Garth dropped four feet to the hard-packed earth, slapped his hands against the ground, tucked himself into a forward roll, and came up with jazz hands, naked save for the bits of placenta-like material clinging to him here and there.
“Tada!” Garth exclaimed with his body’s first breath, his fingers fluttering.
Caitlyn was kneeling over Garth’s pruny corpse, sobbing her eyes out. She suddenly became very still. Her alone head turned towards him and Garth could almost feel a creaking sound as she did. Ooh, maybe she didn’t think it was funny.
On his current, second consideration, Garth expected Caitlyn to be mad, or terrified, but it didn’t turn out that way.
He was way off.
Caitlyn took one look at him, turned green and puked all over his valuable corpse.
“This is probably right up there in the category of weirdest things I’ve ever done.” Garth muttered, sawing through his pruny corpse’s stomach.
Garth wanted to see what his heartstone looked like, or if his corpse even had one.
Getting to it was almost impossible. Once the body was dead, his newly designed blood-armor had frozen up inside him, turning the entire body into a resin statue with carbon-reinforced bones. Garth grunted, peeling the tough, bio-weave reinforced skin away from the muscles and starting on the abdomen.
Caitlyn was standing off to the side, trying to hold her lunch in.
Probably should have asked Alicia to help dissect myself.
“Jesus…Christ.” Garth panted, sawing away with all his strength. “I...Pity…the…fool.”
Once Garth was through the abdomen, he studied the guts for a moment.
“Come check this out.” Garth called over his shoulder. “Well there’s your problem right there,” Garth said like a car mechanic, wiping the sweat from his brow before tapping the withered organs riddled with black spots as Mike and Ike watched curiously. Caitlyn was looking a little green.
“Internal organs are all fucked up,” Garth said, pointing out his liver, which looked like a bug had chewed away large chunks and shat on other spots. Garth tapped on the guts again, his saw making a Clink!
They were hard as a rock.
Only one way to get through this.
Garth made a wooden pry-bar and started chipping away at his corpse’s abdomen, having to clamp the body down with wood to fight the extreme torque.
“Here, we...gooo.” Garth grunted as he finally got the prybar behind his liver and hauled back on it with all his strength.
Finally his liver snapped out of place, rattling around in his solidified torso. Garth bent down and picked it up, offering it to Caitlyn.
“Here, hold my liver.”
“No, that’s okay.” Caitlyn said, backing away again. It was probably for the best. Garth didn’t want to have to clean vomit off of himself again.
The concept behind the congealed blood that hardening his abdominal cavity into a resin cast had been that when he was hurt, his blood could form a protective coating on the outside of his body. Extra armor where it was needed while he healed. Exactly like a scab, but much faster and stronger.
In this case though, it made dissecting himself infinitely more difficult.
After half an hour of sweaty labor overseen by the three goblin Hunter-Killers, Garth finally withdrew his heartstone.
“Hah!” Garth shouted triumphantly, holding the gem into the light.
The stone leaned toward purple, with a high clarity, a bit bigger than his thumb.
“Not bad,” Garth muttered, cleaning it off before swallowing it. A warmth spread from his chest to every corner of his being as the heartstone kicked in faster than he’d ever experienced.
Kinda makes sense, though. It being mine, after all.
“Is magic always so…” Caitlyn looked around the room, covered in blood and gore, placenta and bile. “Messy?”
“Well, Cait, can I call you Cait? I happen to be aligned with a goddess of life, and life is messy. I imagine if I was the apostle of the goddess of fire, my secret lair would be a lot cleaner. Maybe a bit more charred, though.”
Achievement unlocked, Garth thought, putting his hand on the phylactery interface. Eat your heartstone out.
The powerful scanner flared to life, Garth’s information filling the window as Caitlyn tried to peer over his shoulder.
Apostle of Beladia & Pala
Blessings: Photosynthesis, Temperature resistance, Empowered Plant Magic, Pheremones, Hyper-fertility, Unscryable, Empowered Illusion Magic, Deceitful, Shadow Affinity
Class: Journeyman Phytolich*
Skills: Mana Boost, Mana Channel, Mana Wielding, Spell Theory, Delayed Spell, Recursive Spell, Enchanting, Divine Lantern Style, Create Life, Divine Channeling*
Spells: Control Plants, Design Plant, Force Armor, Forestwalk, Create Fire, Haste, Plant Growth, Teleport, Polymorph, Fly, Shrink, Summon Nature Spirit, Force Shield, Fireball, Telekinesis, Magic Jar, Heal, Illusion, Floating Eye, Scry, Stone Shape, Wall of Stone, Create Water, Warding, Charm, Clarion Call, Operant Conditioning, Bark Skin, Cleanse
Evolutions: Mana Sight, Resilient Mind, Mind palace, Memory Lane, Plant Biology, Control Weather, Racial Advancement.
Oh, that’s good, I only lost 20% of my gains, not including the little boost I got from the higher starting point. It’s almost like I didn’t die. Recycling the heartstone is the way to go.
Apparently I got Channel Divinity and another tier of Phytolich just now. Did the gods see something I didn’t? Maybe this winds up solving the goblin problem, and they know it.
Garth thumbed his chin. I wonder if I could become a legendary creature then eat my own heartstone for a bonus? He shook his head. Probably defeats the point.
“If you wanted to get to your heartstone, why not use the laser cutter?” Caitlyn asked from his shoulder, where she was peeking at his status. Rude.
