One of the side-effects of importing a couple million people of all ages into the Caldera was that a few, a very few, started to pick up stellar Affinity. Three Chiuxatli tripped my stellar core, one for [Skywatcher], exactly the same as Suna’s Class, and two for a second-tier transition from generic [Mage] into [Stellar Mage]. I just approved them all, but I’d have to see if Shayma could just set the stellar core to auto-approve. A few at a time was no real problem, but I could see it scaling to hundreds a day and that would get really irritating.
Each of the new Classes registered to my stellar core and increased my mana capacity, if ever so slightly. It would take an awful long time to really make a significant contribution, or at least an awfully large number of Classers, but it was something. I decided I’d have to lend a [Contained Star] to Iniri so Tarnil citizens would have more opportunity to get stellar Affinity. Iniri’s metal wasn’t going to be as influential as an actual Origin Relic.
The Chiuxatli had hauled a lot of infrastructure with them and were getting established fairly quickly, though that was partly because the Caldera was flush with resources they could use. Five days was a lot of labor when there were thousands of third-tier crafter Classes. The Chiuxatli seemed to use a lot more fabric in their construction than anything else, and hundreds of square kilometers of the stuff had been pulled out of baskets and trunks and packs to turn into walls and ceilings.
What really awed me was that for some portion of it, the fabric and embroidery on that fabric was enchanted. Runes were stitched on. They could and did move around sections of brightly-colored fabric to produce impromptu hospitals, forges, sparring arenas, and the like. There were even embroidered hammocks for sleeping, which made me wonder if it was something like [Restful Night] or if there was some enchantment that just made things more comfortable.
I wanted to ask, but Shayma was down in Ir, helping them clean up the Anells. For those operations, I was far more impressed with Wright’s people than I was with Virn’s, because they basically appeared inside the Anell houses and compounds when people were asleep and hustled them into cells. Shayma barely had to do anything, aside from suppress the Ell. The void agent looked just a touch younger than Giorn, and he actually surrendered instead of trying to fight.
She still used her Scalemind form to put the guy to sleep, but it was a hopeful sign. It would have been unfortunate if Girul was representative of the Ells. Though, even if they were willing to rehabilitate and cooperate, Shayma couldn’t spend all her time watching over them. I trusted she’d figure something out, though I was just as glad it wasn’t my immediate problem. In fact, I had a hunch that Sienne was going to end up taking over, from what I saw of her conversations with Shayma.
Regardless, the new Ell, Hirae Ell, was laid out on a bed next to Girul while Brothers of Burden took shifts poking at their minds. Apparently what they were doing was complex enough that Dreams-Ahead couldn’t or didn’t want to do it all in one session, and had negotiated things with Shayma. I was actually weirdly proud that had all happened without my involvement, and I really needed to figure out a good way to let the Scalemind have more contact with the Village and not just rely on Shayma or myself setting up portals. I had so many things to bring up to the Chiuxatli when Shayma got back.
For the moment, she was helping Wright’s intelligence squads comb through Anell warehouses. With her Domain perception and maybe some help from her Quest she was able to quickly find all the secret stashes, and simply pull the contents out of them. Obviously there were magical protections on a number of them, but Shayma had ridiculous Skills and the ability to pull from my mana if she needed to punch through something, so none of them stopped her.
Frankly, the Domain was absurd.
“Ansae, Shayma’s Domain skill — is stuff like that common at the higher tiers?” I still didn’t know what Ansae’s Skills were, but from the way she acted it was quite possible she had some enormous domain herself, and that’s how she came by her obscene perception.
“No. It’s not the first Skill like that I’ve seen, but it’s extremely rare. Most of the people I’ve seen with a Domain had evolved techniques where they were outside of their body as much as anchored in it.” Ansae waggled an equivocal claw. “I’d considered trying to make one myself, but in the end it just wasn’t a good match for me.”
“Huh. Well, it’s pretty potent.”
“Your Voice is well equipped,” Ansae agreed. “But look at the powers of the mage-kings and you see that is not so unreasonable.”
“Ah, point.” I hadn’t even come up with a good weapon for her yet, though figuring out something that would work best with shapeshifting or was more useful than her illusions or the ability to channel Fields was difficult.
I was considering that when I realized I’d missed something while talking with Ansae. It was bad enough that I hadn’t noticed dragons flying around, now I’d missed some Leviathans ascending up to swim through the canal. I really needed to get those wards implemented, or something to alert me to movement like that.
For a while I thought they were there for Iniri, then when they ignored the Meil moon pool I figured they were there for me. Then I remembered the communications device Uilei-nktik had given me, and if he hadn’t called ahead they really weren’t for me either. Which left only one option.
“Hey Ansae, I think you’ve got a bunch of Leviathan visitors.”
“Ah.” She sighed. “They were only supposed to send one, but for some reason I’m not surprised. Those would be acolytes of the Silver Temple. They worship me, despite how much I’ve discouraged the practice, and at this point I’ve given up trying to stamp them out. I do admit it’s useful having some Leviathans willing to fetch and carry.”
“So, I should reroute them to you?”
“Yes,” Ansae confirmed. “I am going to have to trade for a place for them to stay, as well. Your inland lake is impressive but they will need true abyssal depths if they’re going to remain for any length of time.”
“Sure, that wouldn’t be too difficult.” A one- by four- by four-hundred-meter space located somewhere under the Caldera would be more than big enough once I Expanded it. “So I’m going to have the Chiuxatli ward up the Caldera for me, do you think you could design anything for that? I can still have them actually set it up I was just wondering if you might have better ideas than they do, considering.”
“Hmm, that could be an interesting challenge. A very large spatially distorted area, especially open to the sky as it is and with how much mana is involved, to say nothing of your ability to change it so quickly. And your penchant for doing so.” Ansae looked pleased. “I will see what I can come up with.”
