I left Ansae to bathe and nap, though she promised she’d be easier to wake the next time, and went to catch up on my material production. Not only had I neglected my Anvils while I was paying attention to Ansae, but my refineries had actually borne fruit. That surprised me for some reason, even though all of my dungeon stuff worked more or less as advertised.
What it gave me wasn’t regular old quartz but rather [Spellquartz], because obviously something as intensely magical as myself wouldn’t make mundane materials. That was irritating because I wanted ordinary quartz, though I probably should have been glad that I got quartz at all. I could easily have gotten magical stone or obsidian instead though, if I were to bet, I’d say obsidian had more volcanic Affinity than earth.
Just because it was magical didn’t mean it wasn’t quartz, though. [Customization] still allowed me to change the texture and color of my Stonesteel and Adamant stone, and that was at least as much a change in elemental content as the various types of quartz had. My laser and the fusion origin of the [Contained Stars] showed that atomic theory still held, so I figured other forms of chemistry did too, they were just muddled by mana stuff.
I plopped down a bunch of it in crystal formations in the grasslands Climate, figuring that was fairly neutral, and started fiddling. Agate, amethyst, citrine, carnelian, onyx, rose quartz, smokey quartz. It more or less worked, each quartz variant shifting the mana that was inside it just slightly. It seemed the different varieties had different Affinity preferences, and I’d need to put the outcrops where the Affinities were to get something other than mildly Affinity-prone gems. Agate to Kinetic, amethyst to healing, citrine to fire, and the like. I could see how a Great Dungeon or mana spring would end up with outcrops of all kinds of out-of-place materials.
With that experience, I linked a bunch of Refineries to different mana Affinity crystals and set them processing. From what I understood, my purity of mana actually worked against me in some ways, because while I could make this stuff pretty easily it didn’t have any specific character. It only got specific Skills or the like when worked into a finished good. I had Taelah and Shayma and an entire Village though, so that probably wouldn’t be an issue.
“Blue, I’d like to discuss having a summit next week,” Iniri said, pulling my attention away from my fiddling.
“A summit? I think I missed something. Oh wait, Ir is coming, isn’t it? Er, aren’t they?” I’d caught that much, at least, with Wright discussing a trip to come see myself and Iniri both. He seemed a fairly reasonable chap, which was encouraging considering all the unreasonableness we’d already dealt with. Especially since, as a fifth-tier and the ruler of a good chunk of the continent, he’d be a pain to deal with.
“Ir, and I’m sending out invitations to our neighbors as well. Nobody missed the end the battle, either your part or The Silver Woe’s, so there’s a good excuse to get everyone together and clear the air. Not to mention normalize relations now that Tarnil has come back to life.”
“Makes sense. Next week seems quick, though.”
“Normally I’d want several months to prepare, yes, but better to take advantage of events as they happen. Besides, the sooner we can strong-arm everyone into acknowledging you as your own polity, the better.”
“Oh right! Yeah, that would be good. I’d hate to start a war by messing up some idiot who decided to go after you or my Village or my Scalemind or something.”
“No, we can’t have that,” Iniri said with a smile.
“Right, so what do I need to do? I’m assuming we need to wow them somehow.”
“Yes, the Palace will suffice for housing them, but maybe some sort of pavilion with your special touch would be good, and Shayma would join us of course. Taelah as well if she’d like. I’m not sure about The Silver Woe — I’m hardly in a position to invite her.”
“You can still call her Ansae, I think. She’s not really involved in the politics of this, so she probably won’t care, but I’ll ask her when she wakes up again.”
“Thank you,” Iniri said fervently. She was taking Ansae’s identity pretty hard, but maybe that was just because she didn’t have the interactions with her that I did. Nor did she get to see Ansae snuggle Shayma like an oversized teddy, which was amazing. “Besides that, a showing of what Tarnil has to trade — so in a way, what you have to trade. There can’t be a demand for something nobody knows exists.”
