The fires of Rorik’s forge roared with the primordial fury of flame as he heated a bar of arcanium in its blazing heat. His furrowed brow was drenched in sweat. Sparks danced across the room as his storm magic overflowed with excitement. He couldn’t control it very well yet, and he often found himself with excess energy. Just like an overfilled barrel of rum, his power occasionally leaked out.
Hopefully, his latest design would fix this.
Rorik began pumping the bellows with all his strength, “Moro,” he called “I need you to bolster the forge’s heat. Arcanium has a stupidly high melting point.”
The white flame shot out of his chest and into the forge. Soon, the inferno inside began to turn white as Moro imbued the forge with its energy. The temperature reader on the melting pot soon began to climb higher and higher.
“Alright, any more and we’ll start melting the forge itself, you can come back now.” Rorik said as he stopped pumping the bellows.
Moro happily floated out of the forge and shot back into Rorik’s chest. He walked over to the pot and began pouring the molten arcanium into the mold that he had prepared.
The molten metal slowly flowed into the small mold. Satisfied with the amount he filled it with, Rorik poured the rest of the arcanium into ingot molds and put his tools aside. Now he just needed to wait for the metal to solidify and cool.
“Who goes there?!” An AG soldier shouted into the night. She could’ve sworn that she saw something lurking in the gloomy dark…
Then again, maybe she was just being paranoid. The disturbance in Genisi had put everyone on edge lately. Command was furious, and two of their best operatives were hospitalized with no signs of a recovery in the near future. Oh well, at least she got reassigned to a relatively peaceful research la-
The soldier’s vision blurred. She felt her consciousness slip away as she fell to the ground.
“Huh. That IS pretty strong.” Mikhail remarked as he hid the soldier’s body in the undergrowth of the forest.
“Of course. It could put a shark to sleep at the right dosage. Fortunately for her, that shot didn’t have enough in it to kill a human.” Sasha bragged as she slipped another dart into her gun.
Supposedly, the gun used compressed air to fire the darts at high speed while making minimal noise. Mikhail wasn’t quite sure how that worked, but it certainly came in handy.
“So what’s the plan, boss?” Steven asked, “We going in loud or quiet?”
“I’d prefer to keep it quiet. We can go loud if need be, but keep in mind that we’d need to lay low after this if alarms start going off.” Mikhail answered, “Oh, and DON’T let anyone see your face. Rorik made that mistake, and now he can’t be seen in public without a disguise.”
Steven chuckled as he got his lockpicks ready, “You got it. What’s our entry point?”
“Still no progress?” Rorik asked as Kyra sat down.
“No, Gerald is more careful than we thought. He’s created a public image for himself; one that the people believe wholeheartedly. Moreover, I still can’t figure out the encryption for the files that you stole… At first I thought that it was the old encryption that we used when I first joined the AG, but no such luck.” Kyra sighed, “So, what’re you making in here?”
“A ring.” Rorik said as he checked on the mold; it had cooled to the point where he could hold it without worrying about being burned.
“Who’s the lucky lady?”
“Hey now! It could be a guy!” Rorik protested.
“Alright, who’s the lucky guy?”
“Why, myself, of course!” Rorik said with a grin, “I was thinking that I could use the ring to absorb any excess magic energy that slips out, meaning that I’d stop shooting lightning and wind everywhere when I loose focus.”
“Well… That isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard, but I think that you’d be better off meditating to reign in control of your magic.”
“Already tried that.” Rorik muttered “Moro, could you carve the notches onto the ring for me?”
The white flame shot out of Rorik’s chest as he placed the ring in a vice to keep it still. It began to burn small engravings and runes into the outside edge of the ring.
“It can enchant?” Kyra asked, suddenly intrigued.
“To a degree. Moro can make runes that increase an item’s capacity for storing magic energy. For example, my longsword can hold and release the magic energy of anything placed inside the empty notch on the hilt of the blade.” Rorik explained, “The ring will work in much the same way. I store my energy in it, and I’ll be able to release it whenever I wish. This way, maybe I can stop losing control so often…”
Kyra gazed at the ring, lost in thought for several seconds, “It’s not your fault, you know.” she finally said.
“…How can you know that?”
Kyra looked him dead in the eye, “The process of mutating your magic is extremely unstable. Your body is suffused with so much excess energy that it has no choice but to expel it. That, combined with the shock of losing your eye, meant that you were bound to lose control regardless of your discipline. The fact that you didn’t kill your parents when you lashed out is impressive on its own.”
“And how do you know what happens when someone mutates their magic?”
Kyra held up two fingers, “Two reasons. One, it’s taught to almost every young wizard when they start to master their magic. Two… Well, it’s a bit of a long story.”
Kyra sighed, “Did Ivy ever tell you how her and I met?”
Rorik shook his head.
