Chapter 13

[Snake Report]

It’s funny.

After stubbornly wasting half a day trying to come up with a better solution, I gave in and created a [Sentient Golem] to help shade the sprout.

I didn’t really want to give up, but all of the other ideas I had seemed too labor intensive. As the sun moved throughout the day, I got worried I would either shade too much, or too little. Eventually, I elected to “contract out” the work, if possible.

Still… It wasn’t what I expected.

Short the Fire magic I have, I never really dived too deep into “premade” spells.

I mean, I remember seeing them. They were always there, in the menu. Not that the Menu seems to be letting me at them now.

[RESTRICTED ACCESS] [!]

No, that menu hates me.

[!] [!] [!]

Big time.

Anyways, activating the spell, I got to see something I’m not super used to.

I saw what the Magic wanted.

Like a shortcut, it simply “was.” As in: “This is what the spell will be doing now, so you just gotta give it mana, and wait.”

Fundamentally different from most of the basic magic I’ve gotten used to.

I mean, yes it still activates, but the control is different.

Limited.

I’ve seen humans use this sort of thing. Young Gandalf did it more than a few times. Eveth did with several of her spells, though she was probably less dependent on it than most.

If I were to call this anything, it’s the “cheat” version of Magic.

Cookie-cutter Magic.

With little to no input on my part, the basic figure it began to form was nothing more than a printed template. All the tiny nitty-gritty work rushed off along that plan immediately.

Mana was sapped, as it began to rise up to meet my scaled intentions and mana contributions. With no suggestions from myself, for the sole exception of general size and scale, the creature formed up. I watched, I learned, I didn’t so much follow the instructions, as I did interpret them as they went along.

One minute later, it was pretty much all there.

Slow magic, then.

Wasn’t a fan of the speed, but once it came to the looks and cosmetics…

It was, I’ll put this frankly: hideous.

A poorly molded head, lumpy arms, legs barely separated…

Blind, poorly balanced, inefficient to a manner that actually made me feel anger. So much, that I could have sworn I heard the other voice- far off and distant, begin to rumble once again.

I had to look away for a bit, and let the magic cease, before that settled.

Once everything came to a stop, Slowly, the Golem took a knee- if what it had could even be called knees, and not lumped molds of stone, and stared me down.

Not in a scary way, but a…

A lumpy, misshapen, abomination sort of way.

Yeah.

I stared back, mostly in pity.

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up]

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up] [!]

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up] [!] [!]

[Lesser Sentient Golem] had begun to progress like any basic skill might, when provided an almost endless mana supply. The notifications were rolling along, now. Considering the excessive cost, what I had just created, would have been completely impossible if I was working with what a starting monster might have available.

Ten slithers tall, half that wide, it loomed.

A complete mockery of stone work, yet… loyal.

Very loyal.

That was pretty much the only positive thing I could get out of it. Not language or words, but a consistent signal of… well, waiting for me to tell it what to do, I suppose.

Still, I wasn’t pleased.

A quarter of my mana was simply “gone.”

That was a LOT, for what I’d ended up with.

No, this had taken far too much mana, and provided far too unfortunate a result. To say I was unhappy with it, was an understatement. Maybe I’d gathered up a little bit of an ego, but Earth Magic was supposed to be better than this.

Still, it stared at me.

No, I wasn’t satisfied.

[Lesser Sentient Golem] huh?

After spending so much mana, I didn’t want to tear it down and start over, but…

I activated the skill for a second time, I did something different. Instead of the letting pre-decided Magic run through whatever terrible template it thought of as a structure, I intercepted.

[Earth Sculpting]

I took over, with a vengeance.

It began, anew.

First, I shaped.

From the ashes around me, I took everything up with the sand, letting the spiral circle inward. Only the things I wanted, and nothing else. I operated on a “pick and choose” for what went in, as I encased it. Then, I pressed the materials into place, sinking them into the sad excuse for a Golem. Without stopping, I let the Magic pull: forming up a skeleton of carbon, muscles and tendons of frozen stone. Piece by piece, layer by layer, taking the Golem’s original form, and changing it.

Cutting away, shaving bits, or completely reshaping…

As the body morphed, I covered the figure which rose in armor, plated in polished stone, pressed so hard it glowed with a heat of its own- regardless of the sun. As the sandstorm raised higher, I searched- patterns skittering out among the growing cloud of swirling dirt. Lost mana crystals, unresponsive to earth’s pull, were seized. Scattered bits and pieces, hidden among the sands, lost from boxes of fleeing adventurers.