“Hmm, I guess I’ll be getting Leviathan inhabitants. That should be interesting.” In a way, the habitation benefits of getting Leviathans would probably be worth the effort. Something I appreciated about Ansae is she never tried to pretend incidental benefits like that were payment. Of course, she was so wealthy and knowledgeable she really didn’t need to haggle, but it was still nice.
I redirected the portal in my entry hall from my audience chamber to Ansae’s while I went about making the Leviathan area. It wasn’t as big a deal as the Caldera, though it’d still be absolutely huge when it was done, mostly because I had extra stone income from the Caldera. Not to mention that I didn’t need to seed it with resources.
The only real Leviathan resource I had was the coral, and while Taelah had adjusted it to use my mana, it was still growing. The rate was pretty awe-inspiring, almost doubling in a few days, but it wasn’t anywhere near what I’d need to cover a sixteen hundred square kilometer habitat. They’d have to make do with stone and deepwater chrystheniums until I had enough. The end result was a sprawling complex of vertical, spiraling Leviathan homes and gleaming Chrystheniums decorated with my hardiest seagrass and other such flora.
I still hadn’t gotten any underwater Climates. To be fair, I hadn’t tried drilling down and taking over the undersea ocean I’d discovered either, and I really should have. I’d definitely do that after my second expedition into the depths found something. I didn’t have to worry too much, though, since the Scalemind had really taken to fishing.
The whole thing was done by the time Ansae finished hosting the audience with the Leviathans. I couldn’t understand seaspeak or exactly read bioluminescence, but there seemed to be a lot less groveling than I would have expected and more excited flailing. More like meeting a celebrity than an actual god, though I had to admit watching a Leviathan flap its enormous forward fins in excitement was pretty amusing.
“Where do you want me to put a portal?” I asked her, and got a reply back through magic projected above the water.
“In the moat,” she said, which made sense since the leviathan meeting room was connected to it. I started to put a normal portal in, then had a better idea and made almost the entire bottom of the moat a ring-shaped portal, up against the foundation of Ansae’s island. It gave the illusion that Ansae’s tower was floating on top of an enormous abyss, which was pretty neat and certainly added to the effect of the huge structure. The Leviathans sure seemed impressed as they left the audience chamber and dived downward.
Core Specialization: Habitation
Leviathan: All Leviathans adapt to shallow waters more quickly. Those adapted to shallow waters gain [Size Adaptation]: Automatically adjust apparent size to smaller bodies of water. Dungeon water Affinity mana enhances depth effects and abyssal qualities.
I wished I’d gotten that before I made the habitat, since I could have made it far smaller, or even given them license to live in the lake, but I was used to that sort of thing. My overlay and entire general system were not exactly transparent or user-friendly, but at least it seemed to reward my labors. For the most part.
The Leviathans released a bunch of fish from the wooden spheres they were toting around, but they were all small and colorful, and clearly wouldn’t be nearly enough to support kilometer-long beings. So far as I could tell Leviathans were at least partial thaumivores like dragons. Anything that size couldn’t operate from mundane biology alone, though they definitely ate live fish as well. Probably larger things, considering their size, but I had none of that available. I just had to hope that my new residents had taken that into account.
Once the Leviathans were settled I went back to the slow grind of filling and triggering lots and lots of [Mana Diamond Anvils]. The costs for creating models for Keri, Cheya, Sienne, and Giorn were far more reasonable than they were for Ansae, but that only meant the costs were in the single digits of Argentum. Which still meant thousands of cycles through my anvils.
With the raw materials for two additional [Contained Stars] and no immediate need for additional [Firmament], I was free to focus on Argentum and Aurum. The raw silver and gold were growing fairly well between my Climates and my metallic chrystheniums, though I didn’t have hundreds of tons of the stuff like Ansae seemed to. Still, the generation rate could pretty much keep up with my anvils. Given a couple weeks I would be able to make [Soul Prostheses] for everyone.
I also wanted to see if I could somehow do something to help Yamal. He was still in a coma, being kept alive by healers and some specialists from Wildwood, paid for out of Yamal’s apparently significant wealth. Obviously shielding him from depletion wouldn’t be enough, but with a soul prosthesis he might be able to reconnect to the Akasha enough for him to function again. There were a number of potential problems with that, but it was worth a try.
While I was thinking of it, I tried to use [Model Soul] on him. His Primal Source was gone and that was how I was linked to and saw souls, but if his soul had collapsed I wouldn’t see anything anyway. Unfortunately, it seemed that the connection was well and truly broken, the Skill not even giving me any sort of error feedback. He just didn’t count. In a sense that was actually a relief, because it meant there was still hope I could link up somehow.
Part of me was hoping I could surprise Iniri with it, but I always knew it was a long shot. I could still surprise her with one for Cheya, though. Maybe I should have informed her of my new soul skill stuff in advance, but it wasn’t too much of a delay to wait until I had one ready, and it meant Cheya wouldn’t have a chance to try and turn it down.
Of course, it was at the exact moment that everyone was busy that Tlulipechua decided he needed to talk to me. I’d been keeping as much of an eye on them as I did on Tarnil in general, which was to say, not much of one, but I hadn’t yet seen any immense crises. The Flight-Alpha probably knew his people better than I did, though, and I doubted that he would disturb me for something trivial. Shayma had really impressed the guy.
“Taelah, I hate to interrupt you,” I said, interrupting her. She was actually chatting with Syrinu in the Village central square, which was moderately surreal and amusing. “The Flight-Alpha needs something and Shayma’s down in Ir, so could you see what he has to say?”
“Certainly,” Taelah said, holding up a hand to pause her discussion with Syrinu. “I’ve been meaning to talk to him anyway.”