Muramat Kamshad Nishad
Trained steps silently carried him where Muramat expected his quarry to be. Not that he had to try hard to do either — the loud grunts and cracks made tracking easy and silence unnecessary. But some things were more than a habit by now.
The wermage was entertaining herself by releasing anger on the trees, clawing and punching the green trunks until they turned into frayed stumps. He paused for a moment to watch her as his entourage caught up, suppressing a scoff. There was no form or grace in her movements, just strength and desire to use it. Typical behaviour of a country bumpkin — they grew up surrounded by farm slaves fearing their every breath and ended up thinking that their scant abilities put them on par with real wermages.
Her humiliation at the hands of the murk was the clear result of that blind arrogance. She walked in like a Matriarch, thinking he was a companion at most, and got her own milk fed to her instead.
“Do you think that punching trees will earn you honour?” He interrupted the commotion. “Or are you simply hiding here?”
The wermage jumped in place and turned around. The scowl of anger was quickly replaced by a look of apprehension once she saw his sash. So even she could learn from that. His plan wasn’t hopeless anymore.
“Your sight is in my heart… Muramat Nishad,” she cautiously said, ignoring his obvious ridicule. “I was merely training in seclusion. I will find a different spot so as not to disturb your day.”
His lips started to curl into a smile, but he hid it in his beard. “Training to do what? Seek revenge? Emanai arms train Procurers and many Manors employ Collectors for a reason — you will either end up with a kattar between your ribs or a fresh body on your hands. Trust me — getting stabbed would be the better option out of the two. Wermage or not, Aikerim Kiymetl Adal will find the murderer of her prized Alchemist and you would beg for a swift death. You aren’t dealing with an arrogant murk but the coveted property of a Pillar Domina.”
“Surely she is not that tyrannical and can forgive my misstep!?”
“A misstep? You walked straight into a pile of shit because you forgot to look! Even a single glance at his sash would’ve been enough. Unless that was your plan all along?”
“No! I only wished to talk to the Hatay wermage that was standing with the murk — I didn’t know that he was trying to approach the Pillar Domina!” She glanced at his entourage. “The Kamshad are famed for their justice — please help me earn my own!”
Muramat placed his tail into his hands and started brushing it. “Can you? Your recent display makes me question your abilities.”
“I can!” She went down on one knee. “I will not dare to let you down — one chance is all I ask.”
“Then show me your honesty with effort. Take that humiliation to heart and learn from it. Not by punching trees, something that you had no trouble doing before, but by practising what you failed at. Show me you can look first before I consider you a worthy candidate to become our client.”
Her mouse ears twitched. “Just give me the task and I will do it!”
“Remember that murk? Do not confront him, or interact with him or anyone close to him. Your task is to look. You will keep travelling north, eating meals, and practising your shooting skills — and in your free time, you will keep looking. What he does, what he eats… whom he meets.” He reached out and patted Siavash on his shoulder. “Report everything you see to my aide and show me that you can look before you make a step. Avoid notice and I will keep Anaise Hilal from concerning herself with you once more. Draw too much attention to yourself and I will not keep someone that repeats the same mistake twice.”
She nodded eagerly, happy to have an influential patron once again. “Consider it done!”
Muramat swished his tail. “Use your time wisely — the Kiymetl group and ours will join the same arm so you have almost a season and a half to improve your skills. Show me how good you can get rather than how quickly you can fail!”
The wermage got up with a new spark in her eyes. “Thank you for your words of wisdom!”
He rubbed his beard. “What is your name, wermage?”
“Layla Gol,” She scratched her ear bashfully, “of the Denag family.”
Muramat nodded. “Your name is on my lips, Layla Denag Gol. Make sure it stays there when the campaign is over. Now go and let the forest heal.”
Layla Gol bowed deep and bolted away with a spring in her steps.
“Are you sure this is wise?” Siavash murmured from the side. “Planning their original meeting and sending that wer to challenge his music only strengthened his reputation. Perhaps we should’ve goaded her on the path of revenge and have the murk removed entirely?”
Muramat scoffed and tousled his hair. “Have her attack the murk that survived a Collector attack without a scratch? We both have watched him bathe many times — have you seen any scars?”
Siavash shook his head. “There are some marks on his upper back and belly. Otherwise, his skin is clear and unburdened by labours of life.”
