A chapter rife with foreshadowing, and one that sets the mood for the next leg of the story. Yay for world-building!
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It was night. Outside my window the lights in the mage tower had all gone out meaning Ellie had gone to sleep. It was time to get this thing started.
With a slight mental nudge, I focused on the rank up portion of my status, just like before.
Rank up initiated; insufficient material! Sourcing material from relevant quest objective!
Unlike the last time I did this, I did not enter the strange resource collecting fugue state. Instead, I marveled as reality bent around me. A collection of strange metals, woods, and stones plopped onto the carpet in my bedroom, seemingly pulled from thin air. Once the last one fell, I heard the alert declaring that a quest had been completed, and the quest reward delivered. I wanted to identify all of the strange objects, but before I was able to, the myriad resources started to let off streams of etheric vapor. The multicolored fog filled the room, surrounding me and obscuring my vision with flashes of color and raw power.
Before I knew it, I sensed the gas creeping through my skin. Some of the energy was familiar, but others I could only sense in passing. Overwhelmed by the chaotic energies, I fell into a meditative trance, and worked to make better sense of my body.
The magic cores scattered throughout my body were packed full of the unnatural power. Normally the strange energies would sew death and destruction through my body, similar to what happened when I attuned to order, but something was different. My physical form was no longer bound as it used to be to the rules of the world; it was closer to pure magic, like an elemental should be.
Something about triggering the rank up had made my body clay that the system could then mold. I paused in shock, marveling at how strange and powerful Luna truly was that she could make all of this happen. What’s more, I had that same force living in my brain. It’s surprising I didn’t just explode from all of the power in my head.
Material Component collected! Rank up is now possible.
Multiple paths available; please choose one.
Note: This choice is permanent and will determine your direction for the rest of your life. Choose wisely.
I took the liberty of tailoring your choices a bit, Vic. You had a few too many to deal with because of all of the elements you now have available. I put the good ones at the bottom! – Luna
- Greater Storm Paraelemental Warrior
- Intermediate Storm Elemental
- Lesser Lighting Elemental
- Lesser Water Elemental
- Lesser Air Elemental
- Lesser Chaos Elemental
- Minor Order Elemental
- Minor Fire Elemental
- Minor Earth Elemental
- Minor Nature Elemental
- Thunderbirdkin (Race Change -> Beastkin)
- Storm Fey (Race Change -> Magic Race)
These have the most latent potential, but not necessarily the most power to start!
- Lesser Archfey (Race Change -> Magic Race)
- Lesser Primordial (Humanoid)
Luna really was the best. Obviously, I was going to choose one of the ones she selected. The other options were either upgrades of my current race or other basic elementals, each aligned with a different single element or to a small cluster. That being said, I was still interested in the beastkin race change, as well as the first magic race option. What would the race change entail? I didn’t plan on switching out of the monster race path, but it good to know that there were ways of transcending race restrictions. Unfortunately, they only had attunement to storm, making them disadvantageous.
If I was serious about becoming the champion of Norr, I needed to bee line for a few more elemental magics. Something general that would allow me to touch multiple aetherstreams, without locking me into only a couple of elements. Judging by Luna’s curated choices, she agreed with that sentiment. I went ahead and pulled up the descriptions of the two races she picked out.
This is a juvenile variant of the Archfey, on their way to full maturity.
Archfey are the primogenitor from which all other fey are derived. They most powerful of the Archfey are known to form their own demi-planes from which they rule over their weaker kin. Unlike most other fey, Archfey can grow to over six feet tall even in their lesser variation.
Closely related to their Primordial relatives, these Magic Race are intrinsically bound to mana, and their physical appearances reflect this. A lesser Archfey specializing in Air magic might have bird wings instead of insect wings, and green hair to match, while another specializing in Earth magic would have brown hair and a strong body. This wide variety of appearance often leads to them being confused to other races. These comparisons are often disastrous, as Archfey are extremely prideful beings, and being relegated to a weaker race is seen as deeply offensive.
Lesser Archfey are well known pranksters and usually a naturally whimsical disposition. They relish in the embrace of mana and nature, spending most of their time wiling away in beautiful forests or grottos, misleading travelers who pass by. They are also typically reclusive, tending to stay out of the limelight until they have reached full maturity, and can defend themselves.
