The Shattered Isles had always been a thing of mystery. Their very existence was an enigma to be sure, but the way they appeared and disappeared seemed to ignore a number of the laws of magic. Though it was more or less true that anything was possible if one threw enough mana at it, said mana was by no means an infinite resource. The sheer amount of magical energy needed to teleport a landmass the size of the Shattered Isles was astronomical. According to a number of studies, calculations, and estimates, teleporting that much matter over a distance of as little as one kilometer would require about fifteen times more MP than every being on Terrania had combined.
And yet the Shattered Isles came and went as if it was no big deal. That said, their abrupt arrivals and equally expedient departures were, in fact, a very big deal. The impossibly high amount of energy required to pull off such a thing aside, having something the size of a nation appear out of thin air caused devastating damage to the environment. If they cropped up somewhere in the ocean, the water they displaced would raise tremendous waves that wiped out coastal settlements hundreds of kilometers away. If they materialized somewhere in the sky, it would disturb climate patterns for months on end, indirectly ruining countless acres of crops.
The upside was that such an invasive and potentially devastating occurrence did not happen without warning. Like bubbles rising to the surface of a lake just before a drowned corpse floated up from its depths, so too did certain things betray exactly when and where the Shattered Isles would appear. More specifically, it was an unnaturally dense gathering of ambient mana on an enormous scale. Several weeks before the Dragon Festival was slated to begin, scholars across Terrania would use specialized tools to measure abnormal spikes in magical energy. Compiling this data together helped them predict with a reasonable amount of accuracy where in the world the Shattered Isles would emerge.
For this particular occurrence, they had been slated to materialize off of the northeastern coast of the Horkensaft Kingdom, about half of the way towards the shores of the dead continent of Percepeia. This was, of course, rather worrying, as some believed the devastation caused in their wake would stir the proverbial hornet nest that was the Blighted Lands. The upside was that Atica’s shores would suffer relatively little, though coastal settlements had been evacuated nonetheless.
This information had, of course, found its way into the tentacles of one Boxxy T. Morningwood. Having Ranked Up barely two days ago, the ever-increasingly deadly shapeshifter was eagerly awaiting the Festival’s ‘opening ceremony.’ It and its entourage were currently on the deck of the magical ship conjured up by the Admiral’s Luggage, otherwise known as the Pale Pearl. It knew for a fact that it was in the right place, as palpable waves of magic energy seemed to wash over the vessel. Even Jen, who wasn’t all that sensitive to ambient mana, could feel the air itself seemingly undulate to some unheard rhythms. She could see the phenomenon as well since it caused massive uniformly-shaped ripples across the water’s surface.
“You sure it’s a good idea to be so close to the event?” Fizzy asked yet again.
“It’ll be fine,” the massive abomination reassured her. “I don’t see what all the fuss is about. A little water never hurt anybody.”
“Anyway, we still have a few hours to go, so I better get those lazy slackers ready.”
Upon saying that, Boxxy used its Ultimate to pump its INT Attribute as high as it would go. The strength of its familiars’ conjured bodies was based on the MP used in their creation, so temporarily boosting its magical reserves to their utmost limit was an obvious course of action. It even had an Artifact that helped immensely with that - the Portable Mana Battery. It increased the wearer’s maximum MP by 500 and did little else, but its effects stacked wonderfully with magic items that already boosted one’s Intelligence (INT). Not only that, but it had significantly increased all of its six basic Attributes by absorbing all of the Quintessences and frozen corpses it had stored up prior to its Rank Up.
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Name||Boxxy T. Morningwood||Name||Value||Name||Value||Name||Level||Progress||Name||Level||Progress|
|Species||Abomination (Eldritch)||STR||1437||LCK||612||Abomination||3||75%||Blade Dancer||75||MAX|
|HP||35367/35367 (+154.8/sec)||INT||1785||FTH||148||Flamespitter Artificer||50||96%|
As a result, Boxxy’s current base Attributes were rather ridiculous. Its MP especially was somewhere around thirteen thousand after it was done shifting them around. That was a ridiculous amount of magical power to dump into the Summon Familiar Skill, and its pet demons knew this better than anyone. When Xera was re-summoned, the drastic difference in power between her current form and the one she’d had just moments ago made her downright dizzy. It was an intoxicating sensation, to say the least. And given that there was usually only one thing at the forefront of her mind, this led to her wanting something entirely predictable.