“If you must know…” Garth paused. Damnit, that would have been way easier. “I wanted to stress test various parts of my body without having to.. you know, be in the body while I did. It’ll help me get a real handle on what my body can take without doing it to myself.”
My reinforced femurs might actually make good weapons. Use every part of the Garth. A sinister idea occurred to Garth as he glanced over at his own body. Is it too macabre to make a fancy cane out of my own leg bones? Nah.
“I see, that makes sense,” she nodded.
“Speaking of the laser cutter, I want you to reassemble that thing, make a cover for its exposed wiring, and clean up this mess!”
She stared at him with a confused expression.
“You wanna learn you gotta work! Chop chop!”
Caitlyn started, and then got to work getting the machine put back together.
In the meantime, Garth had to make her an enchantment for her to fake a grievous injury.
Well, at least my body isn’t actually tired. Garth gave himself a whiff. Still got that fresh-body smell.
At this rate, I’m going to be out of bodies in less than a year, Garth thought, looking around his dungeon.
Well, can’t forget about the minor details.
Garth made a heat and cold generating plant that kept the cave at the ideal temperature, then he created little tufts of grass beside the air intakes that used magic to move wind from one side to the other, un-stifling the air supply.
Garth turned back to the phylactery’s control panel and checked the incubation time.
Incubation time: 13.5 years.
Well, shaved off two years, so that’s nice.
Garth opened up the options menu and cranked up the age of his clones to twenty-five. No more waking up in the body of a teenager. At least, not if he could help it.
Incubation time: 22.5 Years.
Hmm… Looks like we need to up our speed here, a little.
That and… had ingesting raw heartstones forever tainted Garth’s phylactery and prevented him from reaching the most powerful state he possibly could? Garth’s gaze flickered up to the slowly healing brown spot in the bark. I suppose that depends on a few things. If my phylactery has a heartstone, and if it can be tainted.
Garth had never actually seen a physical symptom of heartstone poisoning, no discoloration, or anything like that. Maybe if his phylactery could shed the negative effects, as it seemed to be doing, it could recover just as good as new.
To that effect…
Garth directed the dungeon to create a climbing vine that spiraled its way up his Phylactery, a symbiotic plant designed to draw out any badness it could filter out, and shed that with small fruit. An extra immune system.
Oh right. Speeding up the process. Just make a haste spell that effects the room. shouldn’t be hard. Should be good for keeping the Processing Plant abreast of Mark’s heartstone output too.
Garth instructed the dungeon create a plant in the center of the room, shaped like a throne, that could concentrate time mana locally, and a sharp pain jabbed through his temples.
Feels like a ‘no’. Garth thought, holding his head. Garth wasn’t sure if it was beyond the powers of the dungeon, or simply because he’d overused them recently. Or maybe it was just cuz I wanted a throne.
I’ll come back to that later, Garth thought, allowing the ice pick headache to fade away.
Still got one Mythic Core left, but I’m not sure that’s what I want to use it for. I can probably design a plant to do channel Time mana when I’ve got more power.
Garth turned and patted Mark on the head, squatting down to eye level with his murderous children. For some reason it seemed to improve his Create Life skill when he treated his creations like his children. Go figure.
“Hey there Mark. Yeah, that’s your name. I hope you don’t come to resent me for making you the way that you are, and if you ever find yourself truly wanting to be something more than what I’ve made you to be, come pay me a visit, okay?”
Garth shrugged. “But if everything worked out, you should find nothing in life more fulfilling than infiltrating goblin nests and eating them from the inside out. And who knows, maybe when you’re ready to retire, you can become the chieftain of a little tribe in the middle of nowhere, and hunt them for leisure.”
Garth patted Mark on the shoulder, and the Goblin-looking thing gave him a toothy grin.
“Let me show you where to get started.”
Garth motioned for the three of them to follow him, and waved to Caitlyn on the way out.
“Be right back!”
Caitlyn nodded, absorbed with putting the cutter back together.
Garth led the three goblinoids out the front of the dungeon, cast Forestwalk on them and guided them to the most recent place they’d run into goblins. Garth and Alicia hadn’t gotten all of them. Plenty of the vermin had gotten away, and would eventually regroup here, so this wasn’t a bad place to start.
Garth was distressed at the horrendous smell of the nest, but Mark, Mike, and Ike seemed to be excited. They inspected everything, smelling stuff Garth wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, drooling hungrily.
“Bring it in, boys.” Garth said, motioning them to come closer and kneeling.
“I have to leave you here. I can’t be with you for the rest of your lives.”
Mark gave him puppy eyes, brimming with tears.
“Trust me, you’ll have a happier life doing what you were meant to do. It’s just that hunting goblins and eating them isn’t what I’m meant to do.”
Mark gave him a wide stare, as if surprised.
“I know, I’m a terrible father, but there comes a time when you gotta harden your heart and put your kids on the bus to school.”
He clapped Mark on the shoulder.
“Little man, you’re gonna do great. Listen to your teacher, watch your behavior in public, and if one of the other kids gives you a hard time, kick them in the balls and eat them.”
Garth stood up and began walking away, and Mark looked torn between following him and continuing to investigate the intriguing-smelling empty nest with his progeny.
With one final look, Mark turned to investigate the goblin warren.
Just a stray group of gobs looking for a new home, nothing to see here, Garth thought, wiping a tear from his eye as he left.