That was actually far more attractive than I thought it would be. While I didn’t particularly want to change away from a monster race, this was an interesting possibility. If I didn’t like the other race, I had no problem switching to this in the end. In the worst-case scenario I would just need to get some help from Cindy and Taylor to catch up on my runic magics. It probably wouldn’t be super fun, but I had spent most of my life studying already. At least this would have concrete and immediate benefit to myself.
Lesser Primordial (Humanoid)
This is a juvenile variant of the Primordial Race on their way to full maturity.
Primordial are the primogenitor of the elementals. While one could consider all naturally born elementals a form of primordial, there is a qualitative difference associated with the title given by the system. Primordial are not bound to single elements like most elementals but rather shift their elements at will, representing all forms of life. Like most elementals, primordial have variable form. This particular race is bound to a humanoid appearance, but there are other variants that take the appearance of different monsters or animals.
Primordial are closely related to magic races. They have extremely stable bodies capable of mimicking all physical processes. Most elementals have to focus to maintain their human appearances, but primordial follow this process in reverse, and often struggle to shift away from their base appearances. Lesser primordial have more difficulty than their mature counterparts during this shifting process but are still capable of multiple appearance changes based on their associated elements.
Members of this race usually possess greater than standard intelligence and have ranked up multiple times in order to reach this level, so approach them with respect and caution. They are instinctually territorial, but generally are more inclined towards peaceful resolution rather than physical violence. They also have a preternatural attraction towards things full of natural energy, and a hatred for anything considerably unnatural.
Both choices were pretty good, but I was leaning towards the Primordial for several obvious reasons. This race seemed to take advantage of my unique starting form, being both humanoid and elemental, putting a name, as it were, to my haphazard race. It also helped that the runic language I was learning was the primordial script, meaning I already had some idea of what it entailed. In hindsight, it’s rather clear that both Norr and Luna were pushing me towards this. I was sure it wouldn’t have appeared without the exact materials that I was given to rank up, combined with my unique starting position.
The biggest draw though was the inherent instincts. I loved my current race, and all that it brought to my appearance and abilities, but it had its problems that were difficult to manage. Most notably, my battle instinct made training by myself on anything other than combat a royal pain. I didn’t know what the ‘primordial instincts’ actually meant, but they seemed slightly easier to deal with considering my propensity for solo play.
My mind was made up. Lesser Primordial was the best option.
With a mental nudge, I selected my race. Without H.G. to watch over what I was doing, I didn’t have to worry about additional annoying alerts, and the rank up triggered without problems.
This transformation will take sixteen days to complete, and all materials gathered will be consumed to fulfill the process.
Rank up begins in 3… 2… 1…
When the countdown hit zero, I fell unconscious yet again.
With a gasp, I awoke to the sensation of grass against my wings and back. I rolled over, moving my tail from its uncomfortable position, and opened my eyes. I was back in Norr’s glen.
Rising to my feet, I saw the familiar table once again graced with both Luna, her porcelain features smiling up at me, and Norr, her breathtaking features displaying a pleased expression. Dusting myself off, I walked up the path and sat down at the table.
As I waited, a cup of tea appeared in front of me. I brought it to my lips, relishing the refreshing warmth and clean taste.
“What am I doing here? I thought I would be unconscious through the rank up like before.”
Luna continued to smile as her deep eyes turned towards my face.
“I thought this would be a good time to talk again, considering you’re going to be out of it for such a long time. What race did you end up choosing?”
“I picked Lesser Primordial.”
As I spoke, I heard Luna chuckle lightly, while Norr muttered something under her breath.
With a sigh, Norr reached her hand out, tearing a rift in space, before pulling out a large blue coin. Begrudgingly she passed it to Luna, who gleefully placed it into her pocket.
“You were right mother, as always. I seriously thought she would choose Nature Elemental or Archfey, but I suppose you know her better.”
Wait a second.
“Were you… gambling… on my decision?”
Norr remained stoic, but Luna actually looked at least a little embarrassed.
“Well, yes. I thought it would be fun.”
