Hi guys, it is Author-sama!

I hope you enjoy this part of the chapter!  I thought about going ahead and writing the rest in one go, but after about eight pages I decided it was a good stopping point for now, so I'll give you all I have for the moment.

I am sorry it took so long.

Okay, now for a bit of catching up.  After working full time for about two and a half months, I have lost my job.  It is all a bunch of drama, so I'm not going to get into it.  I am back into looking for more work.

In the mean time, I will be catching up with writing here, and will finally be pushing toward getting the rest of UO published on Amazon.  I simply haven't had the time, energy, or will to finish up with all the editing and making sure the tables work right lately.

On that note I still haven't gotten my big first paycheck from Amazon, but I was informed that they fixed the issue, so it should all come in by the end of the month.  With my computers graphics card dead, I've been writing on my mom's old rust bucket.  This thing is rather slow, but it'll do the job for now.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the continuation of the chapter!  As always, leave comments, questions and other such goodies if you want.

Also, thank you all who have donated or will continue to do so.  I greatly appreciate the generousity and help!

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The preparations are complete.  Everyone had just about everything they could think of, and more than a few had quite a few things that may only be marginally helpful stashed in their packs.  Edwin himself was carrying literally an armory, smithy, and apothecary full of stuff in his Void Space.

Not to mention a whole bunch of hot, freshly prepared food and drink from the kitchens, courtesy of Allisa.  Edwin himself wasn't sure if it would work, but after looking up the information on his Void Space ability, he was willing to give it a try.

Turns out that any food stored within that place retains the exact same conditions they had going in.  So Edwin had literally stocked up on as much fresh, hot food and drink as possible.  Mostly finished portions already on plates or in bowls.  That meant that when he pulled it out everything was still steaming and fresh.  Or nicely chilled, in the case of the mugs of ale and tea he'd had prepared as well.

It was a great find, to be honest.

The other things that had been left undone were also completed in a generally satisfactory manner.  Edwin's new Mana Sight ability was more under his control, which allowed him to phase it into the background of his usual sight, or to be combined with the Crystal Vision gained from Jottenhiem.  Edwin had literally spent all morning exploring the ability, and even learned a bit about all the mana around him.

He could now figure out which type of mana was which based upon its color, as well as what it was most likely doing depending upon the specific texture or movement.  Stationary mana tends to correspond with objects that are likewise unmoving, such as the earth mana inside of a stone wall.  There is still a bit of movement, a little wiggle room, but not much.  The flickering of the torches, however, tends to cast out spirals and wiggles of fire mana in the form of heat and light.  Not to mention the counter-movements of shadow and dark mana.

That was one thing that had surprised Edwin, when he finally realized what he was looking at.  One type of mana can turn into a different type due to natural processes.  A torch creates both heat and light, which different from each other noticeably while being mirrors of each other.  Shadows and general darkness also give off their own sort of mana, which Edwin dubbed 'dark' mana, which seems to convert other types of mana within its home shadow into more of itself.  The darker the shadow, the more dark mana it produces.

Earth and water mana in the ground and the air turns into a green sort of 'nature' mana within a plant, as well.

Realizing all of that and more had actually been quite interesting, and had kept him busy for so long that Lucien actually had to drag him back to reality while he was studying everything he could see.  It wouldn't do to have the Demon Lord late for his own sanctioned quest, after all.

The other point of interest is what Edwin had learned when casting his own magic.  It was much harder to understand however, and took him several tries to finally realize what he'd witnessed every time he invoked a spell.

When using magic, his mana had partially transformed into the corresponding mana of the types required by the spell, and then used itself to draw in outside mana of the same type to complete the spell.  Like an anchor point and magnet.  The amount of outside mana that could be drawn within a given time frame directly related to how much mana he put towards the spell.  A lot of mana would draw outside mana in very rapidly, thus completing the spell faster.  Less would take a lot longer to finish.  Not using enough of his mana to attract outside mana would cause the spell to either fizzle or to be a very weakened version of the original spell.