“Oh, that’s fantastic, since I have a bunch of stuff I can make in bulk now, as well as the supermaterials. I’ll get Shayma to bring some goods from the Village, and if you can rope in Piping Hot Pies, some pastries. How about showing them a [Contained Star] ignition? At a safe remove of course.”
“Hmm.” Iniri tapped a finger thoughtfully against her desk. “It’s not like we can hide that you’re making them, so showing it off directly is a fantastic idea if we couch it right.”
“There’s a wrong way to show off a star forge?”
“Yes,” Iniri said firmly. “It needs to be something you do, not something directly connected with my negotiations, so it doesn’t look like we’re threatening them. At the same time, it should come right about when people start digging in their heels, to remind them of exactly what you are.”
“I’ll let you be in charge of the timing. Easy enough for me to do it on cue once I have the materials saved up.” That was the sort of political stuff that I wanted to avoid, but it was really petty to complain about just making sure I showed up on time and built a pretty showcase area. Sure, I didn’t have to, but being a Power wasn’t an excuse for being lazy. “Give me a minute and I can get you samples of everything but the supermaterials.”
Thinking about it, I was pretty sure that nobody knew all the various types of stones and metals and glasses and whatnot I could make. Even I was having trouble keeping track of it, though at least once I made stuff it got tracked in my overlay. Which meant my resource window was getting really big. I started sorting and then realized that Iniri’s office was nowhere near large enough.
Since I needed to show off the stuff anyway, I figured I might as well organize things real quick, and made a new room to handle it. In a way it didn’t matter where it was, since it was both temporary and something I’d be teleporting people to anyhow, but for the moment I put it under Shayma’s beach house. The final version would probably be somewhere they could watch the star forge.
It was a hell of a spread when I laid it all out. Various ranks of stone, iron, copper, gold, silver, bronze. Glass, the normal stuff and a mana-tempered version I didn’t remember making, tayantan wood. There was one of the [Skystone] meteorites with flecks of [Sky Iron] and [Starmetal], which I desperately needed to test, along with the [Prismatic Glass] from where it landed. Bunches of Sources, and I set aside a stellar Source for Ansae when she woke up, and little samples of the liquid mana from the Affinity pools in tiny glass vials. I left the fruits and spices and so on for The Village; that stuff would be represented in foods and maybe something of Taelah’s if she wanted.
Besides, if I were to have a full accounting of every useful thing in my Climates it’d take weeks to go through it all. As I understood it, none of that was actually unique, but rather was being pulled from whatever native area the Climate was aping. It was the tayan-stuff that was unique to me, though I had no idea what that prefix was supposed to mean.
Once I’d scraped together a bit of everything, including the various magical gems I’d only just figured out, I opened a portal for Iniri. So far, I thought I was doing pretty good in my attempt to break the habit of just teleporting people where I needed them. I might still end up doing that when necessary, but now that I could more or less talk to Iniri and Taelah it was rude not to give them the choice.
“Gods above, that’s a lot of things,” Iniri said once she stepped through the portal. Everything was arranged on pedestals, by category, in a big square room. Being able to see it all at once definitely heightened the impact. “I don’t know what all of it is, but considering it’s you I imagine it’s all potent.”
“Yeah, some of it is probably fairly generic, but since I can supply the [Spellquartz] and its variants in ten-kilo chunks I imagine the quantity will help. I don’t have any of the supermaterials here, I’ll leave it to you what you think is best to show off and what to reserve.”
“Not Firmament, not yet. It’s unfortunate that Tor Kot knows about it, but that is just too enticing. I’d be afraid that Wright would just want it all to himself. Most of the rest is more curiosity, especially since you can’t make it in bulk. Or nobody else could use it.” Iniri frowned thoughtfully. “Maybe the Anecrux. That’s something everyone could use, but doesn’t have a completely absurd property.”
