IS, V1, Chapter 7: Headaches

In a world without magic, what doesn’t kill you, only makes you weaker until you inevitably succumb to your injuries. When it comes to magic, the rules are always much more difficult to understand.

I wasn’t sick, just going through puberty. My judgement was being severely impaired and my body was beginning to change in ways I didn’t understand.

When I opened my eyes, it was the middle of the day. Everything from my shoulders to fingertips was throbbing in pain. Aside from that, I had a mouthful of aching teeth and it felt like my skull was probably fractured.

I could hear the squirrels and rats talking, along with the familiar sound of hooves on a dirt path, and the creaking of poorly greased wheels. Since I could sit upright, I knew that I wasn’t dying.

My shirt and pants were missing. They were most likely ruined in that suicidal finishing move. At least I still had my wool boxers, they were actually shorts for rat tribe but they fit me more like underwear.

There were no bandages or anything like that on my arms, so the bones protruding from various angles were clearly visible. It felt like I was constipated, which meant that I probably didn’t shit myself while I was unconscious. Although, my skin was so filthy that it would have been nearly impossible to notice the difference.

My hands were completely mangled and disfigured… but nothing a bit of extraordinarily painful water magic couldn’t fix. There was a rat girl sitting in the wagon across from me and when she saw me start to set my bones one by one using nothing but magic, she said “You do realize that everyone is going to call you Michael The Chicken Slayer from now on, right?” in a sarcastic voice while smirking.

I coughed a few times, then started to laugh. It was difficult to tell, since she was sitting down, but she was only about 90 cm tall. She was very small and frail looking, most likely still a child or adolescent.

Her fur was probably pure white, but it was covered in blood stains. Her overall features seemed closer to a mouse tribe. Typically rodent tribes have solid black or red eyes, but she was special.

She had beautiful blue eyes with a black slit type pupil, the eyes of a snake. When she opened her mouth to speak, I noticed that she had fangs and a matching tongue as well.

Her outfit was a leather vest, covering her flat chest and leather shorts that went past her knees. I could barely see it, but on her back was a rather large cleaver that seemed like a great-sword compared to her size.

I smiled and said “So… who is the cute little mouse who came to visit this cat?” in a sarcastic voice. My arms were nearly healed, but my head was still pounding, especially around the temples.

She licked her left side whiskers with her tongue, unconsciously, then said “Lorelei Fleischer, I helped butcher that giant chicken you killed a few days ago. Why didn’t you just do that thing with the flashing lights and loud noises? Actually, you probably could have killed it in a bunch of different ways that wouldn’t have done so much damage to your body…” in an irritated voice as she listed off everything that I should have done.

Sadly, she was completely right about everything. It wasn’t just the chicken… I really hadn’t prepared at all for that hunting trip. I thought it was some sort of illness at first, but considering that I wasn’t dead… I quickly put the pieces together.

My body seemed human, the only external differences were the tail, nails and eyes. I naively assumed that my secondary sexual characteristics, like facial hair, increased muscle mass, deepening voice, denser bones, and generally getting bigger in all the typical ways.

I knew that my mother had wings, but aside from that she didn’t seem much different from a human. However, she was female… the differences in most animal’s physical features become more dramatic as they grow.

There was also the fact that they seemed to consider me a mutant anyway, so my true form was a mystery. When I finally pressed my fingers against my temples, I realized what was happening.

It probably just looked like swelling, although my hair was hanging down over it… so no one seemed to notice anyway. There were lumps, hard masses attached to my skull, one on each side that were almost right above my ears.

Goat tribe males don’t grow their horns until puberty, which was one of the many interesting facts I read about before leaving Black Mithril. If there wasn’t a snake eyed mouse sitting in front of me, I might not have made that connection so easily.

Lorelei’s list of nearly every possible thing I could have done differently, finally ended with “… you should have been able to save my mother.” in an angry voice. After hearing something like that I kind of expected her to be in tears, but she didn’t even seem slightly sad.

I looked to my left and only saw about 35 wagons, each of which was filled with a few thousand pounds of chicken meat. The bones had been removed and everything else was packed into large wine barrels. We still had quite a few other supplies, like water, dried meat, mushrooms, various weapons and tools.

Our wagon was different, it was filled with the wounded… but there weren’t that many. When I looked down, I noticed that Lorelei’s left leg was pretty severely broken.

Her hips and thighs, just like all rat tribe, were similar to a humans. The only real difference being the fur, but at the knee her hair became much thinner so I could easily see the problem.