“Those look too old to be relevant. Probably caused during birth or shortly thereafter. What matters is that he is alive after Samat Collectors; his handling of the wermage, no matter the lack in her skill, shows his hidden aptitude. Not only would she fail, but she would bring unnecessary attention to us as well. Especially when Aikerim Adal is the holder of the Orb of Truth.”
“Do you think she will uncover something?”
“I do not believe she will even remain unseen, but Anaise Hilal would likely not act unless Layla does something stupid again. The wermage was humiliated for her previous actions and justice has been done. If Anaise Hilal decides to look petty and fickle by seeking her personal justice — I am simply educating a wayward wermage. Otherwise, Layla Gol will remain a distraction and nothing more. And if she does uncover something important? Well, I can recognise good work when it brings results.”
Siavash nodded. “And while she pays attention to her, she won’t be looking elsewhere.”
“Precisely. Now, about that wer — what have you found about the music?”
His aide sighed and shook his head. “Very little. There are plenty of rumours but no one knows with certainty where that music or even that kithara comes from.”
Muramat frowned. This was unfortunate. “What about Azhar Hatay Mesud playing it? Any connection to the Hatay Manors?”
Siavash shook his head. “Unlikely to be related to the Hatay themselves. He did not bother hiding while learning the instrument the last few days. If Erf isn’t the source of that music — he is the only known connection to it so far.”
“I see,” Muramat murmured, then nodded to himself. “Sounds rather barbaric, don’t you think?”
His aide tilted his head. “Muramat?”
Muramat smiled at him, his hand gently caressing his chin. “All those trials weren’t done to make him look good in front of the crowds, nor were they planned to humiliate him. We did them to learn more because knowledge reveals weaknesses. Do you know what happens when you don’t learn anything?”
“You search harder.”
“You can. But sometimes there is simply nothing to find. Rather than admitting defeat like someone less driven, you create your own knowledge instead. His music is barbaric — those drums are akin to the chants and roars of the eastern tribes while the kithara reminds you of their howls. Who knows, maybe this is the reason why there is a wercat slave in her ‘sadaq’. A wermage slave, at that.”
“I see,” Siavash smiled, “those tribes use drums too. Must be more than a coincidence. Perhaps I should talk to others about it.”
Muramat smiled. “Good boy.”
I splashed the water into my face and vigorously rubbed my skin. Yes, the skinsuit under my clothes kept me clean, but there was a certain charm to standing in a river and letting the cold water wash away the fatigue of the days past.
Things were moving along. The plantations and olive orchards of the south were long gone, giving way to fields of grain, pastures, and temperate forests. Our method of travel changed as well. After reaching Amul, the city where the two major rivers of Emanai met together and united the whole country, it was decided to take the Nuur River downstream all the way north to Uureg rather than keep walking alongside it.
Our pace improved as a result while giving us plenty of time to relax and pursue tasks other than simply walking toward sunset, but I still felt unease brewing inside of me.
Back in Samat, Yeva was building what was going to be the first workhouse ever in the history of Tana. Hopefully, without the negative aspects they developed in the past. With a dash of the industrial revolution as a side project. And Aikerim was gearing up for the next round of posturing, grandstanding, and intrigue among the upper echelons of Emanai society. Here, Anaise and Irje had been steadily improving their magical powers. When they were not attending meetings barred to murks or slaves, or both. Their progress was vastly different: while Anaise was learning to control the unleashed power of her old spells, Irje was figuring out ways to apply force in general. Yet both were showing consistent progress.
For starters — our boat was still afloat and only a very small half of the sail ended up missing until we stopped at the next port. At the same time, I had to stop myself twice from decking an innocent passing sailor when I felt fingers on my junk, only to see a glowing glove and a very entertained cougar nearby. Granted, floating dildoes, tickling, and sexual harassment at a distance weren’t the only skills she had managed to pick up. While the armour manipulation was still risky — or effective, depending on how it was applied — due to the occasional crumbling and warping when Irje’s concentration slipped, she was getting pretty good at controlling short swords. While I knew where she got the necessary experience from, the potential was immense — a floating monomolecular blade in the hands of a telekinetic could cause untold amounts of damage.
Until Anaise incorporated another ‘curve’ into some Flow figure that only she could see and threw a cup into a low Tana orbit or something.