But wait. If they were betting on what I would choose, why the hell did Luna interfere with my alert? I turned to look at her and raised my eyebrows questioningly. I noticed a very slight shake of her head, urging me to keep quiet, though her expression remained still. Luna cheated. She definitely cheated.
It was too funny to pass up. Putting up a confused expression, I turned towards the small silent goddess with as much sarcasm as my body language could convey.
“But if you were gambling, why did my rank up alert have a message from Luna? She picked out a couple of races for me to choose from and told me those were the best choices.”
Norr turned towards her diminutive mother with a strict expression. Luna let out a long breath and grumbled as she pushed the blue coin back across the table towards Norr.
I had to stifle a laugh at the small girl’s dejected expression.
After the excitement had settled down, I decided to bring up what was weighing on my mind.
“So, what’s going on? Why did you summon me here again? And what was up with that description on my armor, Norr? I thought it would take much longer before I could come back here.”
At my question, the atmosphere around the table quickly became serious. Luna started speaking first.
“I’m sure you are aware that there is a group in Austin that is actively attempting to disrupt my obelisk.”
After I nodded in confirmation, Luna continued.
“This is not an isolated incident. All over the world, obelisks have become obscured one by one. Most of these incidents are isolated to one obelisk going down in the middle of a city, and many have already been reclaimed by the citizens there.
“There are, however, a few notable exceptions. Kyoto, Beijing, Toronto, London, Rio de Janeiro, and… Houston. I have lost connection with every single obelisk representing these major population centers… and this has all happened over the past week.”
I paused, trying to take this information in. Some force was moving across the entire globe, attempting to limit Luna’s influence over the world. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be anything good. Even more disturbing was that the obelisk in the center of Austin had yet to be cleared, and that Houston, a city rather close by, was completely taken over.
“Luna, do you have any idea what happened to these places?”
With a nod of her head, she gestured to Norr, who then picked up the conversation.
“No, not quite yet. Our sight has been… obscured. I cannot even access my direct followers in the affected areas. We are currently in the process of a workaround, but it will take some time to get it functional.”
“What’s the plan?”
Luna smiled grimly.
“The only thing I can do is something I desperately didn’t want. Unfortunately, these incidents forced my hand. I fear that the people who are tampering with the obelisks are attempting to access system capabilities outside their realm of influence, and so I have severed their connection.
“I have changed the class system, permanently. Once you hit level ten, the system now prompts you to select a class. When you have finished the class, you may select another one. Currently, though, the only way to switch out of one class and swap to another without completing it is to use an obelisk.
“The obelisks are designed to force people to stay together. They are there to try and keep strong people centered around clusters of population. My plan worked; all over the world, obelisks are now center points of population growth and commerce. This change shouldn’t effect too much, but I still fear that the strongest people will now have no reason to stay near cities.”
Luna was correct, naturally. It was obvious that the bazaar would not exist had the obelisk not been in Zilker Park to begin with. It was a system-based resource, something that everyone needed, and it brought people together.
Classes opened up new opportunities for everyone. There was no way I could have learned runic magic without the class system, so the obelisks had intrinsic value. If I didn’t have people in the Austin area to care about, staying near the obelisk would be the best choice for my own safety and wellbeing. With the addition of this change, I could foresee many people setting out into the world. This might help them but would reduce the power humanity could muster if it was needed.
This was potentially disastrous, but the obelisks all going down was more concerning. Cutting the connection was the wisest choice, as it removed one of Lunas potential weaknesses. No matter what anyone believed, having Luna in humanities’ corner was a boon.
As I sank into contemplation, my expression began to fall. Norr must have noticed, because she smiled, reaching over to clasp my hand.
“Things will be okay, Vic. The citizens of Earth are a hardy group. You’ll make it through this, together, and I will always do whatever I can to help. Mother is here as well, and she has not been idle. You are stronger as a people than you realize.”
I tried to answer, but words wouldn’t come. Luna looked concerned, but she didn’t voice her thoughts. Norr spoke up again.
“You are doing well, my candidate. Keep doing your best, and you will be fine in the end. As for my request; I would like you to investigate the obelisk in the center of the city, and retake it for mother. With that said, I will let you sleep. You need time to ruminate over your thoughts.”
With a tap to my forehead, I fell back into the comfortable darkness, fading into unconsciousness.