Near the ankle were blackened bruises and it was swollen, so much so that I was surprised she wasn’t screaming in agony. After a few seconds of me staring at her leg, she sighed and said “Are you even listening to me?” in an irritated voice while glaring.

I said “Sorry about your mother…” in a relatively sincere tone, but she suddenly started laughing.

She said “Don’t worry about it, she died like 7 years ago when I was a baby. Anyway, why do you keep staring at my leg? Ah, I gotcha… you want to hurry up and fix it so I’ll have to get out and walk like the rest. Am I really that annoying?” in a sarcastic voice while smirking.

I looked her in the eyes and asked “How many days has it been since you got that injury?” in a concerned voice.

Lorelei sighed and started using her left hand to play with her whiskers, while looking up at the sky. After a few seconds she said “Oh! Like the day after we got attacked… so three days? Why?” in completely unconcerned voice.

I was sleeping for four days and we were obviously back in the outskirts, but probably still a few days away from Black Mithril. Along the sides of the caravan, at least 200 rat tribe and 300 squirrel tribe were walking.

Performing water magic inside of someone else’s body is a lot easier when all you’re trying to do is kill them. Rearranging the muscles and bones, while using a regeneration spell to heal everything into place took about 10 minutes.

It should have been excruciatingly painful, but she didn’t even seem to notice and began telling me her life story. Apparently both of her parents were mice, but on her fathers side there was a bit of Snake Tribe.

He was a butcher and her mother was a merchant, so they managed a store together in the northern rat district. After a few years she finally got pregnant, but instead of a litter, it was just one strange, snake eyed mutant.

Apparently, she accidentally poisoned her mother while breast feeding. Her father never openly blamed Lorelei… but she always knew he resented her. He died during the dragon attack and she joined the expedition, knowing that she was probably going to die.

The whole time she told the story in an extremely sarcastic way, while smiling and laughing about it. It wasn’t that she had no emotions… she just seemed overly excited and happy.

After I finally finished healing her leg, I said “Didn’t that hurt? If your leg is numb… that could be a serious problem.” in a worried voice.

She started laughing obnoxiously loud and yelled “Of course! It was probably the most painful experience of my life!” in a serious voice.

I sighed and started healing my next patient, then asked her “Why are you so happy?” in an irritated voice.

She smiled, then looked towards the barrels of magical chicken and said “Isn’t it obvious? I’m a butcher and a merchant! You might be doing this as some kind of ridiculous charity, but the rest of us are getting paid! Since a third of us died, that means we each get a bigger cut of the spoils!” in a voice that was loud enough for nearly the entire caravan to hear.

Aside from the royal guards, everyone else was in high spirits… like they were returning home after a huge victory. To me it felt more like a pathetic defeat. We lost 15 oxen and 15 horses… well, the rooster only ate a few of them, the rest were simply killed. Between the chicken, horse, and ox meat we only had about 150,000 lbs.

That meant it took a week and a half to procure enough food for the entire city to eat for less than 2 days. Even with all the wagons, the most we could have carried was about 300,000 lbs, but that would have been pretty rough.

It was all very inefficient, but my true purpose behind that first expedition was basically like a free sample, of a highly addictive drug. Not many people were rich enough to afford the dragon meat, so the general populous wasn’t exposed to the true taste of mana.

Motivation was something they had been lacking. On the northern side, none of the royal guards died. That meant, they were capable of killing relatively weak magical beasts with nothing but some arrows, swords and spears.

If I wasn’t there they would have all been dead, but that didn’t matter. Even after I became useless, they were able to survive a second wave of 2 meter chickens the next day.

Once something is proven possible, the level of difficulty is greatly reduced during future attempts. According to Lorelei, she was injured after jumping on a chickens back, hacking its head off after many swings and then jumping back down. She basically just landed on uneven ground with all of her weight on the left foot.

Supposedly, my incredibly reckless kamikaze dive into the roosters eyeball gave many of the non-combatant’s, including some of the squirrel tribe, the inspiration to try similar acrobatic attacks. Which was why all of the injured people had broken arms, legs or tails.

It wasn’t exactly the best way to lead by example, but it all turned out pretty well. The Rat Tribe was incredibly agile, not quite as extreme as the squirrels, but each of them was capable of becoming excellent assassins, scouts or spies.

Lorelei talked a lot, they all did, they were just too nervous before. Now that they were acclimated to Lorthon Forest, it seemed like they couldn’t keep from chatting loudly in their high pitched voices.

Their laughs were more like squeaks and the squirrels were just as bad, or worse. They had never met another race that they could communicate with before. My headache was only getting worse by the hour and there was still about 2 days before we returned.