I threw some more water on myself and kept scrubbing.
I missed that cup. Under my direct instructions, Keivan and Tuk crafted me a porcelain container of pristine white with two black dots and a tiny bump, glazed orange. I called it a duck cup and Anaise forbade me from walking out in public with it in my hands.
I, on the other hand, was stuck doing very little. Apart from ‘teaching the secrets of sound to the wind mage’ and ‘participating in scandalous public acts’ with the aforementioned ‘wind mage’ as my lovely wife called them, that is. I had very few tools and too many eyes on me to tinker around with my ideas. I asked Yeva to get me a second drone and tried to do some in-depth research on the Forest and quickly lost it after a few probing flights. Worst of all, without Lif by my side, I could only communicate and retrieve data through physical contact via the Harald link, which meant that the knowledge of its attacker died with it.
I decided not to send more for now. Drones were cheap and expendable, but I wasn’t particularly keen on providing some alien lifeforms with the highly engineered DNA of my machines. Especially since they saw humans as ‘food’, ‘prey’, or some ‘targets’. The behaviour that many would consider being expected still confused me — their biology was simply too different from ours for either side to consider the other food. There were no Forest fruits to be eaten, no alien teas brewed from the burgundy needles. No medium rare Creature steak. We couldn’t eat them because there were no proteins to break apart into amino acids, nor fats or sugars.
There were some uses, however. Creature carapaces were often turned into pieces of armour, while the Forest ‘lumber’ could burn just as easily as normal wood would. While I still had some concerns about the ungodly chemicals it might be releasing in the process, Carbon acted as Carbon should in the presence of his old beau Oxygen and a little bit of heat to get the action going.
Note to self — ask Isra to craft me a proper camping stove.
As far as my inquiries went — aliens, or indigenous lifeforms, weren’t making bonfires out of humans or wood. Yet Creatures didn’t just kill, they also occasionally took some bodies. Was it simply a part of their instincts? Forcing them to complete the hunt first and then check if the prey was actually edible at all? Did they have magical stomachs? Or was there some other reason to claim corpses? Wermages didn’t just appear out of thin air after all.
The last thing I wanted was to cause some sort of werchirp to emerge and doom us all.
I sighed and sunk fully into the water. I did have tasks to do — apart from teaching Irje and Anaise math and physics, I was still trying to crack the meaning behind spellbook Flow poetry as well as cataloguing different chemicals and their possible function within the alien tree samples I had with me.
Both projects were showing little progress despite my efforts for similar reasons. While I had some information at my disposal, there was little I could test it on. Aided by Harald and nanodendrites, my body isolated many alien compounds and identified their chemical structures, yet I was still facing an impossible mountain in front of me that was their full biological function.
Samples helped, but I lacked proper facilities for full-scale experimentation and the sheer uniformity of alien flora made this even more challenging. There were slight variations between different tissues of the same plant, but the burgundy needles of an alien tree were identical to the red ‘grass’ of alien biomat. I needed contrast to compare results against each other and I had very little of it.
I asked Irje and Anaise for some samples but those stumped me as well. Nothing in their tissues screamed aliens to me. Their DNA showed some obvious differences from a baseline human, but that was expected just from their looks alone. Even my own DNA was further away from the said baseline. Moreover, those changes still followed terrestrial biology; what was written inside those genes might be unique, but the letters were the same.
This was what allowed murks to successfully mate with wer and wermages, yet it also ruined my hopes at easily finding the magic link between the Forest and magical humans. I was dealing with two separate systems here that managed to harness the arcane through different means. Just because I was having it easy before, no doubt. It was now also highly unlikely that the first wermages appeared because some human decided to get frisky with a Creature.
I sunk to my eyes and let air bubble out from my nose. The first Creature that I could get my hands on would be dissected with extreme prejudice! Eventually. Now I just had to bear with the apparent lack of progress on my side and scratch my itch for action by playing the guitar with Albin. Anaise did scrunch her pretty nose at our occasional shenanigans, but maintaining good relations with the Speaker of Shebet was essential.
I had to make sure the man was buttered enough to accept his role as the bass guitar.
Perhaps he might even find some other Flow toy from his past, to assist me in the understanding of magic?
“So this is where the daimon of Kiymetl hides himself?” a teasing voice interrupted my planning.