She cooed lustfully as she drifted over to the writhing mass of flesh, teeth, and tentacles that Boxxy had become. She was then casually swatted aside like an annoying fly, resulting in at least two compound fractures and several shattered ribs. Having gotten what she wanted, the shameless pervert wallowed in a broken mess at the other end of the deck while her master waited for its MP to recover. Something that would have been a slightly more significant wait if not for Legendary Wisdom.
Description: A being whose analytical thinking and insight are the stuff of legends.
Requirements: Reach 1,000 Wisdom (WIS).
Effects: Increases all XP and Proficiency gains by 10%.
Spells and Skills refund 10% of their MP cost when used.
It would still be a short while before its absurd MP pool could recover, so Boxxy decided to spend that time on something productive, like some last-minute tinkering. However, that was proving to be rather difficult. Not because of the rocking of the ship - it was surprisingly stable, actually - but because it had difficulty manipulating its tools with the same level of precision it used to have when it was still a doppelganger. An abomination’s flesh was constantly in motion, like the surface of a pond on a windy day. Compensating for those involuntary movements while holding onto tiny instruments took intense concentration, but its ridiculous DEX and WIS Attributes made it manageable.
The same could not be said about its attempts to blend in with the enlightened. Though the shapeshifter could, in theory, attempt to pass itself off as one of Percepeia’s estranged giants, but in practice it was nigh-impossible to do so. Its skin would sprout toothed tentacles covered with eyes, and spikes would grow and rip through any clothes or cloaks it attempted to wear. Rings and amulets would mysteriously slide off the slithering appendages they were placed on. Even armor, such as breastplates and greaves, would sink somewhere in the sea of flesh, only to be spat out moments later. Weapons seemed to be a bit easier to handle for some reason, but even holding onto those took a good deal of conscious effort on the monster’s part.
All of this happened subconsciously, as if Boxxy’s new body rejected the idea of civilization. It was, in some ways, the opposite of a doppelganger. Or perhaps, rather than some monstrous instinct or compulsion, it was some kind of mental hang up Boxxy had developed over the whole Keira thing. It wasn’t completely satisfied with how that went down, but it also was not going to complain that it missed out on that ‘Goddess of Love and Compassion’ fiasco, though. Regardless of the cause, it was currently impossible for the shapeshifter to pass itself off as anything other than an abomination. The fact that it seemed to practically radiate mental illness wasn’t helping things, either.
That was fine, though. Boxxy had already left that life of deceit and lies behind. After spending most of its life cooped up and constrained by societal norms, it was now free to go on rampages to its heart’s content, consequences be damned. It wasn’t going to tempt fate by assaulting a capital or anything like that, but it had already depopulated a village or two on the way here, just because it could. Admittedly it had done similar things before, but this time around it had been solely to satisfy its whims. It had been a surprisingly refreshing experience, all things considered.
Long story short, Boxxy no longer felt the need to hide among its food. That was why it currently wore a shape more in-tune with its inner self. Namely that of a monstrous chest with massive teeth, its faux-wood shell covered in spikes and eyes, and a variable number of weaponized tentacles that served as limbs. Simply put, it looked like a mega-mimic of some sort. Boxxy’s subconscious seemed to like this shape quite a bit, as it was able to maintain it without any ‘protests.’ Admittedly it wasn’t as intimidating or combat-oriented as its true form, but it could easily shift into that at a moment’s notice.
Its MLG was another story, however. Though Boxxy was still as proficient as ever at forming and using the organ, the ‘sea of flesh’ aspect of an eldritch abomination meant that it was quite difficult to maintain the delicate gland. As a result, the shapeshifter’s magical sight had a number of blind spots that appeared and disappeared at random. Fortunately, unlike the inability to disguise itself, this seemed to be an issue that could be solved with some good old-fashioned practice. An abomination’s body was quite different from a doppelganger’s, so Boxxy had to break a few old habits and form some new ones if it hoped to make the most out of its prodigal skill at flesh-sculpting. It wasn’t ideal that it couldn’t get this practice out of the way prior to the Dragon Festival, but Boxxy was sure it would get the hang of it soon enough. After all, it had always been a fast learner.
As the monster’s MP recovered, it summoned Kora and then Drea. The sudden power boost they experienced caused both of them to react in a euphoric manner similar to Xera, albeit with considerably less depravity. The keeper demon just flexed and grunted in a shameless display of vanity while the webstalker chittered quietly as she dragged her bladed limbs across her carapace. Fizzy, for her part, just rolled her eyes at their meatbag antics as she healed Xera’s broken body so she’d be fit for duty when the moment came. Jen ignored all of that and sat cross-legged on the deck meditating, though her minute body language suggested she was raring to go.
