Being [Overcharged] tickled. Balegritz wasn’t sure he liked that, and he wasn’t sure he liked the keenly interested smiles his mates were giving him.
It was one thing for one’s mates to be interested in one’s body. Balegritz knew he had a very nice body. He would never admit that he worked at it to keep in shape, beyond what the protocols for a Deep Research Voyage required, but he did put in a few extra reps and skip some of the optional rest days in order to maintain his gains.
Hermeziz and Illuthiz however were not looking at him with that sort of lust in their eyes. The lust that was burning in the souls was of a more academic bent. They didn’t want to strap him to a bed and have their way with him. They wanted to strap him to a table and study him.
He though, if he asked very nicely, they might even be willing to share their findings with him afterwards.
“Looks pretty conclusive I’d say.” Lost Alice didn’t have the same scholarly hunger blazing within her, but she did seem to appreciate the multi-color light show Balegritz’s skin was giving off.
“Will it last long?” Illuthiz asked, her eyes locked onto Balegritz’s torso as she stepped around him.
“Typically no. [Overcharge] usually burns off pretty quickly,” Lost Alice said. “Though, in part that’s because we usually only [Overcharge] right before a battle where we plan to use the excess magic immediately. It will probably last a little longer for Balegritz since he doesn’t have spells to power with it.”
“I’ve been timing the process,” Hermeziz said. “If you have more of those [Mana Chargers] we can repeat the trial to see how consistent it is. Does the amount of [Overcharging] change across multiple instances?”
“For us it’s pretty consistent,” Lost Alice said. “Assuming you’re okay once the condition fades and you’re willing to try again Balegritz, I have a hunch that the second time will be longer.”
“You’re reasoning being?” Illuthiz asked.
“We know that your people can develop magic via leveling in a class like we [Adventurers] do,” Lost Alice said.
“We do?” Balegritz asked. He wasn’t sure he’d seen that note, but there was so much going on he was hardly surprised to only be catching up on such things after the fact.
“Yawlorna’s training with Glimmerglass,” Illuthiz said. “She’s thought she was at a personal level cap, but it turned out she was able to divert the experience we earned into the same casting class Glimmerglass has.”
“Right. And part of building a class is developing the increased mana reserves needed for casting more and higher level spells,” Lost Alice said.
“So, we already know we can work magic here? What is this telling us then?” Balegritz asked. He wasn’t usually slow on the uptake, but the buzzing of the [Overcharged] condition left him feeling a little distracted.
There was magic in him and it wanted to do something.
“Developing magic as part of a class is predictable,” Lost Alice said, “but also limited. We know that Yawlorna has magic now and we know what she can do with it. If you have magic naturally though? Before developing any classes?”
“Oh! Then we get to experiment more to find out what it can do!” Illuthiz had never, in Balegritz’s memory, looked happier.
“Uh, yeah, that and it means if you do pick up a casting class, you’ll likely be phenomenally more adept at it than an [Adventurer] of the same level would be,” Lost Alice said and Balegritz watched the wheels start turning in her head too.
“Would we need to develop a class to start working with magic?” Hermeziz asked.
Balegritz sighed internally. Hermeziz was happier than Illuthiz was. New research that he couldn’t guess the results of was the only thing that drive away his continual pessimism like that.
“I don’t think so,” Lost Alice said. “There are plenty of creatures in the [Fallen Kingdoms] that have natural magical abilities. Take something like a [Pegasus]. Their ability to fly is channeled through their wings, but when you watch their wings beating you can see it’s not the lift from the air their displacing that’s keeping them aloft. And if you’ve ever seen one really trying to get somewhere? There’s no flapping at all. They’re like rockets then. All magic, not even a glance in the direction of physics obeying forces in evidence.”
“Can you fly then?” Illuthiz asked, tapping her fingers on Balegritz’s bare back.
“I have no idea,” he said. “How would I start?”
“It’s tough to say. As a [Vampire], I’ve got some inherent abilities that consume magic, but those came along with the [Change] and are peculiar to [Vampires]. I doubt you can work with your own blood like I can, so my techniques won’t really apply to you.”
“What makes you think we’re not blood workers too? Or that we can’t be?” Illuthiz asked.
“You don’t smell like competition,” Lost Alice said. “One of the things my senses are attuned to it is other blood drinkers. [Vampires] of different bloodlines don’t tend to get along super well. A fair number are basically kill on sight with each other, and some are kill on sight with everything. So you can see why it would be fairly important to pick out my competitors.”
“I don’t suppose one of us could become a [Vampire]?” Illuthiz asked.
“It’s simple enough, but it would have the issue that you’d be under my total domination as my [Blood Thrall], until I died for keeps,” Lost Alice said.
“Okay, so Plan B then,” Balegritz said.
“You’re going to try jumping off a building, aren’t you?” Illuthiz asked.
“No!” Balegritz scowled. “I’m gong to suggest we do some reading. This place has legends of people who look like us. I’m pretty sure those legends should mention at least one or two things those people could do that the magic might think we’d be good at too.”