“Yeah that makes sense. Especially since I’m not really interested in trading Firmament.” Not until I had a goodly amount of [Contained Stars] and Sienne’s present finished anyway.
“All this will definitely be a useful diplomatic hammer,” Iniri said. “Though I’m guessing you’ll have something a little more grand for the actual event? I don’t imagine you’ll want to present it in a big empty room.”
“Oh yeah. I’ve got an idea.” I had hundred-kilometer-high walls around the Caldera now, which meant one hell of a view. Admittedly, a view of mostly bare stone, but some Climates could solve that issue fairly quickly. I needed to fix that anyway, so it wasn’t like it was any extra work. Iniri waited, an eyebrow raised, but I wanted to surprise her, so I didn’t elaborate on it.
“Oh, while we’re discussing things, I have a number of petitions that are aimed at you.” She said, and she didn’t look particularly happy.
“Well, most of them just got burned. There’s no point in showing you anyone complaining about you saving their lives, but there are some that I need to put to you. Some, not many, but some of the dungeon-wives from the formerly-occupied cities have been petitioning to have you take them up as dungeon-wives now that Tor Kot is gone.”
“Oh god no.” I didn’t even have to think about it. Even if I technically had dungeon wives, the little I’d seen of Tor Kot and the red core dungeons made me want absolutely nothing to do with them.
“I understand that reaction, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that more Companions would help you. There’s only the three of us right now, and these dungeon-wives would be perfect recruits for you.”
“I mean. Yeah, I guess more Companions would be good in theory. But it’s not like just getting a new sword forged or something. These are people that I have to live with for the rest of their lives. Besides, they have to be aligned with me pretty strongly to get any use from them if we’re doing this pragmatically.”
“I understand that,” Iniri said. “But you really should at least consider it. Maybe send Shayma around to talk to them?”
“I suppose so. I don’t imagine I’ll be interested though.” Yes, having more Companions would make me more powerful, in theory. But it was an inconsistent sort of power and I was expanding my capabilities handily enough. I already felt I was spread kind of thin with three Companions to pay attention to, even if Iniri was mostly independent, and introducing probably-unstable women into the mix didn’t seem a promising proposal. Especially since they’d have immediate access to Companion Concord, so it wasn’t just my ear they’d be in all the time.
The Hurricane had shown me how unpleasant it could be to run into someone whose interests were, to say the least, not congruent with mine, and I doubted any of these dungeon-wives would be on my side the way my other Companions were. Even if I had Dreams-Ahead make sure they were sane, they were volunteering either on the basis of sexual kink or theoretical luxury. Neither of which seemed appealing and I was well aware of how much I’d lucked out with Shayma and Taelah and Iniri.
Iniri gave me a full schedule, albeit with large blank spots for me doing what I wanted to do, and went back to the Palace around the time Shayma was getting up. Which was amusing because they were so very close in space but still completely missed each other. As soon as Iniri was gone I Relocated the entire collection to the treasury and filled in the space beneath Shayma’s beach house. Though it did give me the idea to do some nice sea caverns just to have somewhere neat for my Companions to hang out.
“So, Iniri wants me to screen some of the former dungeon-wives who want to be my dungeon-wife instead as potential Companions. I don’t really think that’ll work but it might be worth it?”
“Mm.” Shayma nodded. “If your leveling is linked to Companions and Depletion removal now, you really should think about it. Purifying them, even if you don’t make them a Companion.”
“I’ll think about it but no promises.”
“I think you’d actually benefit more from getting Iniri to be closer,” Shayma grinned. “Poor thing could probably benefit from having your attentions on a regular basis.”
“I think you just want a repeat of last time.”
I distracted myself with Shayma for an hour or so before I let her go, though it was actually to meet with One-Eye-Green and not with one of Iniri’s candidates. Setting up meetings with the various women would take a little bit of preparation, on both Shayma’s part and mine.
“Missus Shayma—” I had no idea when One-Eye-Green had started calling her that “—Big Brother and Big Sister want to know if Mister Blue did something. Our memories? I think? Are different today than they used to be. There’s more to them now.”