Taking a note from the cookie-cutter design, I formed several hands of sand to pluck these free, settling them into the mold. Slipping through the surface as it parted way, dozens of tiny shards clumped together, right at the statue’s heart. As many as I could find, placed one by one until a glowing core formed.

Though the spell didn’t give me much in the way of reason for why this would matter, I elected to do it anyways.

Then, I letting it all settle out, came the tricky part.

Two spells were going at once.

Not normally a problem.

Two spells going at once, while fighting one another.

Sort of a problem.

[Earth Sculpting] and [Lesser Sentient Golem] did not play nice with one another, whatsoever. Especially not when [Earth Sculpting] was more like several hundred spells operating under one name. The drain soon became substantial: while everything was held into place, but not everything was as I wanted it.

Originally activated, then interrupted, the [Lesser Sentient Golem] spell was having what I might just have to call a panic attack.

Mystical, magical, whatever- that’s what it was.

Clearly, it had specific orders to try and issue, but being massively outclassed by Earth Sculpting, it was doing so in vain. Over… and over… and over…

Oh, it tried. It tried, alright.

Like someone caught in a loop on the same mistake, or a computer program, running and failing. Unable to undo what Earth Sculpting was solidly locking in place. As it tried to reverse my creation, I continually forced the stone still, in the hopes of letting the spell run itself out.

I didn’t want a lumpy Golem.

It really wanted a lumpy Golem.

Really- REALLY wanted a lumpy Golem.

It was stubborn. Maybe seeing someone cheat the system pissed it off, or maybe it’s just built that way.

At first, it resisted.

For several minutes, it certainly struggled.

Then, all at once: it died.

Thankfully, not without completing whatever important bits were needed at the very end, though. I let the remaining sand fall down around us, as the spell came to a close.

The work was done.

Kneeling before me, the Golem stared down with eyes of pressure-formed gemstone. Armor, carved with battles and trials of war. On its left arm, it bore a massive great shield, and on its right: a heavy club of riveted stone. The mighty warrior of… Frog.

Ssss…

I guess I’m just a slave to routine, after all.

Though it couldn’t speak, I felt the Froggy Golem’s mind reach for me.

Simple…

Pure…

Though the Golem couldn’t form words, or true language, it requested a purpose all the same. Just like the first time I used the spell, it wanted to know what I asked of it.

I considered this.

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up] [!] [!] [!]

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up] [!] [!] [!] [!]

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!]

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!] [!]

It knew so little, but with every rapid ping of the skill which formed it, I felt that changing. Although the structure had been overwritten by my efforts, but Magic was still very much a “Lesser” compared to what it might one day become. The core of the skill, as it were, was still a rather simple “mind.”

Sentient, but not particularly smart.

As the notifications finally stopped, I decided it was good enough.

“Guard this.” I ordered. “Don’t step on it.”

The Golem nodded, as the commands set in.

“Defend… Protect”

I watched as those commands settled, deep inside it. Imprinting, I watched as the earth around the lump of crystals, shifted. Peering into the mana crystals themselves, with Earth magic, wasn’t really possible, but all around them, I saw the seams start to fill in. Like ice melting, then refreezing.

Rising to take a single step, the Great Froggy Golem lifted its mighty shield and… stood in place, blocking the sunlight.

It was rather magnificent.

It was rather shameful.

All that, because I was too lazy to move a stone umbrella a few times a day.

I didn’t dwell on it, though.

Instead, I went to sleep. Or, as close as I can get to sleep, while trying to pull water out of the ground.

Sss…

There’s no thrill in this.

Pulling water out of the ground, bit by bit… I won’t bother describing it further.

Several hours of grinding, at this point.

I guess the positive is, at least I’m in the shade.

Good work, Golem.

I’m sure I’ll come up with a name for you, eventually.

………………………………………………..

Chapter 14

[Snake Report]

Bad vibes.

Something is really unpleasant, and it’s fast on approach.

Waking up to this, in the middle of the night isn’t a good feeling, but it gets a heck of a lot worse when I can’t figure out “why?”

I can taste something “wrong” on the air, feel the pressure in my bones, on my scales, all around me: this isn’t right.

But, there’s nothing wrong.

It’s dark… but I can see, well enough.

Watched a few wagons off on some road from… I don’t know, at least six or seven miles away, this afternoon. [Tiny-Snake Vision] is more than reliable, and dark hasn’t been a problem for me in a long while. Not above ground, anyways.

But, right now, there’s nothing out there.

