232 – The Truth of Storm-soul Cultivation
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A/N: Sorry for the late chapter, SH was throwing Error 522 earlier today.

“Alright, first one. What are those rocks? I recall seeing the same glyphic script on the stones surrounding the Exclusion Zone,” Zel prodded, pointing with a knife at the ward generator. She proceeded to cut off a rib and strip the meat from it with her tongue, only to toss the bone into her mouth, and with horrendous crunching, she devoured it, as well.

The Matriarch’s enigmatic countenance cracked under that first question, her eyebrow raising in a counter question of her own; “Did you now? And here I was, thinking I’d be the one sharing vital information. We scavenge them from old Ankhezian civil war remnants, repurpose their sonomantic enchantment. Lots of theories on the original use, but they’re too numerous to speak on in detail. Controlling whether sound gets in or out of an area has… Many applications.”

“Gotta wonder if some ancient Ankhezian had a hand in the barrier’s construction… And why,” Zel remarked between ravenously, bone-crunchingly devouring mouthfuls of ribs and pieces of meat-onion.

Leaning her head on her hands, Zef added, “It’d explain why the stones turn the E.Z.’s Nigredo into Viriditas at a near-lossless rate.”

“Right, the questions I actually wanted to ask,” Zel circled back after downing a long gulp of the pitcher’s contents. Fork still in her right hand, she continued on with eating the sandswimmer noodles, effortlessly slurping them down between sentences as she spoke. “Here’s my line of thought: If you truly are a Storm-soul Cultivator just as I am, then that cannot be a mere mutagenic transformation. Then there is the incantation, and the fact my own lightning magicks tend towards bestial forms, matching with this transformation of yours…”

As she went on, a half-interested, half-amused smile grew on the Matriarch’s face.

“These thundergods you speak of, what are they?” she continued, finally starting with the questioning. “When I butchered the lightning north of Ubul’s Tomb, did I, in truth, devour an arcane entity without a body of mundane matter?”

Arnys’s smile became a chuckle, then a smoke-filled cough before she shook her head, blinked a few times, and instantaneously regained her previous calm demeanor.

“You very nearly have it figured out already, very good!” praised the Matriarch, as if a teacher hearing a student figure out a desired answer without overtly being told it. She leaned back in her seat, toking from her pipe and kicking her feet up on the table in a manner downright reminiscent of Zel’s own habits. 

“To begin with, know that I am telling you this because there’s no point in withholding this information. I would not be surprised if what I am about to tell you could be found in multiple books or scrolls within these walls,” prefaced Arnys as she performed a series of gestures with her free hand, drawing from her pipe and exhaling a long puff of blue smoke. With another gesture, it froze in place above the table, forming into an approximation of a thundercloud. Yellow sparks flashed within it, miniature lightning bolts striking the table without consequence. 

“Thundergods are, as you already guessed, arcane entities wrought of immaterial essentia, Fulgur being the dominant component of their forms. They can be considered a type of nature spirit, lacking any will of their own, only obeying the very natural laws that their existence embodies. How they manifest, when and what they strike, what forms the magic derived from them takes - everything, a product of nature’s ebb and flow.  How exactly the animalistic manifestation is determined is beyond our reckoning, though each general type of Thundergod has a consistent pattern.”

“When a living creature possessed of a “Greater” or “True” soul - that is to say, something like a human or an Immortal Beast, or even a particularly old tree - splits a lightning bolt, the thundergod from whom that bolt originated is compelled to descend in an effort to resolve the charge imbalance.”

“The ensuing struggle resolves the charge imbalance no matter what. In some cases this kills, or at best, severely maims the would-be recipient as a normal lightning strike would.”

With further gestures still, Arnys manipulated a strand of smoke into a humanoid figure, which held up a tiny sword to the fake cloud, and was struck into smithereens by a spark of yellow. She reshaped the figure, this time making it noticeably bulkier as she continued, showing a bolt striking it, flowing through it, and into the table. A lizard-like shape traveled down the bolt, entering the figure before the discharge ended. The figure doubled over, then stood back up, yellow sparks flashing inside it.

“Ideally, however, should the lightning-splitter somehow withstand the fulguric onslaught, the Thundergod’s deific essence is bound to them, thus rendering them a nascent lightning demigod - a Storm-soul Cultivator. In absorbing a Thundergod in this manner, it becomes a permanent part of the individual, little more than a spiritual organ of sorts.”

She went on to show the same scene again, but this time with a second, lithe figure with a cone hat, who when struck, spun its sword and deflected most of the lightning-bolt off to the side, and along with it, a part of the lizard-like shape, only a third of its total size entering the smoke-person.

“The method of performing this feat matters greatly, as merely deflecting most of the strike will result in a far weaker initial foundation than weathering the discharge in its entirety, as I suspect you did. Unlike other methods, however, the foundation can be reinforced without negative consequence, the price paid is either greater risk in the initial feat, or time spent building up the foundation afterwards.”

Zel had used this time to scarf down most of her meal, now only finishing up the remnants of the greens before moving onto the last rib and pieces of meat-onion that she had saved. Onion ring in hand, she asked, “What of the distinction between my Thundergod and yours, then? What makes them different?”

“As I already said, the form of a Thundergod depends entirely on the circumstances of its manifestation. Therefore, so do the traits imparted unto one who “devours” a Thundergod…” Arnys trailed off, puffing from her pipe. 

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