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After making Rinon get off my lap, the two of us went right to work. And by work, I mean she began lecturing. “Alright, so! The basics of wards are actually pretty simple.” She promised, though simple for her could mean a variety of different things by now. “For instance, the very easiest ward is a simple shield.”

Saying so, she grabbed a nearby scroll and unfurled it, showing a diagram that looked considerably different than what I recognized for spells. For one, it was not a single circle on the outer layer, but there were what appeared to be separate partially completed diagrams tacked on to the side of it. Yet, the very interior of the diagram was still recognizable as the basic shield spell that I had learned long ago.

“All wards consist of at least four components. The link, the spell, the trigger, and the source. The first three are easy to understand, but the source is what really gets people confused all the time, because they can’t understand the principle behind it. According to current scholars, it shouldn’t work.” As said that, she pointed to one of the semicircle diagrams along the outer edge of the pattern.

“As I explained before, the main point behind this is that it siphons mana from any nearby source. When I tried to explain that to people, they denied it because they could not measure the mana being taken. That’s because the siphon regulates the intake to not be more than the individual’s natural recovery, so it doesn’t damage the people it is made to protect.”

When I heard that, I couldn’t help but interrupt. “But wait, what natural recovery? I’ve never noticed any passive regen for mana. Ki, sure, just sit around and wait for a while and it’ll come back slowly. But I’ve never seen anything like that for mana.”

Rinon blinked, but then let out a long sigh. “Let me start from the beginning, then. Some of this is theoretical information, but most of it has been proven. Now, mana is the energy to exert your will onto the world around you, in the form of various spells and abilities, correct?” I nodded my head at that. “Then, where does it come from?”

“The head, right? Or, the brain specifically?”

She smiled slightly at my answer. “That’s right. Mana is simply a thought given energy. When you expend too much of it, your head begins to hurt, like a common headache. Eventually, when you completely run out of mana, your head will hurt so bad that you can’t form a coherent thought. However, like all headaches, it will gradually go away over time. This is the same rate that you recover your mana. Likewise, some healing spells will alleviate the symptoms, and give someone suffering mana exhaustion headaches a brief period where they can use mana again.”

“Now, when your mana is at full capacity, that recovery process is practically nonexistent, because there is nothing to recover. This is where the ward comes in. It saps the mana away in such small amounts that your natural healing abilities make up for it in an instant. If there were just one or two people, that wouldn’t be enough to power a ward. But, with over a thousand elves in the city, plus whatever monsters they bring in, that is more than enough.”

“Imagine that for every one hundred elves, the ward acquires one mana per second. At a thousand elves, that becomes ten per second. Over a hundred thousand mana every day. And that is only for as long as it takes for the ward to fully charge its energy. Once the mana limit is reached, even that little drain won’t be there anymore, until the ward is used.”

I considered her words for a little while, before raising another question. “Doesn’t that make wards too overpowered? I mean, even if it only raises a hundred thousand mana a day, how much could the usage of its effect actually cost?”

At this, Rinon’s smile turned a bit bitter. “Well, that’s where things get complicated. The cost of the spell is directly related to how large it is. For example, say a normal shield spell costs ten mana per minute to completely surround you, but the cost increases when you are hit. To cover an entire city the size of Cau Buhnga, it would cost at least ten thousand times that, just to hold the shield in place. The actual act of defending attacks would also be a major drain. Depending on the storage limit of the ward, it could be entirely drained in under an hour, and need weeks to recharge to its full potential.”

Okay, I had to admit that made it less overwhelming. “But… to store that much mana, it can’t be as simple as drawing the diagram, right?” After all, even an iron sword could only hold a few hundred mana before shattering.

“You’re right, and that’s where things get tricky. At the center of every ward, you need to place a control device that connects to the trigger. This device also has to have an object placed in it that stores the mana for the entire ward. The only thing I’ve found so far that can store that kind of energy without breaking is a pure crystal.” It was at that point that her shoulders began to slump down. “I managed to get one as a reward from the queen for gifting them various items, but that’s just enough for one ward. I won’t be able to do anything for all the other towns.”

I couldn’t help but reach a hand out, patting her shoulder gently as I smiled to her. “Let’s start here. If the ward works, maybe the queen will consider reinforcing the other cities that are in danger as well.”

Her head nodded faintly when she heard that, before her hands came up and lightly slapped her cheeks. “Okay, you’re right. Anyways, we need to make sure that this works first. So, there are two more things that I need to explain to you about wards. The area they cover, and the trigger mechanism.”

Saying that, she took a deep breath before continuing. “For the area, it’s really easy. It is defined by where you place the wards. To create a warded area, you need a minimum of three separate ward markers. The more markers you have, the larger the area and more detailed you can make it. To create a perimeter around the entire city… I imagine we’ll need at least fifty. Each ward marker is simply an item upon which the pattern for the ward is drawn. It can be facing in any direction, but must be within a certain range of its neighbor markers. We can use the city’s walls for this.”