I turned my head around and saw four legs approaching me. Water droplets sparkled on the soft white fur, while the river hid their hooves underwater. I didn’t even need to look up to understand that the Enoch twins finally decided to pay me a visit.
I bubbled a polite greeting without getting up. They came at me trying to be cheeky — they would get the same cheek in turn.
Kirana and Huare Kausar were quite unusual for Enoch wermages. Rather than the familiar minotaur look, they were slender with fuzzy antlers instead of horns. But the familiar emerald green in their eyes made their ancestry unmistakable. Anaise got the same colour from her father.
Kirana tilted her head. “You should know that the ships are almost done loading supplies. If you stay here for too long, you might get left behind.”
At least I thought it was Kirana. They were identical twins and I didn’t know them enough to easily tell them apart. Especially when they left their sashes on the shore. I did know from Anaise that Huare was usually the quieter one in the pair.
I tilted my head high enough to speak. “Your concern is welcome, Kirana Kausar. But sending a slave would’ve been enough.”
She threw me an incredulous glare, highlighting her deer-like horizontal pupils, which I met with a raised eyebrow.
“You are not the only one who seeks to freshen up before we take off again. Not everything has to be about you, daimon.”
“I see. Apologies for the misunderstanding and interruption. I will leave you to your bathing.”
She huffed and started to wash herself, caught in the trap of her own making, while I returned to my bubbles. Since the biological approach toward magic had stalled, I would have to double down on deciphering the spellcodex in the meantime. Perhaps trying to correlate runes with spells that had similar effects would allow me to identify patterns in their poetry…
“Why did you seek out Isra Haleh as your smith?”
My previous trap had one obvious flaw. Huare Kausar.
Looking at them again, I saw that the second twin moved in closer and was now calmly waiting for my response. I sighed and cut my previous act short. The Enoch Manor was friendly to the Kiymetl in general and Aikerim Adal in particular, and there was no reason for me to sour those relations due to my current mood.
“I wasn’t looking for Isra Haleh. I needed someone who knew her way around iron and steel. It was through the actions of Tarhunna Wafiq that I ended up working with a wermage master smith rather than some apprentice.”
She blinked. “It could have been anyone? Just like that?”
“Hardly. Rather than seeking the most talented smith in Emanai, I was looking for one who could work well with me. With a flexible mind, not bound by the traditions of old, and a willingness to learn. I have very little desire to encourage the unwilling or bribe the greedy.”
I noticed that Kirana slowed down her act of washing herself in order to listen in as well, but that was hardly a surprise for anyone among us. Appearances aside, it was an open secret why the Kausar twins decided to accompany Anaise. Compared to other Manors, they chose a careful approach, aware of how recent attempts to strong-arm into our inner circle had failed. Until now, that is.
While this meeting was by no means reckless on their part, the shift in their stance was noticeable. The question was whether this change was due to Enoch Matriarch urging them to act after Isra’s gift of steel or they were acting on their own volition.
There was nothing wrong with being ambitious or eager. Isra Haleh wasn’t working for me because it was the ‘right thing to do’, she did it to improve herself and her status among her kind. What I didn’t want to deal with were agents of someone else’s will. Pawns with hidden allegiances were impossible to predict unless I knew what their master wanted.
“My stars were the lucky ones, and Isra Haleh turned out to be an invaluable ally. I have no desire to replace her with another smith.”
Isra wasn’t particularly thrilled with Enoch smiths and shunned social interactions in general. At least the ones that weren’t about steel. She was nowhere ready for any competition at her level and I had no intention of making her miserable.
“With that amount of steel — who would’ve thought,” Kirana muttered while rolling her eyes. “Were you informed about the recent events within the capital?”
“If you are talking about Isra’s actions — I am aware. Have you come here seeking something similar?”
“No. I am talking about something more recent than that — the House of War is starting to move against your Manor.”
I sighed and stood up. “I am aware of that as well. I was expecting them to act sooner.”
“You were?” Huare tilted her head. “So they would give you a chance to react?”
“Exactly. So that they could see whether Anaise would suddenly change her mind. Think about it from the Kamshad perspective. If Anaise Hilal continued her travel they would end up in the current situation anyway, albeit with additional insight into the Kiymetl’s resilience to pressure. But, if she were to suddenly return, they could ask for her reply to the offer of Muramat Nishad, knowing full well that their pressure was working.”