If it was just a normal headache, I could fix whatever was wrong with magic. Since it was a side effect of the natural process my body was going through, all I could do was endure.

When I finally finished healing everyone on the wagon, I went back to my seat and noticed the taste of blood in my mouth. After feeling the wound with my tongue, I quickly spit my top right canine into my palm.

I was starting to lose my baby teeth and the timing seemed a little too coincidental. I knew it was very likely that my race’s natural habitat was a place with much higher mana density than that cave, or Black Mithril.

The day before we returned, the Squirrel Tribe decided to settle in a large patch of Oak trees along the road. They had become pretty attached to our caravan, but they wouldn’t have been happy in an underground city.

By the time we reached the clearing, my head felt like it would explode at any second. Lorelei was a nice kid so I somehow manage to avoid yelling at her, or discharging a small bolt of lightning in her general direction.

She was only seven years old! I could summarize her entire life story in less than a paragraph, yet she was able to drag it on and on forever. Then she would retell the same stories, but with slightly altered details and pretend it was something completely different.

There were over a thousand heavily armored dark dwarven royal guards, accompanied by at least fifty red goblin mages blocking our route to the portal. By that point me and Lorelei were both walking out in front of the caravan, so when we stopped, so did everyone else.

It was pretty cliche and incredibly foolish, but they were basically there to rob us. Lorelei was a little slow to catch on and yelled “Get the hell outta the way! We don’t need an escort!” in an angry voice towards the small army less than 100 meters away.

They were already in phalanx, or a close formation, and then raised their large tower shields to create a pretty short wall. Their solid steel spears aimed towards us in a threatening manner, then I started to hear the mages in the back begin chanting loudly.

Most of the mages were channeling a very large one way mana barrier that surrounded the entire army. It was actually pretty impressive, but it was only effective against magical attacks.

Didn’t they know that I could fly? After launching myself inside the barrier about 20 meters above them, I quickly targeted the two groups who were forming fireballs.

Stealing one persons magical attack and using it against them was impressive. Detonating two gigantic fireballs that over ten mages are pouring their concentration into at the same time, is terrifying.

My anger at the chicken catastrophe combined with the frustration of having to listen to hundreds of squeaky voices over the past few days, made me want to try a little harder than usual.

I aimed my hands towards the remaining mages, built up a decent charge and *Cccrrrkkkkk* followed by a deafening *Boooom!* as the bright wriggling lights struck the chanting red goblins.

Before they even knew what happened, most of them were either extra crispy or deep fried. A few survived, but just barely and they were definitely incapacitated. Then I gently glided down above the scorched grass and burning corpses.

I was smiling, but with my multiple missing teeth I probably looked like an idiot. However, the dwarves were too dumbfounded to notice. I yelled “Just what exactly did you bastards expect would happen?!” in an irritated voice.

Before they had a chance to surrender or flee into the portal between us, I started making them look the way I felt. It took a while and at least half of my mana pool by the end, but each time I crushed one of their heads within their own helmet… it was kind of like popping bubble wrap.

At first they tried throwing their spears at me, but their aim was terrible. A few tried to go after the caravan, but I was still levitating high enough that I could see the whole army.

Once they realized there was no escape and no hope, they started begging for their lives. Unfortunately, the rat tribe were watching and it would look bad if I was too ruthless.

There were at least 300 left, more people than there were in the entire caravan. It wasn’t until after I slaughtered them, that I realized how wasteful I was being.

However, Bariel, Chrissella and every single person in Black Mithril needed to understand what it meant to become my enemy. I had them surrender their weapons to my caravan, then sent them through the portal ahead of us.

After them, I was the first to walk through the beam, in-case there was a secondary ambush. I was able to see a few of the defeated dark dwarves fleeing the pyramid as I arrived. It was surprising how fast they could run in that heavy plate armor and with such short legs.

There was no trap, but we still proceeded towards the rat palace carefully. It was eerily quiet in the city and I was pretty sure the entire caravan was afraid of me. However, when we finally reached the rat district’s marketplace we were greeted by a gigantic crowd of at least 20,000 people.

They separated to make a huge path for us, straight through to the palace gates. Lorelei jumped up onto the leading wagon and yelled “I’m selling premium giant mana chicken liver for just 25 copper an ounce! It’s so delicious that just one bite will completely rejuvenate your weary body and mind after even the fiercest battle!” then hopped back a few wagons and placed her palms on two huge barrels. She yelled “This gigantic chicken liver was taken from a rooster the size of a dragon! And you can only find it at Fleischer’s Meat and Mushroom Shop!” in an excited voice while smiling proudly.

