for helping a golem process instructions and prevent the core from corroding from its own mana, as well as other materials to simply form the bulk of the structure.

One advantage with working at Shale’s was that he was allowed—as an employee—to purchase materials for a golem at a significant discount. The dungeon core’s remains also replaced many of the most expensive ingredients needed for the golem core.

Now would come the real test: combining those ingredients.

He had the constructs grind the dendrite flowers into a fine powder while he poured the pyrite and some of the other ingredients into the cauldron.

First he would need to create the “base” for the rest of the ingredients. He commanded the cauldron to increase to very high temperatures and braced for the blast of heat that he often experienced when building golem cores at work.

It never came, but to his surprise, the fool’s gold slowly began melting into a puddle of shining yellowish metal at the bottom of the cauldron.

He waved his hand over the mouth of the pot in surprise, then looked up at Baelin.

“It conducts all heat directly into the material without blasting it elsewhere,” Baelin said, seated in a comfortable chair several feet away. The chair hadn’t been in the room moments before, and Baelin casually watched Alex through his mask while that floating quill continued to record all the steps of Alex’s process. “A cunning construction by one of my cabal-mates. A very expensive one, as you can imagine.”

Alex nodded, glancing around the room again. He was fairly sure that most of the devices in here were extremely expensive.

‘Maybe one day,’ he thought, imagining himself owning a room full of such fine devices, before returning to his work.

He quickly began to stir the pyrite into the other ingredients to form the base, taking care to put much of his mana into some of the other ingredients that were more vulnerable to heat. He stabilized them long enough to combine them with the melted pyrite as he stirred, and then began to bond them together with his mana.

It was a tricky process that could see a novice very well waste a ton of mana trying to get the ingredients to bind. The Mark, and Val’Rok’s classes were invaluable for doing this step since they had taught him much about efficiency when it came to mana manipulation.

He used The Mark as he worked, letting it guide him through the process as it had so many times at Shale’s. Even now it pointed out things he had done correctly and that he should repeat, and he guided the reaction slowly to make sure that he was being precise.

Soon, the ingredients began to glow with a golden light, indicating that the process was well underway. He nodded in satisfaction. It was ready for other ingredients.

He looked at the black powder of the dungeon core remains and smiled.

It was finally time to turn one of The Ravener’s weapons into his own, and—with Baelin close by to watch for any trouble—he was more than ready.


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