Just wind, and dust.

Which doesn’t fit the growing sense of dread. Beyond any measure of reasonable doubt, danger is approaching. I know something’s coming for me, but I have no clue what it is.

Sss…

I cleared everything away, earlier. Nothing but flat sand for fifty or so feet in any direction. Charred dust for anything further than that. Rocks and stones and dirt…

I don’t see anything, but I still feel it.

Wrong.

Danger.

Hate.

Death.

The other voice is bubbling up…

That’s about as sure a sign as any. This is real, then.

Great One… They hunger…

Approaches…

Not a very helpful warning, but I haven’t ever expected much from them. If the “other” guy talking, I’m pretty sure whatever’s out there: it’s real.

Tell me where. I know that something’s coming. Where?

The Depths…

The depths… the depths…

If you mean the Dungeon, I plugged that already. Where else?

The… Depths…

They’re getting quieter.

Of all the times for you to be tired out, this isn’t one of them. Can you tell me anything else?

Below… Great One…

Below…

Shit.

Okay, even the Golem’s reacting, now.

It’s a slow, heavy, pivot.

Shield is up. Weapon is ready. Something’s definitely coming.

Full combat prep.

Mana’s still at seventy… seventy-five percent. Recovery from constant Water Magic takes time, I guess.

Doesn’t matter: Earth Magic is spinning up.

Below.

Alright.

Pretty general, as far as directions go. Still, I can put some feelers out, see what Earth Magic runs into, or doesn’t…

Sss…

Where are you coming from…

Where’s the danger?

Get a defense going… I can lift us up a bit… get some spikes ready… fortify…

It’s…

That’s weird.

I could have sworn I stuff a giant lump of bedrock right about there.

No, I’m sure of it. I plugged this thing up tight.

Why the hell would the ground give-

Oh fuck.

………………………………………………

[Golem]

The Creator was yelling many words the Golem did not understand, but the Golem was not bothered, for the Golem did not know many things.

It was not meant to know.

A copy, of a copy. A blueprint of a relic, made anew and handed off. From one being of greatness, to another, the magic which brought the Golem into existence was formed by commands and logic unknown to its own core.

All it knew was housed withing he pattern of runes, sunk deep into the mesh of crystals which made up its “Heart” as the Creator called it.

Somehow, it remembered that, but again: it did not know how, or why.

The Core.

The Heart…

In time, the Golem was aware that more knowledge would come to it, but for the present: it could only understand the purpose for which it had been created.

Defend.

The single word was cemented into every inch of its body. From the shield of stone, readied before its body, to the thin decorative armor the Creator had bestowed up it, the Golem planned to follow this command until it lay broken.

The Golem knew little, but unlike so many living things, it knew its purpose. The very reason it was put upon the plane of existence.

And that was more than enough.

As the ground became alive with grasping claws and howling screams, the Golem stood strong. When creatures emerged from the abyss, and the ground did open, it knew little of the names or reasons. There were no great plans of tactics, or understanding what was to soon unfold, or even if it would survive the coming battle.

Instead, it drew back its weapon of stone, and delivered first blood.

Then, second.

Faltering, was not its purpose.

No, its purpose was to Defend.

[Lesser Sentient Golem - Rank up]

Its enemy screamed in pain and anger as a third, final blow was delivered, but the Golem continued as another replaced it. Already, the Creator was driving them back, calling upon Magic the Golem could not possibly comprehend, but until the battle was won, there would be many more enemies.

Rear back, swing down.

Simple motions, were all it could manage, after all. The Creator had worked hard to provide it a body far above its rank. It had the height, to provide leverage, and the Limbs which could lift for a fast downward swing. Certainly it was capable of delivering a more powerful strike, while the shield it carried blocked the worse of the counter attacks.

Again, the Golem lifted back up, then struck back down.

It recognized that it could win. A mind oriented for combat could understand this. So long as the shield held, perhaps, it might win against two… or three. But, beyond the shield it raised and the weapon beside it, there were many more enemies.

Too many, the Golem recognized.

They tore the ground apart, ripping their way out through tunnels most narrow, or breaches of open stone. The sand was trembling, as more split open: like scars being pulled until they ripped and bled. More and more enemies emerged. Each as dangerous, if not more, than the last.

The enemy died, but dozens more replaced it.

Victory was not possible.

Even with this powerful body: what came for the Golem was a flood. Just a handful of the beasts which approached might be enough to break the its body, and crumble the core it held to dust.

But, thankfully, the Golem was not alone in this fight.