Also if there isn't enough of the required outside mana to complete the spell, it would fizzle anyway.  That means that the environment was a factor when it comes to casting different types of spells.  That said, Edwin had learned a trick after realizing all of that.

He could compensate for the lack of a type of mana by adding in the element that naturally fed the type of mana he required.  Say he wanted to cast a fireball under water, where there is very little natural fire mana around.  He could simply feed the spell air mana in order to generate the required amount of fire mana needed.  The rough ratio he was able to come up with is about 1 air mana per 1.2 fire mana required.

He was still getting more out of it than he had to put in, due to the natural feeding of the different types of mana, but actually adding that extra mana to a spell that's already in progress is far, far more costly than simply being able to cast the spell naturally.  Testing it in a bucket of water cost him nearly three times as much mana as usual in order to conjure a simple flame that burned even under the water.

The flame had only lasted a few seconds, but that was more than enough for Edwin to realize that if he needed to he could use just about any type of magic under his command regardless of the circumstances.  His experimentation also gave him an even greater reward, which was more than satisfactory for a morning that was basically wasted regarding everything that had been going on in the Citadel.  

You have gained!
+6 Intelligence
+2 Wisdom
Skill Rank Up!

[quart=Skill Name:,Skill Level:]Skill Rank:,Skill Experience:[/quart]
[quart=Mana Manipulation,2]Apprentice,7.13%[/quart]
The skill that governs your understanding of mana and it's aspects that affect both the living  and the inanimate world around you.  A very useful skill to have for the aspiring magic user, but also for those involved in Alchemy and other scholarly pursuits.

Increases the efficiency of magic (mana cost down).
Increases the regeneration of mana (mana regen up).
Increases the ability to use raw mana.
Increased sensitivity to the flow and control of mana.
Mana Sight (20 feet).
Basic ability to distinguish one type of mana from another.

Increasing your understanding of mana and how it interacts with the world will increase this skills level.

For some reason Edwin's mana manipulation skill had gained a whole bunch of levels during his experimentation, and after reaching level 10 had ranked up, which he had never had happen to him before.  The sudden boost in his sight ability alone was almost overwhelming, as was the new information presented to him in the skill screen.

The more he learns about his skills, the more information is available to him, apparently.

More than that though, he got a hefty amount of stat gains, which make the time spent experimenting more than worth it.

NAMEEdwin CastRACEVoid Demon
Demon Lord / Master of Dungeons10
Physical AttributesStrengthDexterityConstitution
Totals74 (10)56 (10)93 (20)
Mental AttributesIntelligenceWisdomCharisma
Applied AttributesHealthManaStamina
Unused Stat Points5
Demon's Tail is a unique combination trait that allows the growth of a freely shape-shifting, prehensile tail; which can be used both in combat and out.  The tails limitations are directly connected to the levels of the skills associated with it.

Skills unlocked: Tail Whip, Tail Manipulation, Tail Enhancement, Tail Morphing.

Blessing of Goddess Urmis'.
Health regeneration is doubled so long as you continue to maintain the Goddess Urmis blessing.

(Yes, I realized I had messed up the math on how much mana Edwin had while I was working on this part of the chapter.  It has been changed to the proper value.  Let me know if I have messed up anywhere else!)

All in all, Edwin was pleased and used the extra mana and his even faster regeneration rate to pour even more of his power into Jottenhiem.  At least in the time that still remained to do so.  Of course he also spent that same time, slowly gliding toward the throne room pouring mana into Jottenhiem and then extracting it in order to get a better feel of it and hopefully increase the amount he could withdraw at any one time.

As it stands, he can pull about 50 mana per second from the Heart Crystal.  It wasn't a large amount, but it was fairly steady so long as he was able to concentrate on the task.  Especially given that he had poured literally thousands of mana points into the crystal over the night and morning.  Edwin wasn't sure about the exact amount, however.  He had no way of measuring it outside of what dropped out of his own mana bar when he was paying attention.

Which wasn't very often.

Getting to the throne room was both tense and maybe a bit silly.  The great hall had various groups of people milling around.  To one side were the girls, Allisa, Cernette and Deloria.  They were all decked out in their preferred weapons and armor.