“They needed time to gather allies,” Kirana said. “I am not talking about the Kamshad Manor alone, but the three Manors of War. Kamshad, Kishava, and Kosenya. The Samat is displaying their allegiance too — that is four Pillar Manors against yours. Even if you manage to sway the Shebet, that is three voices against four at the Summit of Speakers.”
I frowned and squared off at her. “Am I to assume that your presence here is the condition for Enoch’s continued support? You haven’t surprised me about the Pillar majority either — I was expecting that to happen at some point in time. I am also aware of its limitations. The Summit may convene about matters of the country but neither the House of War nor the Speaker majority can deny the House of Trade from trading! They could put sticks in the wheels of our bureaucracy or annoy us with frivolous taxes, but they would need the Divine decree from the Goddess herself to strip the Pillar Manor of their purpose. Something that neither of these four would even dare to suggest after Anaise’s Feast.”
My voice was quiet, forcing them to pay attention to every word I said. “Aikerim Adal isn’t stupid and I have full trust in my Domina. I left Samat with confidence that her Manor could weather the inevitable scrutiny of other established Manors, disgruntled by the feeling of falling behind. This isn’t a question of whether she could do it with or without the Enoch — it is a question of who she decides to keep by her side when she emerges victorious. The storm is coming, Kirana Enoch Kausar, and none of them are ready for it.”
“The Kiymetl isn’t as united as you think it is, and I am certain that there are more than a few Dominas within it who would prefer not to see Aikerim Adal as the next Kiymetl Matriarch.”
I shrugged. “Does it matter?”
“Wha-?” Kirana sputtered at my nonchalance.
“The title. Does it matter?” I pressed on. “Or is it the power behind it that gives it value? Does it matter who will be the next Shebet Matriarch while the Chasya twins are around?”
Kirana frowned. “What does the Shebet have to do with this?”
“Daimonas,” Huare reminded her twin.
I shook my head. “Daimonas or not is not what is important here. What matters is a title without power to support it is either quickly lost or is nothing more than a fancy name and a tribute to the traditions of old. They can try all they want to keep it away from Aikerim Adal and they will either fail or become irrelevant. Because I am not helping her to become a Matriarch — I am helping her to tap raw, pure, unadulterated power. The titles that she ends up acquiring are merely side effects of her growth.
“Remember the steel affair — Isra Haleh received an offer to become a true Enoch Domina with her personal Manor, she-”
“She was!?” both twins exclaimed in unison.
I blinked. “You didn’t know?”
Kirana huffed, “Well, after such a gift, it would make sense.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that at all. She got that offer for her work on new swords and armour. That gift of steel was her polite way of declining the title of Domina. She chose the power over steel gained through me over the power given by that title.”
“What about power over other metals?” Huare pressed. “Power over earth? Flow?”
“Huare!” Kirana hissed.
“What?” her twin shrugged. “He keeps answering everything anyway. I might as well ask.”
Kirana glared at her for a while, only to glance at me and sigh. “The Enoch Manor stands together with the Kiymetl and will continue to do so in the future. It was not my intention to cast doubt on that. Your assumptions about the limitations of the House of War are indeed correct — they can’t meddle in the tasks of other Pillars, assigned to them by the Goddess. But they do have power and its name is war.”
She walked slowly around me. “Aikerim Adal might frustrate them, but they still have you and your sadaq right where they are the most powerful. Do not forget that. You will need allies here just as you needed allies back in Samat. Allies like Isra Haleh and Aikerim Adal. Allies like us. Azhar Mesud looks like a formidable wermage, but the name of his Manor lacks gravitas while his unclaimed status attracts unwanted attention.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “I do not mind his status that much.”
“You should. Anaise Hilal and Irje have enough sway through their status and relationship to demand serving alongside you. If not in the same finger then at least in the same hand. As daughters of the Enoch Manor, so can we, to some extent. He does not. The Kamshad may intentionally try to separate both of you just to weaken your position.”
That… would be hilarious to watch, if I was honest with myself. I didn’t know how many strings Albin had managed to pull in order to create a new persona, construct some alibi in case he met his ‘relatives’, and then organically insert himself into our procession without anyone questioning him too much, but it was likely to be a lot of them. At the same time, Albin didn’t strike me as someone who would forget about the upcoming predicament in troop assignments. Unless it was intentional on his part, of course.