“Finally, the triggering mechanism. After the area of the ward is laid out, you have to define its control point with one final marker placed inside the area. This marker will be different.” To demonstrate, she ran up to her room, grabbed another scroll,  and came down. It seemed to depict a different diagram on it than before, though there were many similarities. “In the triggering mechanism, the trigger diagram takes the primary position, while the main function is outlined on the side.” She pointed out the two big changes, before rolling the scroll up. “We just need to have the crystal embedded within the mechanism, and we can activate it at will.”

Now that she had apparently finished explaining everything, she let out a long sigh of relief, before lifting her head back up. “Now, any questions?”

“Yes, just one… You said that it would take a few days to finish explaining everything to me… that was less than an hour.” I glanced outside, seeing that the sun hadn’t even set yet.

“Oh, that, I was hoping to spend the rest of the time humping like linocs in heat.” She admitted quite readily, causing my mouth to gape open just slightly. “What? You can’t say it wouldn’t be fun. Besides, I really want to know if there would be anything special about a child born from the descended bodies of a Keeper and a Goddess. You have to admit, you are at least a little curious, right?”

“I don’t know which to retort about… that you want to keep me here for sex, or that you want a baby purely for research purposes…” Ryone, you are the Goddess of Magic and Wealth, not Wisdom. Stop taking Accalia’s job.

“Technically, you just retorted about both of them. Besides, we still need to have you practice the diagram a few times to make sure you can get it right while everyone is watching. Knowing you, that should only take a couple days, but then we have to actually carve it into the stone walls thirty times. Unless you feel like training the druid class for a while first so you can do it more easily. The city stopped devoting resources to me when I tried to assert my ‘theories’.”
 


Thal Highborn couldn’t help but smile wryly as he watched the traveler Jayl being dragged away by the Mad Enchanter Rinon. His partner Curihon walked up to him, dark circles under his eyes from the three day duty. “He’s a friend of hers, huh?” He asked skeptically, glancing in the direction that the two had left in.

“Seems that way.” Thal nodded. “I just hope she doesn’t do anything too crazy this time.” He didn’t want another repeat of the ‘city of lights’ incident, where one of her wards managed to accidentally make the entire city, and everyone inside of it glow brightly for over an hour.

“Eh, leave them to what they want to do. We’ve got some time off now.” Curihon said with a faint smile, followed by a yawn. “I could sleep for a week.” Although standing watch alone on the wall for three days was a dangerous job, it was not without its rewards. Specifically, a seven day period after the shift in which they can relax, unless an emergency occurs.

“Right. Say thanks to Levy for me.” Thal said, remembering his partner’s wife waiting for him at home. She was the one who had sent them their rations for the days that they were stuck on the wall, so he wanted to make sure she knew he appreciated it.

“Will do. Try to keep out of trouble.” Thal’s partner said, waving to him wearily as he began moving back towards his home. As for Thal himself, he grabbed a nearby broom and began helping the residents sweep up the mess left by the turtle tide.

It took nearly a week before he saw the wanderer Jayl again, having nearly forgotten about him. When he did see him again, he had a tired expression on his face, as if he had gone through several sleepless nights in order to prepare himself. Meanwhile, the Mad Rinon stood next to him with a beaming smile, practically glowing as the two walked towards the outer walls.

This was her sixth attempt at creating a protective ward for the city, and the residents had long since grown tired of her antics. While they wouldn’t actively stop her, they would also not give her any help, and she would be strictly punished for any mishaps that occurred. She was still working off her debt from her last ward.

Yet, this time it was not Rinon who was carving the wards into the walls, but Jayl. Despite his apparent tired state, he took his time carving one ward after another, evenly spaced along the walls. When each one was done, he would take a few steps back and look at it, before nodding to himself and moving onto the next.

The entire process took him two days, even when he made himself work through the night. Thal had to admit that his dedication and perseverance were worthy of praise, but also lowered his impression of Rinon another level. After all, if not for her standing behind him, watching the entire time with that smile, would Jayl have really put himself through that?

It was late into the second day when he finished the last ward, and anyone could tell that he was barely able to keep himself on his feet by that point.  Several of the residents had offered him food and drink as they saw him stumbling down the road, yet he ignored them all. Nobody seemed to mind, not because they felt he was doing it on purpose, but most simply thought he was too tired to even notice the people around him.

The last that Thal saw of Jayl was when he returned to Rinon’s house. No doubt, he had left the city early the next day, after he had some proper sleep. It must have simply been before Thal returned to duty. Though, even though it was widely accepted that he left early in the day, nobody could actually remember seeing him leave. Thal had ‘invited’ himself over to Rinon’s home in order to check her ward, and confirmed that he had left, so he decided to believe the rumor that had been accepted. Nobody would really know what became of Jayl, the researcher who would soon be known to the entire kingdom.

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