Allisa were a slim robe that hugged her curves and then bellowed out a bit around her waist, offering her a decent range of motion.  She was holding a long staffed topped with a gently glowing blue crystal.  It was definitely a far cry from her usual maids outfit that she tended to flaunt around in.

Cernette was wearing leather armor that was thick around her stomach and then up across her chest, abutting into iron pauldrons (shoulder guards) across her shoulders.  She had a bow hung over one arm, and was holding a long spear in the other with a wicked serrated tip of some sort of black metal.  Her long tail was also affixed into some sort of leather battle harness that criss-crossed its long length, ending with a pointed metal cap at the tip that appears rather heavy, almost the ball end of a mace.

No doubt being hit with that would hurt like hell.

Deloria though was decked out in chainmail with pieces of iron plate armor thrown in.  Pauldrons, greaves, gauntlets and heavy boots.  Underneath the chainmail Edwin could see a layer of leather as well, most likely used for padding and extra armor.  She was also wielding her most trusted weapon, a pickaxe tipped with a spike at the end.

All told the three women look like seasoned veterans, and Deloria was even strong enough to maintain her hover over the ground with her wings even when wearing so much weight.  It was kind of absurd.

The next group to catch Edwin's attention was the guards.  They each wore their own medley of favored armor pieces and their preferred weapons.  Many of them were also carrying various types of shields, and a group of them had either bows or crossbows slung across their backs.  Edwin is able to spy an avid mix of goblins, hobgoblins, two wood elves and even a troll within that group.  All of them also carried their packs and were checking their weapons and gear while Cormic watches over them from the sidelines, burly arms crossed and his classical scowl on his face.

The last group were the Adventurers.  An even more varied mix of peoples, all of them of human origin.  Edwin didn't really pay them much attention, except to spy Angela and her cousin, Justin arguing heatedly over something in the background.  He isn't able to tell what they are talking about, and even Jottenhiem says that they are talking too lowly for her to listen in.

Neither of them look very pleased when Edwin walks, or rather glides, into the room.  Justin's face is twisted into a angered sneer and Angela looks simply impassive.  It doesn't stop the two of them from making their way to him though, with Justin trying to step in front of Angela the entire time while glaring at Edwin.

Edwin simply stops and waits for them, with Lucien stepping back two paces to give them a little privacy, even though he watches over them with sharp eyes.

“Edwin, I have decided that it is in our best interest to go with your group and soldiers.  From what I could tell your group doesn't have any real healers, so I'd like to offer...”  Angela starts, only to be cut off by her cousin whose shout draws the attention of everyone.

“Gods above, no!  I am not going to allow you to follow such rabble into the dungeon!”

Edwin's face isn't the only one to darken at the nobles disrespecting tone, and he definitely wasn't the only one who was about to retort.  Thankfully the words never leave his lips, cause Angela turns around and smacks her cousin right then and there with enough force to jerk his head around.  It brings a rather awed silence to the throne room as everyone watches on.

“I care not if you are my cousin, Justin!  Such disrespect will not be tolerated in front of one whose station is considered as high as our own King.  Demon Lord Edwin has proved to be honorable and more virtuous than most.  If you cannot abide by the Accord, then you can remain here until the quest is complete.”

'Oooooooooooh,' erupts from the rest of those gathered, and more than one whispered conversation breaks out at Angela's declaration.  Justin himself flushes crimson, and his hand falls onto the pommel of his sword.  Most of Edwin's men look amused, while several of the human adventurers have gone either pale or angry themselves.

No one else dares to talk or interfere however, and after a moment the pompous noble regains his calm and removes his hand.

“This isn't over, Angela, but you will get your way.  This time.”

Justin sneers, before turning and marching to back to his group, his back stiff and his anger clearly seen in his eyes.  No doubt he is going to be a major headache later.

Edwin though just blows out a sigh and glances over his shoulder to Lucien who gives a nod.

“I accept the offer of your services, Angela.  Truth be told, a healer would be greatly appreciated.  Allisa knows some healing magic, given her affinity of water magic, but outside of a handful of medics who don't have anyone who can use healing magics.”