Especially if Albin would ‘discover’ that hidden Hatay talent at leadership just so that he could witness me presenting a looking glass to my future general.
“I welcome your offer with my open heart, Kirana Kausar, Huare Kausar.” I bowed to them diplomatically. “I am certain that our alliance will grow strong over time and you are always welcome by our fire. Anaise would be delighted to discuss this in detail.”
Well, that was that. A bit of posturing on their side and a bit of posturing from me and we finally came to the conclusion that we all expected from the start. This dance was quite annoying sometimes but often necessary. It allowed each party to gauge each other just a tiny bit more so that they could plan further ahead. It was no wonder Isra Haleh hated doing it and Shahin Esca revelled in it. One valued precision and certainty while the other found freedom in chaos and nuance.
I looked around trying to locate my clothes on the shore; Kirana was right that the time was pressing and this conversation kept me even longer.
She took a step between me and dry land. “What if we are interested in… speeding up said growth?”
Huare nodded along. “You haven’t answered my question either.”
“Curiosity is a good thing to have, but you can’t expect me to divulge Manoral secrets right on this spot. We both know that while your help is desired, it is not needed. At least not to the extent where a promise of future support would be sufficient.”
Kirana crossed her arms. “And what does the murk daimon need?”
Huare copied her sister. “The two earth mages in front of you are quite resourceful. Any general worth their salt would be delighted to have us in her arm. We might ask for some… additional concessions when we join.”
“The challenge is that this ‘murk daimon’ has most of his needs met already. And I have ways to ensure the gratitude of my commanders.” I shook my head. “I can’t just come up with some inflated need just so I can give you my secrets in return.”
“Most does not mean all.” Kirana quickly picked up on my wording. “Why don’t you try and ask? As my sister just said — we are quite resourceful. Or we wouldn’t be here at all.”
“Is that so?” I mused in thought.
They were starting to push their luck with their insistence, especially since they were subconsciously blocking my path to the shore. I let it slide for now. A normal murk would’ve been terrified but I knew that I could force my way through if push came to shove. They wanted this alliance, not me.
“There might be something, actually.” I smiled and glanced at Huare.
“You see… I have a certain… curiosity myself,” I said as I started to slowly circle the quieter twin. “A passing fancy, if you like.”
Huare tugged her braid. “Which is?”
Most of their hair was neatly wrapped into a bun, to avoid getting it wet, except for the twin customary braids on their chests. Not for the modicum of modesty but to mimic the facial tentacles of heurisks and imply at least some status while being otherwise naked.
“It is something that I can’t easily get.” My hand reached out and touched her horn. The velvet was soft and warm to the touch. “Something that most wouldn’t be able to get for me. Unless they were… resourceful.”
Huare squeaked from my touch and Kirana quickly pushed her behind herself. “Stop stalling and say it!”
I smiled. “I want a basic spellcodex.”
Whatever Kirana wanted to say, she wasn’t prepared for that. “What!?”
“It is a small codex with simple spells written in it.” I was quick to explain. “Wermage children learn from it.”
“I know what a spellcodex is!” she fumed. “Are you trying to learn the secrets of the Enoch?”
“Aren’t you trying to learn the secrets of the Kiymetl?” I reasoned back. “Besides, those would be hardly secret. I am asking about basic spells like making small flames and moving objects around. Not the secret spells of the Enoch that only adults have access to.”
“Why didn’t you ask your wife?”
I blinked. “A good idea! I shall do this immediately.”
My recent pacing and tactical pokes got me exactly where I wanted — on the clear path to the shore. I turned toward it and started leaving the river. “I am sure that I will think of something else eventually-”
“Wait!” A hand gripped my shoulder. “I will give you my own.”
I stopped and glanced back. “Are you sure?”
Kirana Kausar huffed. “We have two codices between us, and I memorised them all anyway. But you will not say a word about this to anyone else and keep it safe and hidden!”
I shook my head. “My sadaq will know, but no one else. This I can promise. You can remove any spells that you deem too personal to share.”
She scowled at my refusal but I held firm. While this was my personal project to compare how different Manors worded their spells, I had serious doubts about my ability to remain unnoticed. My sadaq would find out anyway or they would notice I was acting suspiciously, which was even worse. It just wasn’t important enough to play spy games.