Mana surged forth, commanded to perfection, as the Creator brought forth a reckoning.

“BEGONE.”

Fires of green which raged across the soil. Earth turned to spikes- then glass, as the fires touched them. Ripples of stone, burred like waves of ten thousand spears as they descended upon the threat.

The violence was tremendous.

As the Golem stood, all but fixed, the Creator lifted. Stone rippled across ground, Magic propelling the blue serpent back, forward, up. Splinters rose and intercepted claws. Shafts of burning stone cut back hungry teeth, and the Creator moved like a spear. Not burdened by a heavy body, not sluggish or slow: for every creature which grasped for it, they found nothing but air, blades, and fire.

As the battle was met, the creatures died. More took their place, and they too died- but the Golem cared little for them. Without magic, without superior strength or intellect: In this battle, the Golem knew its purpose.

The beautiful shield soon shattered. Its armor was slashed and melted.

It arms crumbled.

But the Golem did not concern itself, for again: it knew its purpose.

No matter what.

Even as it was chipped away, broken to nothing.

It would defend.

………………………………………………..

Chapter 15

[Snake Report]

News just in: a Dungeon entrance can’t be closed.

Actually… on account of absolute generalizations being a scary concept, allow me to correct that statement:

This particular Dungeon entrance will not stay shut.

There.

That’s a little better.

And yes, trust me on this.

It won’t.

I even tried one solid sheet of bedrock, fifteen slithers thick.

No, it doesn’t give a crap how many slithers thick it is.

It hasn’t stopped me from trying quite yet, but in rough summary, there is no way to keep this thing sealed. At least, not for very long.

Thus, midnight monster attack.

Lessons were learned.

Mistakes were made.

Hey, show me my status.

[Voice of Gaia]

No more of this crap.

I’m not joking.

We might not like one another, but to say I’ve had a bad couple days, would be a terrible understatement, and we both know you have a job to do.

I said: Show me my status.

… [!]

————————————————————————

[Level 1]

[TITLE: INHERITOR, GREATER ENEMY OF THE WORLD, LESSER GOD]

[BRANCH: Divine Being]

.……………………………………

[UNIQUE TRAITS]

[Extremely Toxic] [Crystalline Scales] [Omnivore] [Affinity of Flame] [Legendary]

[Greater Enemy of the World - SYSTEM Access Restricted]

.……………………………………

[STATUS]

[WANTED - Humankind] - Bounty issued for capture, or proof of execution.

[HATED - World] - _______________

[INFLICTED - MADNESS] - No longer completely sane. [Resisted]

.……………………………………

[RESISTANCES]

[Poison resistance: Rank 27] [Fire resistance: Rank 22] - Affinity* [Mana resistance: Rank 47] [Chaos resistance: Rank 11] [Steel resistance: Rank I] [Iron resistance: Rank I] [Acid resistance : Rank 11 ]

……………………………………

[Skills]

[Healing]

[Greater Passive Healing: Rank 21] [Greater Heal: Rank 13] [Lesser Miracle: Rank I] - Granted by [INHERITOR] title.

[Flame element] - Affinity

[Leviathan breath: Rank 42 ] [Fireball: Rank 11]

[Earth element]

[Earth Sculpting: Rank 58] [Lesser Sentient Golem: Rank IX] - Granted by [INHERITOR] title.

[Water element]

[Water Manipulation: Rank 26]

[Knowledge element]

[Voice of Gaia - Rank 16] - [RESTRICTED]

[Language Comprehension] - [Human Language - Northern Continent: Comprehension] [Human Language - Southern Continent: Comprehension] [Lukra Language - Comprehension] - Great Forest Dialect

[Spirit Attendant - Rank III] - [IN USE]

[Divine element]

[Lesser Possession: Rank I] - Granted by [INHERITOR] title. [Lesser Divine Blessing: Rank I] - Granted by [INHERITOR] title. [Lesser Holy Ground: Rank II] - Granted by [INHERITOR] title. [Lesser Future Sight: Rank I] - Granted by [INHERITOR] title.[Lesser Eyes of Familiar: Rank I] - Granted by [INHERITOR] title.

[Royal Spirit of Man] - [IN USE]

[Ancient Spirit of Depth] - [IN USE]

————————————————————————

Good, the skills are ticking up.

Next time, throw out those roman numerals. I don’t want those in the read-out. They’re giving me a migraine.

Just use normal numbers.

I know you can hear me.

You jerk.

Sss…

A total disaster.