I’d forgotten about the Habitation benefit already, but the first thing the Scalemind asked when she saw Shayma made me remember. In truth I’d not really been treating the Scalemind as if they were as important as the Village, and I probably should have been. They were my link with actual monsters as well as the Underneath. The Underneath hadn’t yet thrown anything horrible at me, but it was probably just a matter of time.
“Umm. Habitation specialization, right. It said that the Scalemind get greater finesse with their mind magic. I hadn’t thought about the fact that would impact their own minds.”
“You do too much stuff while I’m busy or sleeping,” Shayma said, shaking her head before focusing on One-Eye-Green. “Blue has provided a boon to all his inhabitants. For the Scaleminds, it’s improved mind magic finesse.”
“Oh! That’s very nice! Thank you, Mister Blue!”
“You’re welcome,” I said through Shayma. One-Eye-Green’s diction had come a long way since the Scalemind first appeared, and her hiss was barely noticeable. “Any particular effects beyond clearer heads?”
“Big Brother and Big Sister felt clearer when Sharing,” One-Eye-Green told Shayma. “You do too. I can almost hear Mister Blue Sharing with you.”
“Hmm.” I had an idea, but I didn’t know if it was a good one. “If they’ve got better finesse and insight, see if Dreams-Ahead and Cuts-Like-Cold think if they could manage visiting the Village. If they want ideas on what it’s like to be a civilized race, I can’t think of a better place to start.”
“You should ask Taelah about that first,” Shayma pointed out.
“Yes, yes I should.” I was glad I had people who reminded me of things like that. “Taelah, would you be willing to entertain a couple Scalemind guests at the Village? It’ll have to be a tentative thing, in case they can’t manage it without hurting people, but I’m thinking you all are the best model they could have for becoming not-monsters.”
Taelah was in the middle of what looked to be a community canning session, though using clay and alchemical sealant rather than glass jars, which made me realize that it really was getting on toward winter. I actually didn’t know if I’d get seasonal variations in my Climates, though I probably would. Even so, I could probably set it up so that the Village could harvest year-round, but so long as they had plenty of food, I didn’t see the point.
“Certainly, husband, though I’ll have to meet them first,” Taelah said, scooping some sort of cooked root vegetable into the clay jars. One of the children ran past her toting a basket of berries, and Taelah grabbed a berry and popped it in her mouth. “Can it wait until after we’re done here?”
“Of course. I have to pitch it to them too. Just wanted to clear it with you.”
“Maybe this evening after we get everything done, or even tomorrow,” Taelah suggested.
“Works for me,” I said, and filled in Shayma, who outlined it to One-Eye-Green in turn. The expressions Taelah was making during the process made me think that Shayma was saying something over [Companion Link]. I was actually glad they had some way to talk that I couldn’t hear, but I was pretty sure they were talking about me.
While Shayma and Taelah were doing their thing, I went and checked on some of my longer-term projects. The floating fortress was still being combed over by Iniri’s crew, but everything I wanted to do with it needed a lot of expertise. The existing armament and control schemes were entirely reliant on the mage-kings directing everything and I wanted to be able to do things on my own recognizance.
I couldn’t just interface with the systems the way the mage-kings did. Shayma or Iniri or even Taelah probably could, given some practice, but I knew from experience that ordinary magical items didn’t play well with my dungeon biology. Even something as simple as the Status sigil was pretty difficult to sustain without something terrible happening, so the finesse required for controlling those air engines was way beyond me. Not to mention everything else.
There was probably something I could do with [Mana Geometries], even if it was just emulating simple logic gates or dials. The [Linked Core Lattice Gems] would probably be helpful too, since I was pretty sure they helped me exercise more direct control, but I’d have to work around the communications problem. No matter what the solution was, it wasn’t going to be one I could come up with or make by myself. It would also have to come after the summit.