“Is that how you power their Flow?” Huare asked.
I looked back at her in silence, neither confirming nor denying it.
Huare pulled her sister aside for a hushed conversation and then turned back to me. “You will get a full adult spellcodex, from both of us.”
I felt my eyebrows rise.
“Anaise Hilal is the daughter of Tarhunna Wafiq so it wouldn’t be… suspicious if she happened to know them.”
I nodded. “Then allow me to ask you one last question before we part so that our next meeting would be more productive.
“What do you wish that you could do?”
C'mon Anaise, yeeting the duck mug into low orbit is a bit much, even for you. Besides, Erf's only going to commission a replacement mug, this time painted with the most violently yellow glaze possible. From the ashes of the duck mug, rises the duckling mug!
Other mug options:
- World's Best (only) Navigator
- There's Too Much Blood in My Caffeine System
- Legally Distinct Obese Cat Who Dislikes the Beginning of the Tenday
I dunno if he is a "funny sentence cup" person. He is more "funny shape cup" person.
@Snusmumriken In that case, he'll probably commission the rest of the barnyard to be made, lol. Maybe fox and kitty mugs to appease the missuses? A pink piggy mug with a few tiny piglet espresso cups would be cute...
@Tupperwarez they it would be favouritism from which "missus' mug he will be drinking this time. Pig is possible.
"Legally Distinct Obese Cat Who Dislikes the Beginning of the Tenday"
Ok, now I want one.
@Snusmumriken Fair enough. Just don't tell Albin, or he'll want one too, either for himself or as a tacky souvenir for his mom.
@Tupperwarez Suddenly Albin is sporting suspiciously singed duck mug
I had to make sure the man was buttered enough to accept his role as the bass guitar.
Something tells me Albin would prefer not to be the front man in Erf's future music projects...
I don't think he cares about public playing at all. this is more personal thing for him
@Snusmumriken True... standing out as the wierdo is well within Albin's playbook...
they got their set of cards, and Erf got his own. they try to snatch his but i'm okay with it, as you can't be having too much of something you never had, so from both sides' pov it's the most reasonable step. but now these two try to exchange cards.. ones that he literally got TONS of, and they have limited amount of i don't see how he fold this, let alone losing
if, i mean if, their Flow is indeed tied together with Mathematic and Physics principles, like fire needs oxygen, pretty sure these two has given him the key to the kingdom of Erf. the latch of the hen house. the spark of his compressed Stoichiometric Mixture. the only way is up
i hope they can look back and see how their greed, foolishness, and naivety brought their own doom
I'm not sure if having Enoch codices would crack open the puzzle immediately, but having a different sample to compare would be quite helpful. The big coup would be to find an Enoch description of a common spell that he can cross-reference with the Kiymetl counterpart to figure out what they have in common.
BTW, nice bit of writing Snus, bringing up the homogeneity of the alien life preventing Erf from comparing/contrasting samples, and then introducing this idea of cross-referencing spell codices.
I would like to add something to your first sentence, 'they got their set of cards, and Erf got his card printer.' and whatever they give him will only multiply his.
plus, i'm reminded of Aikerim's comment about Erf wearing his abilities like a skin as he doesn't want to give a sh*t about what these two think about him.
@Tupperwarez i mean it gotta be smth right? he's lacking nothing but the right set of keys that could translate the Flow into his language, and then translates it back into the Flow by teaching it to the mages. they got the gall to do this in my opinion is the big break he's needed all along
@Zohan hahah fr. as long as the ink well not drying (never) and the po-po doesn't come to crack down the place shutting down the joint, he got a revolution to lit
The issue is that he is operating of the set of rules that they are just outright unfamiliar with or consider impossible. Like trying to deal with a person who has access to "spawn gold" comman in real life without knowing it.
yeah you may "swindle" him for tons of gold for some private info and feel like you've won....Until the price of gold turns worthless next year from all that influx of instant gold.
@Tupperwarez he did ask for it because he was thinking about the similar problem, yes.
@alshb He is trying to avoid revolutions at all costs
@Snusmumriken Not all revolutions are bloody.
@Zohan You often don't know which one you will end up with until it happens. Erf mentioned that he doesn't like that uncertainty.