“Didn’t think so. A few months after I first joined the AG, my superiors assigned me to a special dispatch on mainland. We were supposed to explore the uncharted regions of the wilderness and report our findings. The group consisted of: me, 15 other soldiers, 3 lieutenants, and one captain. Needless to say, this was an important mission.” Kyra explained, “The mission went as planned for the most part. We’d discovered multiple ancient ruins with worthwhile artifacts to loot and preserve. We also took care of a few bandit camps along the way.”
Kyra chuckled ruefully, “Sometimes, I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d never gone on that mission. Would they all still be alive today? Or would they just be written off as another dead squad of explorers? Regardless, we ran into a problem midway through the mission.”
“I can still remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I had seen something through the undergrowth, and I recommended that we check it out. After all, it could be more bandits waiting to ambush us, or it could be a lost trader.” Kyra grimaced, “No such luck.”
“A floating orb of darkness hovered in front of our group. It… Spoke, to the vice-admiral. He kept answering its whispers with things like: ‘You can’t be right.’ and ‘That can’t be the secret to power!’. Eventually, the orb gave up. Or maybe it succeeded. Either way, our captain screamed. In fury or pain, I’ll never know. What I do know, is that his first mind mutated on the spot. You have to understand that this man had focused almost exclusively on weapons and martial arts. His shadow magic was almost completely neglected in exchange for his skill with a warhammer.”
“So when an aura of death incarnate flickered to life around him, you can understand why we were shocked. Y’know, maybe if we hadn’t hesitated at that moment, then perhaps I wouldn’t be the only one still alive. Still, how could we predict that our leader would turn on us?”
“He struck down the first lieutenant with inhuman ease. Her dying screams were rife with agony and regret. I made the mistake of looking at her corpse, and, well, lets just say that death magic does some pretty horrific things to the bodies of its victims.”
“After that, he lifted his hammer from where he had dropped it. That’s when I knew that we were fucked. As I said, this man had focused almost his entire life to mastering this weapon. Thus,” Kyra choked up for a moment before regaining her composure, “the rest began to drop like flies. Many of us began to run, but it was futile. He was simply too fast. The bastard laughed as he watched the last flicker of life drain from each of his victims’ eyes.”
“As he was beating in the skull of the last soldier, I saw a pistol that one of the lieutenants had dropped. Not thinking straight, I dove for it. He turned to me now. The last survivor.” Kyra said, “I can still feel the pistol in my hands. I can still see his damned smiling face as he began to walk closer to me.”
“And I can still see the way his forehead caved in as the bullet tore through the front of his skull and out the other end.”
“As powerful as some people are, you still need a curse to be immune to a bullet through the brain. I went drinking that night. Partly to calm my nerves, mostly to try and forget.”
“Ivy found me the next morning, practically comatose from the amount of alcohol that I’d consumed. She helped me recover, gave me something to anchor myself on. You wonder why I meditate so much? That’s because I use it to reign in my psyche. Calms my nerves a bit.”
Kyra chuckled, bitterly, “Ironically enough, the fact that I’d survived the mission with enough resolve to retell the tale got me promoted. Soon, I awakened my second mind, and began rising through the ranks. They assigned me to a tower in the second sea. You know the rest.”
Mikhail clenched his teeth in concentration as the shadowy clone that he summoned choked out a guard who had been a little too perceptive during their robbery. He could feel the energy rapidly draining from him as the guard slowly ebbed into unconsciousness.
“Damn,” he muttered to himself, “I need to refine that spell a bit more. Takes too much energy.”
“Impressive nonetheless.” Sasha said as she hid the body in a nearby closet.
“Any progress on the safe?” Mikhail asked, turning to Steven.
“Nope,” The former thief replied “gonna take a little longer, I’m afraid. The AG uses better safes than most people I’ve robbed.”
Nodding, Mikhail turned to some of the files in the room. Most of them ranged from small notes on the various creatures of mainland, to blueprints of weapons that the AG was planning on developing.
Naturally, Mikhail destroyed most of the blueprints. Although their clan was growing rapidly, they still didn’t have the materials nor the know-how to replicate the prototypes shown on the blueprints. He kept the notes about the wildlife and ruins of mainland out of sheer curiosity.
“Hey boss?” Steven asked.
“Have you noticed that this has been a bit too easy? Surely the AG realizes that a few common soldiers wouldn’t be enough to guard this place, right?”
That gave Mikhail pause. It had been very easy thus far. There were very few guards in the building, and they were exceedingly easy to sneak past or take down. Something about this didn’t sit right with him, but he hadn’t really noticed until Steven pointed it out.
An explosion of pain in his right shoulder rocked Mikhail from his thoughts. He clutched the bleeding hole in his arm as it fell uselessly to the side. Alarms began to wail around the facility.
“And who exactly are you?” A man said, appearing from the shadows. He wore a dark hood and cloak along with black leather armour that looked heavily enchanted.
“Wha-?” Mikhail began, before he noticed another figure appearing behind the newcomer. They wore the same clothes as the other one.
“What? Cat got your tongue, boy?” The man held a strange looking firearm in his right hand, and was pointing it directly at Mikhail, “Insurgents… Always acting before they think. Hope you said goodbye to your loved ones, kid.”