Talking with yourself, particularly when you were alone was not supposed to leave you tongue tied. It was most especially not supposed to leave both of yourselves tongue tied as you sat in a private garden that the other’s you’d been with had cleared out of once it because apparent that you hadn’t shown up intending to do yourself harm.
“You look even better than I imagined,” Claire said, glancing over at Wrath Raven and breaking their silence with what felt like the most ridiculous possible line she could have thought of.
“Thank you,” Wrath Raven said, her scowl unchanging as her eyes darted about.
A woman of few words. Claire wanted to kick herself. It had been so convenient to play Wrath as a brooding, taciturn type since it meant she didn’t need to be on voice chat so much. She’d never imagined she’d have to be on the wrong end of it herself.
“How did you manage to find me, or us?” Claire asked, cognizant of Lady Midnight’s faintly amused and detached observation of the proceedings. “I looked for you the moment I arrived in the [High Beyond], and then when we got here.”
“You did?” Wrath asked, cocking her head and raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah! As soon as I realized I was actually in this world, I tried reaching out,” Claire said. “I spent so much time here with you, I had to know if you were okay. Or, even real.”
“You didn’t choose to forego me then?” Wrath asked.
“I didn’t have any choice in what happened at all,” Claire said. “And why would I forego my main? You know how exactly how much time we’ve worked together? Lady Midnight was supposed to be an experiment to see what the new zone was like. No offense Lady M.”
“None taken,” Lady Midnight said.
Claire and she hadn’t integrated to quite the same level that Tessa and Pillowcase had. They still knew they were part of the same whole, but there was the sense of being different facets of the same gem, rather than simply a shift in perspective.
“So if I kill her will you be free?” Wrath asked.
It was an alarming question, or it should have been, but Claire knew Wrath. There wasn’t malice in it, just the desire for the simplest and most direct solution to the problem in front of her.
“Only in the sense that if you chop off your left arm, you’re free of its weight,” Claire said. “Lady Midnight’s a part of me. And you. I think we’re all connected, or the same person maybe? Even though that doesn’t make any sense.”
“You are not me,” Wrath said. “And I am not her. But you are my [Inspiration]. You lifted me up. Made me special.”
“Wrath, what you are is special all on its own. You were the one who soloed the [Lendon Hydra]. You are the one who broke [Grabkar the Serpent King’s] crown. You’re the one who united the [Ishgaran Flame Folk] and brought down the [Fimbul Engine of Ryme]. I was there for that stuff, but you lived it!”
A broad smile of joyful memories broke over Wrath’s face.
“We were good together,” Wrath said.
“We were,” Claire said. “But you’re still amazing on your own. You want proof: you found me when something in this world seems to be conspiring against that. I mean I don’t know of anyone else who’s done that.”
“You said the healer, Glimmerglass, and the small tank, Pillowcase, were like us?” Wrath said, confused by Claire’s last assertion.
“They’re a weird case. Tessa, their [Inspiration] found them both after we ran into something that’s not supposed to exist. She used a god soul to bring them together, and I don’t think those are just laying around all over the place.”
“Finding you was easy though,” Wrath said. “I can still feel you. In here.” She tapped her chest. “But not here.” She tapped her temple. “I listened to here,” her chest again, “and believed in you. Like you believed in me. The rest was just asking you and tracking where you were. Anyone could do it.”
“Huh,” Claire said, an idea forming that seemed very right as she saw things from Wrath’s perspective. “Anyone who believed.”
Family was complicated. Vixali knew that. The fact that she’d had to eat most of hers had made them any less of a problem for her. If anything they were worse after they were dead.
“You claim a relation to another [Vampire]?” Vixali asked the shrouded [Adventurer].
“I state. A claim is something that can be disputed and taken away. Lost Alice and I can’t be sundered quite so easily as that,” the shrouded one said.
“I am curious what statements she might make in the matter?” Vixali asked.
“You wonder if the two of us stand to incite a war, or if it will be a congenial meeting of familial harmony,” the shrouded one said. “I’m curious about that myself.”
“Experience has led me to believe that familial harmony is a myth for our kind, so I suppose that leaves only war?” Vixali said.
“I will confess we’ve squabbled in the past, but there is still blood and deeper bonds shared between us.” the shrouded one said. “Which is why I wish to know if you have taken her as a vassal?”
“I suppose saying I have might lead to some disagreement between us?” Vixali asked. “Which makes the obvious answer ‘no’, which gives ‘no’ the air of a lie, even if it might be the truth.”
“Would a [Queen] need to lie? Or wouldn’t she always be taken at her word?”
“Only by those who think the title carries integrity and responsibility,” Vixali said. “And you don’t strike me as someone burden by either of those illusions.”
“Perhaps not, but nonetheless, I will take you at your word. So for the third time I ask, have you taken my sister, Lost Alice, as a vassal, bound in blood and subject to your decrees?”
“I would ask you to swear to me to find out, but I see no path where that ends well for me,” Vixali said. “So instead, a simple answer, no, I have not. As I’m sure you will understand when next you see her.”
“And when could that be arranged?” the shrouded one asked, stepping out of the shadows at last.