She looks pleased for a moment, but quickly looks the other way and covers over the look with her usual impassive mask.  Edwin still catches it, and couldn't help a brief grin before turning back toward the rest of the room.  After a moment of looking he nods his head and start to glide toward the center of the chamber.

“Everyone! We are almost ready to begin.  Before we descend, however, I need to inform you all that there is still one other person who will be joining us.  A half-Spectre has been hired to scout out part of the dungeon, and will be meeting us at the entrance in order to hand out copies of a map she has created during the last few days.  Afterwards she will be joining my group.”

He gives a short speech and draw the groups together.

“To expedite this quest, we are going to split into two different groups.  The Adventurers will follow one path, and my group along with thirty or so of the guards will go another.  The rest will remain at the entrance to provide a safe means of exit or escape, as the case may be.  From what we have found, the monsters within the dungeon are weak, but numerous and are rapidly re-summoned after death.  We will likely have to destroy hordes of them to finally reach the central chamber, where the Heart Crystal is.”

Edwin waits for everyone to settle down, given the outbreak of discussions from both sides.  Still, he sees very little fear, and many from the adventurers actually seem excited.  That's good, at least for now.

“Last thing to note is that I plan to capture the Heart Crystal instead of destroying it.  It is old and weak and probably more than a little mad, but that doesn't mean that it cannot be saved.  To that end I'll personally reward whichever group arrives and secures the dungeon heart without damaging it.  Once that is accomplished, we will send a small group out to contact the other group to inform them of the location and to guide them there.  I will take over after that is done.”

He says, getting a few 'aaaahs!' out of the gathered men and women.  No doubt they all have different ideas of what sort of reward Edwin would offer up.  Looking around however, Edwin notices that Justin has an almost evil sneer on his face, and a shiver runs down his spine at the look that is quickly hidden.

That doesn't bode well at all.

“Very well, that is all.  Make the last of your preparations and meet us at the entrance.  Lucien, please have servants standing by to show them the way.  Everyone else, we are going now.”

Edwin says the last and turns around, followed by a large group of his guard along with the women who soon start chatting with Angela over this and that.  Lucien himself leads them down into the under-croft of the citadel, then into the dungeons before going even further down.  Edwin, having never ventured below the citadel, takes the time to look over everything and asks a few questions along the way.

Like any fortress, the under-croft of the citadel holds a vast amount of storage space as well as its aquifer for a steady supply of fresh water.  Along with barracks, bunkers and a variety of nasty traps.  Most of which are so old and unmaintained that they are rusted and utterly useless.  The place is also almost completely barren, the stores emptied long ago.

Just another sign of how far things have fallen.

If attacked, Jottenhiem would have almost no means of holding out against a siege.  It was a depressing thought in and of itself.

Finally they arrive at the heavily bared entrance of the dungeon, but they pause long enough for Lucien to retreat into a side room to change.  When he returns Edwin is quite surprised, because he'd never seen Lucien wear anything other than the butler-like clothing of a manservant.  Now however the older goblinoid is decked out in his own version of chainmail and leathers, along with an iron skullcap on his head.

Lucien also has a slim, round buckler strapped to his left arm and a long, slim sword sheathed at his waist.  A rapier, perhaps.  Definitely a gentleman's weapon.  He also has a whip curled up on his other hip.

Edwin isn't surprised that Lucien notices his rather shocked gaze, and instead gives a wry smile before shrugging his shoulders.

“You thought I'd fight in my best set of clothing?  Foolish, my lord.  A good fight requires good armor and weapons.  Otherwise it wouldn't be a good fight.”

Cormic bursts out laughing at that, and several others snicker a bit while Edwin shakes his head.

“Just never thought I'd see you in anything that was missing twin coat tails, Lucien.  But if you are ready, then we should be on our way.”

Edwin says with a slight grin, before he 'reaches' up and pulls back down his hood, casting himself back into shadows so we can concentrate without the nagging pain.

“You heard the Demon Lord, boys!  Let's get this party started!”  Cormic yells out, while the guards give a rather cheerful and loud roar.

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