Then, as Boxxy was double-checking its last-minute preparations, ‘it’ happened. A thunderous boom and a blinding light heralded the appearance of the Shattered Isles. The landmass instantly displaced incalculable tons of ocean water, kicking up a titanic wave nearly thirty meters in height. The magical construct masquerading as a ship was instantly capsized and swallowed up by the wall of water. The shapeshifter stuffed Fizzy inside its Storage and dove into the wave along with its familiars while Jen darted skywards to fly over it.
Much like Boxxy had summarized, ‘a little water’ was nothing to get worked up about. The only arguably bad thing that happened was that the Pale Pearl was destroyed, but that was hardly a major loss. The shapeshifter didn’t really need the ship anyway. Unlike its previous nautical adventure, its destination this time around was much more obvious. It and the rest of its posse had arrived on this spot by air since it was faster, and were only using the magic ship as a staging ground of sorts. There were some concerns over running into other ships, but the rest of the Festival’s attendees hadn’t seemed keen on having their vessels swallowed up by the ‘opening ceremony.’ Which was to say that the shapeshifter and its crew would likely be among the first to set foot on the dragons’ homeland in twenty or so years.
Said homeland didn’t seem too keen to accept visitors, of course. Upon resurfacing, Boxxy saw an immense vaguely dome-shaped mass of rapidly shifting colors, mostly violet, green, red, and mixtures in-between. This barrier of semi-solid mana was the border between Terrania and the Shattered Isles, with the landmass’s vague outline barely visible beyond the mostly opaque dome. The only real purpose it seemed to fulfil was to make it abundantly clear where one needed to be in order to avoid disappearing along with the Shattered Isles once the festival concluded.
The chest-shaped abomination began making its way towards the barrier while doing its best impression of an alien squid. It passed through the underwater portion of the several-meter-thick bubble, which caused its entire body to tingle uncomfortably as if it was going numb. Immediately upon emerging on the inside, it realized that the surrounding water was quite literally boiling. Rather intensely, at that. It and Snack were perfectly fine since they had Fire Affinity, but Claws and Arms weren’t so lucky and were taking damage from the heat. The shore was several hundred meters away, but they would be able to make it there without losing too much HP since their ridiculous Attributes would allow them to cover that distance in just a few minutes.
Your body begins to feed off the ambient mana. Automatic HP and MP recovery increased by 500%.
After resurfacing, however, the shapeshifter was suddenly assaulted by the anomalous region’s rampant magical energies. It wasn’t drinking up the mana - it was practically drowning in it. The way it forced itself into its body was akin to seawater rushing through a hole in the bottom of a ship. The pressure was so immense that Boxxy momentarily found itself unable to take a breath, but managed to remain calm as it still had some gills formed on the submerged parts of its body. It was an odd sensation, breathing water while simultaneously drowning on air, but after a minute or so the creature managed to get used to the environment and normalized its breathing. Once it had finished collecting itself, it wasted no more time and swam towards the closest piece of land.
Once finally ashore, Boxxy was greeted with a bleak landscape. Despite being next to the ocean, the beach was nothing but dry, cracked dirt, and the rocky terrain beyond it didn’t seem hospitable in the slightest. It was difficult to believe anything could last more than a week or so in this barren wasteland. At the same time, the shapeshifter could practically feel magic rise up from the cracks in the soil like a hot draft. This struck Boxxy as odd since past experiences had taught it that life usually flourished where mana was abundant, but perhaps this was too much of it.
Speaking of which, ‘abundant’ was far too weak a word to describe the concentration of magical energy in the air. ‘Overflowing’ was far more apt. One didn’t need supernatural perception to notice the mana around this place, as it gathered together in thin fog clouds that tinted everything a slight shade of purple. These volatile clouds would also occasionally produce minor phenomena. They would, among other things, randomly explode into fire and smoke, crackle with electricity, cause miniature tornadoes, or shower the ground with shards of ice that evaporated instantly. These anomalies were too small in scope and too weak in power to be of any threat to anyone, though Boxxy knew better than to simply ignore them. They were, after all, the early warning signs of something far, far worse.
Just to be sure, the shapeshifter reached into its storage and pulled out Vigilance, the sentient sword that had allegedly been through several Dragon Festivals. Its experience would surely be a huge boon to Boxxy going forward, though it had its doubts that Vergil, the consciousness that inhabited it, had gone rather senile. Still, it was better to have it than not.
“Oh! Good morning, sir,” Vergil greeted its owner in a chipper tone of voice. “I see we have safely arrived at our destination.”
The eye-like ornament in its hilt then scanned the area, after which the sword spoke up again, this time sounding more concerned.