Moving on, I had enough material to build a few more Anvils, slowly expanding my manufacturing capacity. Unfortunately, it was still manual, so I had to poke them once an hour or so to cycle through materials and that was getting more and more tedious the more Anvils I had. Not that I was really complaining about having more supermaterials, but I knew I was going to start bobbling the timing and forget about it for a day or something.
I set aside [Firmament] and [Stellar Fragments] for the showpiece [Contained Star], though I’d probably have enough for two stars by the time they swung by. Considering I still owed people stars – well, I didn’t technically owe them, but I definitely wanted to give them to my Companions and I really needed more of Ansae’s expertise – I’d probably be focusing on star production for the immediate future.
From there I moved onto the Caldera. Since it was finally finished and stable, I had a couple million square kilometers to fill with Climates. The area around Ansae’s tower had given me a lot of practice with meshing together different ones as well as changing the way single Climates presented themselves, so I had a lot to draw from when I went to make the much, much larger versions.
As a rough outline I raised a bunch of mountains in the north of the Caldera, linking up with the Caldera wall, and made a big lakebed between it and Ansae’s central tower. I bent it around into a sort of crescent, one shore of which was within a hundred kilometers of the Village. A little bit of tweaking meant that the stream coming out from the Tree of Eschaton joined up with a river that fed it, so eventually there’d be a direct water connection.
The Village itself was west of the center, so I kept the west of the Caldera generally flat, with nothing more extreme than a few rolling hills. The south got more mountains, but I planned for them to be volcanoes, so I put in a few lone and separated ones rather than a looming range like I’d put in the north. A couple of the southern mountains got massive craters around them, to be filled with jungle later on.
The east mostly got some rolling hills and plateaus, though overall I didn’t have much definition. Since I was planning to put a desert there, I figured the sand, scrub, and dunes would make most of the landscape themselves. If not, I could always add in detail later.
Once I had the basic outlines done, I started drawing in my Climates. The north got the Glacier climate, the high mountains forming a massive snowpack that swept down into a tundra, with a few glacial melt rivers feeding the giant inland lake. Filling out the Shore climate on the lake and the various islands therein helped with adding water, both directly as the Climate pulled it out of storage, and with water-generating flowers. I thought about moving Shayma’s beach house, but it was by salt water and the big lake was freshwater, so I’d have to ask her what she wanted.
The south got steamy jungle, one enormous volcanic Climate against the south wall and the rest of it a hot, geothermally active rainforest. The heat went dry as I merged it into a Desert, which went from a hot to cold one as it reached toward the glaciers. On the Village side I made everything south of the stretch of Grassland a Temperate Rainforest until it got hot enough to be jungle, and to the north made things coniferous.
While it was a nice microcosm for whoever was going to go traipse around and take advantage of all the stuff that populated the various Climates, I did get an unexpected result. The mountains I had raised weren’t completely solid, being shot through with tunnels and chambers so I could use less stone putting together two or five kilometer-high peaks. I had expected the Climates to fill that in a bit, but not in the way they did.
It was the first time that I’d actually put a Climate into a serious volume. All my spatially-expanded dynamos were basically empty spheres that the Climates populated, and even the volcano defense in Tarnil had just been on top of the landscape. Now that I’d put a climate over a giant chunk of rock with hollows and caves and tunnels, the Climates filled those in with resources.
They completely emptied me of iron, copper, and the like, running veins of metals along the interiors of passages and setting up chunks of crystal growing from walls. I would have been upset but for the way various Affinities, mostly earth and metal, latched onto the veins and flowed through them, chrystheniums blooming atop them. By guess and by [Blue’s Sagacity], I could tell those veins would actually grow, and the chrystheniums would help replace all the resources they’d eaten. Some of the more advanced stuff was mixed in, too, like [Mana Iron] and [Obdurate Copper].