@Snusmumriken that's also true, i'm not dreaming this will be a straight path to Godhood or smth, but these two are basically the first two humans asking the Devil how to be a star. we know the Devil got nothing on the Navigator cus not only their souls, he won't even spare their slits
@Snusmumriken soo, will this change? or that's too big a spoiler
@alshb What would change?
He is trying to avoid revolutions at all costs
@alshb no he will still try to avoid them. he doesnt need a revolution right now. nor does he want it. In his mind the event is too chaotic to plan. and possibly too bloody to execute and likely unnecessary in the grand scope of things.
“What do you wish that you could do?”
Sounding exactly like what an evil patron would say to their warlock.
ehhh.... sounds like a greasy recruiter from a third-rate entertainment agency.
@Zohan The casting couch is this way
That's just a taste, gotta hit 'em with all five of the Questions from Babylon 5:
Who are you?
What do you want?
Why are you here?
Where are you going?
Do you have anything worth living for?
as wishers they should... beware
i got a surprise coming for you
@Snusmumriken Erf and a 4some? I mean we know he can go at it `till all of the girls are exhausted
@florin27x - this is Anaise
Daimon indeed. He's a genie in search of his bottle, reshaping the world before their eyes.
Upending might be more apt.
Started binging this series this weekend, and now unfortunately I am all caught up :(
Nevertheless, thank you for the chapter, and I'm excited to be along for the ride!
Thank you and welcome to our party
I wonder if the nanites have a longer integration process than assumed. Where they turn knowledge into experience without affecting memory/personality. Or perhaps Erf has simply learned from his experiences. How ever it happened, he's grown quite a bit.
My assumption is that nanites expedite the learning process by speeding up the construction of new neural pathways and reinforcing them. Basically what happens naturally but at times 10.
I mean Erf isnt static and changes as the story progresses. He is in the situation that both his parts are unfamiliar with and he has to adapt and grow.
@Snusmumriken Tis the speed of his adaptation that I find impressive. Knowledge alone doesn't provide the wisdom he's been showing of late. Perhaps he's simply quick to adapt, or perhaps his nanites are helping with his neural plasticity. Tis simply nice to see him improve.
I can't wait for the house of cards to fall. Thanks for the chapter!
Unless the house is too big to fall!
@Snusmumriken then we burn it. And get a new one :D
@TehFoxFire Noooo what about government bailouts!
So I was skimming through some previous chapters, and I noticed that when Albin was talking to Mansiya, he mentioned that Erf wasn't like a Cancer sprout, seeking destruction to devour someone's Spark.
And in this chapter, Erf mentions that Creatures carry off bodies. At first I thought maybe they were taking the bodies to the Cancer sprouts to devour Sparks, but we already know that a Spark fades away after death (when Irje killed the Collectors in WB). But maybe there's some 'Flow enabling' compound/organ/gland in wer/wermages that is still useful to Creatures, despite fundamentally incompatible biology?
After all, in the same chapter with Mansiya, we see Albin fiddling with what's described as 'his Flow tentacle,' implying that the head tentacles aren't just vestigial manipulators or something. Maybe they're Flow antennae with direct nerve connections to the brain, and wer/wermages have 'stunted' versions that are just nodes somewhere in the skull cavity.
Anyway, time will tell what's going on eventually. But it's still fun to speculate and theorize.
Spark is a concept of what they magically perceive somewhere in the centre of wer+ bodies. the rest will be slowly revealed, especially once he starts getting his hands dirty
@Snusmumriken Rip and tear, until it is done! Well, not really, but "Dissect and document, until it is researched!" is less catchy.
Waaaaait a minute here, something magical in the center of wer(mage) bodies? Has this been a xianxia all along? YOU DARE???
@Tupperwarez always has been.
@Snusmumriken Alas, while I was focused on tech and kingdom building, you were mastering the hidden blade.
Kidding aside, once Erf gets to cutting and taking notes, he'll probably need to confirm his findings/hypotheses with a living subject too, right? Given that the requirements for x-rays or MRIs are still a ways off, I was wondering if living tech can generate ultrasonic vibrations, allowing Erf to jury-rig an ultrasound setup?
@Tupperwarez He won't be crafting any tools in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by prying eyes. stuff that can be explained like blades armours and alchemical grubs - sure. something advanced without clear purpose -- thats risky.