“Though, I daresay it would be wise of us to vacate the area immediately.”
“An ether storm is coming, right?” Boxxy wanted confirmation.
“Indeed, sir. This area is likely a hotspot for them.”
Ether storms were one of the most dangerous things on the Shattered Isles, second only to the elder dragons that ruled over them. They could have terrible consequences for anyone or anything caught in their wake. Living beings could suffer a myriad of problems, such as sporadic mutation, permanent nerve damage, and death via extreme and instantaneous dehydration. Magic items, on the other hand, could develop curses or lose their properties entirely, while unenchanted objects would more often than not simply crumble to dust.
Needless to say, Boxxy wanted to avoid getting caught in one of those things, even if it felt rather confident that its abominable constitution would allow it to emerge more or less unscathed.
“How long before it hits?” the shapeshifter asked the weapon.
“It is difficult to say, sir,” Vergil replied. “Could be in a minute. Could be in a week.”
“We should be safe for a few hours at the least,” Jen chimed in.
“How do you figure that?” Boxxy turned to her.
The harpy lifted her left hand up to her face. She focused her Ki into her fingertips and then made a snapping motion with them. This produced an odd sound like glass breaking as her hand was encased in a thin layer of white ice that evaporated almost as quickly as it had appeared.
“If an ether storm was about to hit anytime soon, my entire arm would’ve been encased in ice when I did that,” she explained.
“Huh. Neat trick. How does it work, though?”
“No clue,” she shrugged. “It just does.”
“Did Edward teach you that when you were last here?”
“No. I figured it out by myself,” she declared with the tiniest bit of pride in her voice.
“I see. That’ll be handy to have. Keep an eye on that and let me know if it suddenly changes.”
“Affirmative,” she nodded, then turned around with a slight smile on her lips. “Heh. Handy. Hehehe…”
The abomination graciously ignored the harpy’s dry chuckle as it turned its attention away from her and towards its Storage. Now that it knew it had more than a few minutes to spare, it could bring out the last member of its entourage. After retrieving a very special seed, Boxxy planted it in the dry and cracked soil and waited. Just as before, a verdant and overtly feminine spriggan grew rapidly from the spot. The humanoid tree then opened its eyes and its wooden face blossomed into a smile.
“‘Tis good to- Hack! Koff! Koff! Koff!”
Ambrosia opened her mouth to greet Boxxy, but immediately reeled back and started coughing. The shapeshifter was about to ask what was wrong, but then it noticed that the faint purple fog around it seemed to be flowing into the spriggan’s bark. It would appear the dryad was quite literally choking on the mana in the air. She had likely underestimated just how, for lack of a better word, invasive the Shattered Isles’ atmosphere was. Boxxy had experienced a similar reaction after emerging from that boiling water, so it figured she just needed some time to adjust.
While she did that, Boxxy once more looked to its Storage, this time intending to fully equip its entourage for the battles ahead. It had already picked out a number of Artifacts to hand out to each of the monster-girls, each one picked specifically for them. First on the list was Fizzy. As Boxxy’s most prized shiny, she got somewhat preferential treatment. For a weapon, she was given a massive crystalline sledgehammer called Ridley’s Rattler. Next was Aethereal Repository #3, the Artifact-grade belt with Storage-like capabilities formerly in the possession of one Keira Morgana, which was now slung over Fizzy’s shoulder like a bandolier. Its many compartments had been filled to the brim with explosives, bombs, grenades, landmines, munitions, ordnance, and explosives.
Up next were the mithril shells that her alter egos usually occupied. They were normally kept out of danger since replacing them would be incredibly difficult, but that was before Boxxy’s hoard was overflowing with spare parts. At present making new golem-dolls would be child’s play, so there was not much reason not to have them assist in the festivities. As such, Plus, Minus, and even Null’s spare bodies were brought out of Storage and then given ‘life’ by Fizzy’s Animate Armour Skill. Their job was to provide support as best they could, hence why they were also given some extra gear. Plus had the Gnomish Death Ray hooked up to her chest plate so she could vaporize things, and Null was carrying a large toolbox in case something needed to be cobbled together on the fly. Last but not least, Minus was holding Fizzy’s Novaspike hammer, which housed the soon-to-be-patented DILDO.
Its creator had intended to change that name eventually, but somehow never got around to it, and it ended up sticking.