Until I come up with some sort of solution, I know what happened last night is going to happen again. I don’t have to ask [Voice of Gaia] to be keenly aware that the World hates me. [Greater Enemy of The World] and all that comes with some perks, no doubt.

[Hated] as a status…

Yeah, reading this loud and clear.

They are not happy.

As for options, though, I’m not sure what I’ve really got available.

Plugging the tunnel up was a no-go, and covering the leftovers after the fight has turned out to be an even bigger joke. Fiddling around with things has shown me I can minimize the breach, somewhat, but I can’t stop it completely.

Maybe there’s some sort of special magic I could use to seal this, but I’ve found that [Lesser Holy Ground] doesn’t appear to be doing much of anything except help the sprout grow.

The little guy is almost as tall as me, now. If I rear back up, puff out my “chest.”

Nice as that is, this was not what I was hoping for.

Besides, that comes with its own problems.

Now I’m going to need to figure out how to more efficiently get water. Trying to catch molecules out of the air, as they evaporate is practically the definition of futile in this environment, and I’ve found this sprout tends to just pull water up and let it go.

At least it’s not dead, which- on that particular note: Congratulations are in order.

Good work, Golem.

You, uh… you really took one for the team, huddling over the sprout.

I really appreciate it.

Kept calm, performed admirably.

I’ll admit, unlike you, I might have lost my temper somewhere in the middle of the mayhem. Burned a heck of a lot of stuff, so you made the right call. Though, I might have originally recommended a bit more fighting back and less huddling on the ground, I guess I did tell you to protect the plant above all else.

So, yeah.

I’m really sorry the monsters hacked off a majority of your body.

I’m also sorry I set you on fire…

At least twice.

I apologize for both of those instances.

Occupation hazards aside, you did well. Excellent first night on the job. Just… uh… lay over there for a bit, all crumbly-like.

Rest up.

I’ll get back to you.

Sss…

I will.

You know, once I figure out how to deal with this stupid Dungeon.

This stupid, rigged, dungeon...

At least it sticks with the running trend of things. The game, the system, the whole damn world- I don’t see why the Dungeon entrance would be any different. Getting this to stay shut might well be impossible.

Closing the opening can’t be done without the damn ground trying to rip back up somewhere else. Using a variety of methods, I might add. The ground has burst back open with random winding tunnels, abrupt splits, jagged tears. Never in the same place, never predictable…

I’ve been learning. Fifth attempt here, going on number six. Getting more creative with my own methods, seeing if that can make a difference or not.

And…

Sss.

That’s a bust.

Heavy, segmented, rough, gravel to fill in the tears only works until it recognizes. Then, it opens up bed rock and swallows the stuff whole. Low and behold.

Oh, it might be mad this time.

I killed all the monsters the Dungeon must have had handy, so this time it’s just trying to make me fall into a crevasse. Like that would ever work. The hell do you think I am, huh?

Reeks of angry desperation, if you ask me.

Almost like someone really, really, really doesn’t like me.

That what this is about, [Voice of Gaia?]

Ha.

That’s definitely what this is about.

Yeah, rumble ominously. See what good that’ll do you.

Sss… maybe taunting the ground isn’t a good idea.

I’m still mad, though.

Honestly, this is irritating as all hell. Being able to resolve something, only to have it undo itself in some unpredictable manner is a real pain.

Doesn’t matter what I patch this with, it’s like a corrosive force is undoing any efforts to patch the hole.

I could sit here all day, and it would still find a way to get around me. Hell: if I did sit here keeping it constantly sealed, I bet it would probably just shuffle over a few hundred feet and then open up somewhere just out of range.

I’ll admit, putting my hopes in the [Lesser Holy Ground] spell was a bit of a let down. The Large Frog God left me with some interesting stuff, but it seems to be my mistake in hoping that this particular one might be useful.

It really wasn’t.

Does seem permanent, though.

I can “feel” the ground better, without using [Earth Sculpting] or anything, if that makes sense.

Uncertain at this time.

Getting back on topic: The Dungeon can’t be shut. Annoying as that might be, I’m aware of the problem now, and it doesn’t really change much.

I’m used to things trying to kill me.

Besides that: I already decided I’m not going anywhere. Just because the big-bad-Dungeon decided to throw some shade- if it wasn’t them, I’m sure someone else would be coming after me by now. Humans, or Mister Bolder’s buddies, or some other random horror that’s bored enough to seek me out.

So, this changes nothing.

But…

I guess it does me with a question.

How many [Lesser Sentient Golem] does it take to pacify a Dungeon?