Suddenly the whole square erupted in squeaks and high pitched yelling. The other butchers, hunters and pretty much everyone but the 15 remaining royal guards were starting to stake a claim on their share of the loot, while some actually began selling it right off the wagons.

I used wind magic to escape before I was caught up in a flood of rat people. They wouldn’t have been able to trample me, because they were only 110 cm on average, but it still would have been pretty gross.

They might have had plumbing, but it was only to the extent of basic toilets and sinks. Only the very rich seemed to actually bathe regularly, and the concept of a shower was still nonexistent in that world.

When I landed in front of the gates, Nadja, Ethir and Rae were already waiting outside. My mother was smiling as she sprinted towards, then tackled me violently and chomped down into my left side jugular while hugging me tightly.

It was the first time she ever drank from my neck, but I could tell that she was starving and not thinking clearly. After a few seconds I was already feeling light headed, so I said “Mother… if you keep doing that I’m going to pass out.” in an irritated voice while gripping her shoulders tightly.

She snapped out of it and quickly jumped back while yelling “I’m so sorry Michael! I don’t know why I did that! I’m such a terrible mother! Are you OK? You look like you’re in so much pain…” in a frantic voice while crying.

After quickly sealing up the wound, I said “Don’t worry, the pain isn’t your fault. I’m just going through puberty, and my new teeth are growing in…” in a tired voice as I walked up to Nadja.

I said “I assume you probably knew about the idiots trying to ambush us, right? I’m too tired to deal with this shit right now, so give your fellow matriarchs a message from me. If they don’t step down from their position in three days, they die. If they think sending a few soldiers or mages or even assassins will help them stay in power, they’re wrong. I have no idea how the new ones are picked, but I really couldn’t care less.” in an irritated voice, while walking down the hallway with her a few steps behind me.

She started laughing and said “I’ll make a big speech in front of the whole damn city. I’ve been waiting to do this for 30 years!” in an excited voice. I hate politics, so it was better to have them keep their current system for a little while longer.

Eventually I would have to create some sort of representative republic so that they can deal with their own problems. However, for the moment, I was stuck as a pseudo emperor or king… there was so much to do and not nearly enough time.

A royal bathhouse, I didn’t have time to use it before I left, but it was actually pretty impressive. It was basically a huge swimming pool, without the diving board or deep end. There was even some sort of soap in the water… at least I hoped it was soap.

After removing my boxers and getting into the water, I realized that I wasn’t alone. Raelin got in next to me and Ethir entered on the opposite end, he seemed extremely embarrassed.

Rae started at my face and said “I think you’re starting to grow a mustache…” in a disappointed voice while frowning.

I sighed and then started heating the water till it actually burned my skin a little. She started yelling and jumped up out of the water, blowing cold wind magic into my face while hovering. After a few seconds she fell back in near the middle and yelled “What’s wrong with you?!” in an angry voice.

I said “I’m not an elf, probably. It isn’t that strange for me to start growing facial hair about now. Anyway, what did the two of you do while I was gone?” in an irritated voice, while floating on my back, in the comfortably scalding water with my eyes closed.

She told me the intricate details of every day, but nothing particularly interesting happened. Not surprisingly, Ethir couldn’t teach her how to read. She taught him the very basics of magic and his mana pool is increasing, slowly. After a week, she finally ran out of my blood and started drinking Ethir’s.

There was an assassination attempt on Nadja, but she isn’t so easy to kill. After interrogating him, the royal guards learned of the other two matriarchs’ plan to ambush the caravan and confiscate whatever we managed to bring back.

They expected me to be dead or dying, but I wasn’t, so their plan failed. My head was hurting a lot less as I sunk into the water and thought back to a previous life where I was a mermaid.

Living in the ocean is a lot like space, being able to move effortlessly in three dimensions… plus it’s usually a sashimi buffet. I remembered that life being particularly lonely though, I’m pretty sure I was the only person left on that entire water filled planet. Although, that memory was rather distant.

Using water or air magic there are so many ways to breathe underwater, having gills becomes unnecessary. It’s possible to fabricate oxygen directly from mana, assuming the person actually understands what that is. The people of that world did not, thus many water mages would drown while trying to perform difficult spells.

It’s incredibly uncomfortable at first but if you get used to it, breathing in water is usually the easiest way. After it’s inside your lungs, you use water and air magic to absorb the oxygen and then force out whatever is left.