Jen was a lot easier to gear up. As a Monk, she really didn’t need any magic items beyond the usual Masterwork-grade outfit she wore, which amplified her Ki-based abilities, and the Royal Negotiator, the black metal staff she used as her preferred weapon of choice. Still, Boxxy did not neglect to give her an item called the Divine Decree, though it did so slightly reluctantly. Sure, it was a significant boost to Jen’s relatively low FTH and could be used to instantly sanctify a patch of land as with Fizzy’s Consecrate Spell, but it was also a brilliant diamond ring. Even if it was only temporarily letting the griffin-girl have the thing, it took a fair bit of effort for the greedy shapeshifter to willingly part with one of its shinier trinkets.
That said, the one who got the most magic items from Boxxy turned out to be Xera. She was given two weapons - a barbed metal whip and an obsidian staff that glowed red like magma in certain parts. Both of these were Artifacts meant to amplify her offensive abilities. She was also given a six-piece set of dragonhide armor, known collectively as the Stalker’s Guise. Xera had a history of getting eliminated by stray spells due to her relatively fragile body and twisted ‘accident-prone’ personality, so some extreme measures were necessary. The only downside was that she wouldn’t be able to disguise herself effectively so long as she wore this stuff, but the time for that sort of thing had already come and gone.
Next up on the list was Kora. She already came with a rather impressive set of armor, which was fortunate as Boxxy didn’t have anything that would fit her arrangement of limbs. Still, it had a few things for her. One of those was the Portable Mana Battery, which it would hand over to her once it was done with it. It also gave her a helmet that completely encased her head without exposing her eyes or ears, and a brand-new metal gauntlet for her to hit things with. Sure, Kora already had six of those, but none of them sparkled with the fury of a raging thunderstorm quite like this particular Artifact.
It was then Drea’s turn. Like all demonic familiars, she already came equipped with all the natural weapons she needed to do her job, but as with the other two, there was room for improvement. In her case, it came in the form of a fancy magic cloak that just barely fit over her back-mounted scythes. Boxxy then helped alleviate one of her greatest weaknesses - her inability to attack at range - by employing its most recently acquired Warlock Skill.
Description: The unbreakable bond between master and servant allows the Warlock to lend a portion of their arcane might to a bound familiar.
Requirements: Level 85 Warlock, Malefic Union
Activation Time: 3 seconds
Cost: 30% of max MP
Range: 2 Meters
Effects: Conjures a semi-autonomous grimoire and binds it to a summoned familiar.
The grimoire will follow its bonded familiar and respond to their mental directions.
The grimoire cannot recover MP and starts with 60% of the MP used in its creation.
The grimoire can use any Spell its creator knows of at 30% of their regular effectiveness.
Increases the grimoire’s Spell effectiveness ratio by 3% per Level of this Skill.
Increases the grimoire’s MP by an extra 2% of the MP used in its creation per Level of this Skill.
The grimoire persists until its MP is exhausted, it is destroyed, or a new one is created.
When it used the Skill in question, a brown leather-bound tome with the image of a demonic skull on the cover appeared out of thin air. It hovered ominously over Drea’s shoulder, eagerly awaiting her commands. And since its creator was both a Warlock and a Wizard, it had a rather impressive array of Spells to work with. Even if they could be used at only a fraction of Boxxy’s mystical might, there were some among them that were very nice to have at a moment’s notice. Most notably Dark Infusion, True Darkness, Weightless Space, and De-spell.
Aside from all of that, Boxxy also had a couple of things set aside for Ambrosia’s remote-controlled spriggan body. Namely the Branching Path, the Warped Conduit, and the Divorce Attorney. These were, respectively, a druidic staff, a shamanistic spellcasting focus, and a single earring in the shape of a metallic skull that looked far more sinister than its questionable name would imply. Last but not least, the chest-minded abomination had only reserved weaponry for itself like the Voidcaller staff, the Winter’s Bite longbow, Virgil the sentient sword, and the twin daggers, Daybreak and Nightfall.
Of course, these items had barely even begun to scratch the extent of the shapeshifter’s wondrous collection. However, these were the only ones that would be useful to itself and its entourage in any meaningful way. For instance, there was an Artifact called the Pillar of the Caged Cod, which was a fishing pole, of all things. Boxxy couldn’t even begin to fathom what sort of absurdity had taken place for something that pointlessly powerful to exist. Admittedly that was something of an exception, as there were still a fair few items that Boxxy would’ve liked to use if at all possible. Unfortunately, its new form seemed to be incompatible with most forms of armor, clothing, and jewelry, so the majority of its Artifact collection was left behind in its dungeon lair.
It could have brought all those treasures along, of course, but it needed the extra Storage space for all that wonderfully shiny loot it was about to... ‘acquire.’