There was a huge seam of coal under one of the desert plateaus, and diamonds were sprinkled in some of the passages in the volcanic jungle. All the gem outcrops were the variants of quartz that I’d made, which showed that only things I knew about – or more to the point, that my dungeon-self knew about – qualified for seeding in the Climates. All the initial material came from my stocks, too, so while it was possible that it’d grow over time, if I wanted to make it in bulk, I still needed to use my Refineries and the like.
One of the more amusing things was that there were pools of [Celestial Metal] surrounded by stellar Chrystheniums nestled into the peaks of the high mountains. It seemed the flowers were putting out enough stellar mana to keep the stuff stable, or maybe the temperature helped, or maybe it was just that the metallic hydrogen wasn’t actually metallic hydrogen but the magical version of such.
The resources weren’t the only things it added to the volume. The Climates changed underlying bedrock, adding permeability and populating aquifers, or in some places changing it all to limestone. The volcanic areas got igneous and metamorphic rock, while the northern tundra was mostly sedimentary. Some of this pulled out more biomass and stone, especially in places where the soil was particularly deep, but that was less of an issue than the depletion of my metal stocks.
Ultimately I left it as it was, and just grumbled about my resources being tied up for the moment, since with the metallic chrystheniums I’d be making it back at some point. I raised a ring of hills around Ansae’s central tower and associated interlocking Climates to help offset them from the surrounding Grasslands, and then put in my final touch: waterfalls.
I had a thousand kilometers of wall for them, and while any water that started from the top would turn into mist long before it hit ground, I could still make some really damn impressive ones. I started out using my mostly-ignored [Fluid Handling] options to pipe and pump water out from the various lakes, but quickly gave up because the sheer scales I was working on.
Instead I had to make sky-lakes just to feed the waterfalls, big chambers of water with plenty of the appropriate chrystheniums. I tried to make them fairly subtle, but the Caldera walls weren’t exactly thick, at least not inside the Spatial Expansion. Ultimately I had to nick extra stone from a couple mountains since I’d already used up all my stocks and reserves making the interior terrain. Mostly I took it off the mountain with my star forge, and since I didn’t want people climbing that anyway, making the slopes ridiculously steep was fine.
I used some from my mountain too. I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with the exterior yet but at some point I’d want to landscape the slopes to look like something other than a generic part of a big mountain range. That said, I didn’t want it to be garish, either. A mountain was a really big canvas upon which to make really big crimes against good taste if I wasn’t careful.
That got me enough to build lakes jutting out from the walls of the Calders, stone half-bowls supported by buttresses, and set up waterfalls around three-quarters of the absolutely massive perimeter of the Caldera. Even spacing them a few kilometers apart I ended up with several hundred enormous falls, and that was just at the one- to two-kilometer height. A few of the waterfalls were sited higher up, around the fifty-kilometer point, and they dissolved into mist long before they even got to the cloud height of the Climates.
The fifty-kilometer mark was about where I wanted to put the summit, though even that might be a little high. The hundred-kilometer rim of the Caldera was definitely too high. The vertical aspect of the Spatial Expansion resulted in having a perspective that was just enormously high up, though the air was still breathable instead of being bare wisps due to the spatial shenanigans. Even my tallest glacier-covered mountains were no more than five kilometers tall and as they were against the Caldera walls it wasn’t like they obstructed anything.
Looking at the sheer scale of it all I was glad I was able to let the Climates do the heavy lifting and detail work, managing the precipitation and the rivers, building on the skeleton of the landscape below. They smoothed away some of the unnatural straight lines and symmetry that my quick work made, deepening crags and wearing at rock faces, or mounding dirt into hills and dales. The thought of trying to do all that manually over the massive size of the Caldera was pretty daunting.
Somehow all this work got done without waking up Ansae, though to be fair the closest I came to the actual tower was the hill-ring to mark the outer edge of her territory. Plus, I’d already seen how deeply she could sleep, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, I was looking forward to seeing her reaction when she got up and there was suddenly actual terrain.