Book III - Chapter 18

Chapter 18

[Snake Report]

The past few days, I’ve had a lot of things on my mind.

Thoughts of grief, mostly, but other things, too.

Set in deep, the best I can do is accept them, but mostly I’ve just been trying to find the space between them and making an effort stay there.

Distract, redirect, focus on the moment.

This is probably not the best approach. I’d call it a creative form of denial, but my alternative is talking to the “other” guy instead of a therapist. and I’d rather not go down that road.

No, there’s absolutely zero chance of that going well, for anyone.

Keeping myself occupied with busy-work is preferable.

In respect to that, I feel there’s something to be said for Magic.

More specifically, creating things with Magic.

My old friend, Earth Magic, has returned with a vengeance.

I’ll admit, even for all the negative emotions I’ve been coping with, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy about it, in some small way.

It’s like I had lost a part of me, in the same way you might feel if you suddenly went blind, or lost your sense of touch, or taste, or smell.

I might not be in a good place, but it’s still a relief to have the Magic back. Something other than Water, where I can lose myself a bit.

Just work.

Once I get rolling, there’s no need to think. Each piece, each pattern, each leap and bound towards something new- something I’ve never tried, and I find myself moving quicker. My ability to work around my own restraints seems to shift. Setting the limits a little farther, a little bit further down the line, until what once seemed impossible, is now just difficult.

Until what was once difficult, is now simple.

Until what was once simple, is now effortless.

This, is what I imagine the great artisans have been chasing. Not to be restricted by the limitations of their bodies. Be it music, or buildings, or feats of engineering: Since the first caveman set paint to wall, and everything that came after, I feel as though it must be this.

When you’ve mastered something so completely, that the act of it can take over. Swallow everything else whole, until there’s nothing but you and what you’ve set out to do.

I’ve mostly lost track of how long I’ve been down here, now.

The light from the stairway has dimmed, come back, dimmed again.

One mana crystal, turned to two, turned to three, turned to four, while the stone sang and the whole cavern was shifted beneath my touch.

There’s not a single grain of dust in this room that’s been left unfamiliar to me.

The ground, once to the form of a natural cavern, has grown flat. The ceiling, domed. The walls, covered in the visage of some ancient battles and legends long past, wiped away, and reformed to something new.

No more images of slaughter and bloodshed: but of an Elf, standing on the peak of a beautiful tree. One with roots that stretch out along the walls, reaching like an embrace.

It’s beautiful.

Even as the feelings of work settle down into exhaustion, and reality comes creeping back.

I’m proud of it.

This room was the Dungeon, once. A place that had been claimed by hate and hunger… Maybe it will be again, some day.

Right now, though?

It’s mine. I’ve made it mine.

Sss…

Tired doesn’t even begin to describe. With the Golems standing guard, it’s probably okay to rest.

It’s not a bad thing, to sit back and appreciate one’s own work, sometimes.

Just for now.

Tired.

I’ll rest for a bit.

Not sleep, just rest.

Strange to think, but I was never a great builder, as a human. Not much for art, either. At least, I don’t remember being that sort of person. What I do recall, if anything, was how difficult it was to find the right tools for the job.

Wood, screws, nails, paint, polish… metal bits with strange dimensions that I couldn’t get to work the way I wanted, or drilled holes in places just a bit too far from the intended mark.

I remember a lot of my trouble was taking what was in my head, and actually making that vision a reality. Eventually, I would get impatient, or frustrated, and I’d go do something else.

But, Magic isn’t really held by that same standard.

There’s no… limit?

I suppose that word fits.

When you use mana and willpower, a person doesn’t need a dozen different tools to achieve their goal. You don’t need to slow down and measure, or find the one thing you forgot in the back of the garage, or the tool bench.

You can just “go.”

Go, and work.

I like that.

It took time, though.

Looking back, I was betting my survival on a uselessly under-powered set of skills, vastly inferior to all other options. Almost a joke, really.

The tiny candle’s worth of fire is nothing to the ability to spit venom. The small burrow you might be able to mold with Earth Magic is useless compared to the strength that comes with being a bigger, larger example of your species. What’s a small tunnel in the wall going to be worth, when placed beside being able to swallow your enemies whole?

It’s a slow pay-off.

As a tool on its own, Magic is almost worthless. With the mystical arts, there is a level of initial dedication needed to make it viable. Even then, it is a long and strenuous journey to be “powerful” in any real sense. I had to work at it, had to practice with it. Until I was laying half-dead in some unfinished tunnel, dreaming of the day I’d finally make it to the surface. But, practice makes perfect. The weird degree of separation between what’s in the mind and what can actually be done, starts to blur an bit. given enough blood, sweat, and tears.

If you imagine something, if you can hold that image, pick it up, and rotate it about in your brain: you can create it. Then, it might as well be unstoppable.

All these facts put together: the long grind to power, the easy rewards from taking some other ability, the early advantages to raw power… These are probably the reason I haven’t met a lot of monsters like myself slithering around out there.

Not a lot of creatures wake up one day, and decide to burrow through a few miles of solid rock.

But, in a more abstract sense, it is strange to be so good at something, and barely know anything about it.

Not in a technical sense, but a more literal and fact oriented way. I have a long list of questions, and no [Voice of Gaia] willing to answer them.

For example: The Elves didn’t have Magic.

Why is that?

They had blood Magic, and rituals- yes. But, I never saw one of them shoot a fire or lightning. Not even when it would have been very convenient for them to do just that.

No, The Elves only used blood for their Magic. Rituals and bargains, and only those.

Why, I wonder?

Monsters have Magic.

Humans have it, too.

So, why not the Elves?

It’s something that’s been bothering me. Something- one of many, I wish I had asked Imra about when I had the chance.

I mean, Monsters… well, most monsters: we’re not all that smart.

Not trying to say I identify as one in a traditional sense, but I’ve met my fair share. Enough to say that they don’t typically fit the criteria for “intelligent.” Some are scary-good at killing and eating things. Some are talented in working together with others of their kind, or using some sort of trick or skill, but there aren’t a lot of monsters I’ve met that happen to be recognizably intelligent. Unlike humans, there’s not really much of an innate desire of knowledge or learning.

And, from personal experience, I think that’s what limits Magic the most. There are all these spells out there, but as far as I know, they’re really just short-cuts. Complicated “cheats” to doing it yourself. Like how, for the most part, I can build a better Golem than the spell I know.

It stands to reason that humans are good at magic because they can think about it. Because they have the knowledge and the patience to sit down and learn.

But Elves were plenty smart.

So, why didn’t they have it?

Did I simply miss something? Did some of them have Magic, and I failed to notice?

I feel like that doesn’t add up.

They use blood, and nothing else. Which, troubles me. The [Construct] Eveth was suicidally keeping- she said it was a Dwarven creation that relied on blood. Just like the Elves, and their rituals. Not the Magic that monsters or humans use.

Gifts, Imra called them.

Stolen Gifts.

What was it, exactly, that the Large Frog God said to me?

We are chosen warriors, little serpent.

Rising to the top on an ocean of blood.

……………………