That only works in oxygen rich water though and it all takes mana either way, you will drown eventually. If you just want to submerge yourself in shallow water, it’s best to simply create a whirlpool around your face and breathe normally, like I was doing.

After getting out of the bath, the three of us put on clean clothes and went to the dining hall. Rae drank about 8oz of my blood, which was poured into a glass cup. She wanted to drink directly from my arm, but I was worried she might not be able to stop herself and I was also slightly low on mana.

However, that all changed after I ate my meal, which was a gift from Lorelei. Although, she did charge Nadja a few silver coins for the other two 16oz steaks of magical chicken liver.

The whole meal, she was complaining about how “That little brat thinks she can rip me off just because I’m her great grandmother’s cousin!” and then went on to explain how since Rat Tribe have litters of 6 or more children at a time, everyone’s related to some extent.

The palace’s chefs didn’t seem particularly skilled, but they didn’t exactly have spices or many ingredients to work with. However, even a bad cook can make a delicious meal if the ingredients are high enough quality.

It was basically just a thick slice of liver, with glowshrooms, a bit of salt, and sauteed in sweet tree sap. I was satisfied and immediately felt a good chunk of mana being absorbed into my body.

Nadja mentioned that the dragon meat was much better, but was still making a happy face while eating. Ethir said one word “Delicious.” and had a grin for the rest of the day.

That night I dreamt of something unpleasant, my teeth were falling out. It wasn’t just a dream though, I actually did lose two baby teeth while I was sleeping.

I put it off for far too long, but after I woke up I finally decided to begin creating weapons. Nothing too extravagant or dramatic, just some simple devices to make killing magical beasts a little easier.

Compared to a world without mana, the magic in that world was essentially cheating. You could bypass so many hardships and technical issues by just using the various forms of telekinesis that were possible.

I had been in quite a few other realities with similar conditions, but that one was just so much easier. I’ve been stuck in worlds without magic where the technology was extremely low, but it was always so damn difficult to find the materials to create even the simplest tools.

Ethir was happy to receive my shopping list, since it was another chance to prove himself to me. I could have just asked Nadja for some money… but I figured getting him to steal for me was a lot less work.

They had plenty of charcoal in any blacksmith, that was his first job. Sulfur could be found in each of the 3 alchemist shops, but I did have to explain to him what it looked like in powder form. The last one was actually used as a food preservative in the rat district, potassium nitrate.

There was no way to know how long the people on that planet had been sentient and capable of creating tools, but since they had magic… they became lazy. Just like I had for the past 7 years and 50 days.

Mana didn’t just affect DNA, in some cases it actually enhanced the properties of certain minerals and rocks. An example would be black mithril, which was originally just iron ore.

After being exposed to a high density of mana for millions of years, it no longer needed carbon during the forging process to become as hard and ductile as basic steel. Its tensile strength was actually closer to high grade steel.

However, the main appeal was its ability to protect the user from mana… I wouldn’t have been able to use earth magic on it. I wouldn’t have been able to penetrate black mithril armor to rupture an artery inside their bodies either. It could potentially give a person with almost no mana pool a fighting chance against a mage.

Gunpowder is one of the most important technologies to remember, incase you end up in a world before someone else discovered it. There are a myriad of ways to create it and before I actually started experimenting, I needed ink and a notebook.

Writing with water magic was much more efficient than using a pen, plus my penmanship has always been pretty bad for some reason. Keyboards are just so much better… unfortunately computers weren’t one of my top priorities.

That notebook was potentially the most dangerous book on the planet, assuming anyone could actually understand what was written in it. Using a technique I call blood magic encryption, the only people who could read it were those with my blood and mana coursing through their bodies.

It was a language that literally couldn’t be understood, unless I wanted it to be. Even Rae would be able to read my notes, but that didn’t mean she could actually do anything with that information.

On the cover was the number 777 in the center of an ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail in the shape of a circle. As a contingency in the case that someone managed to steal my mana and blood, then inscribed my rather complicated code onto their bodies using magic, I placed a trap.

A slew of memories from lives that I wished I could forget, if someone tried to read it without my permission… they would most likely become insane. I’ve spent several lifetimes repressing them for a reason.

The first page covered every type of gunpowder I knew of and how to create them, including various types of smokeless powder.

The second page covered my experiments with the mana infused carbon, sulfur and potassium nitrate. Without magic it would have taken at least a few days to do what I did in less than 8 hours.

That first night, me, Rae and Ethir took the portal to the surface. It was his first time ever and for Rae it had been over 7 years, so they were both pretty excited.

Luckily, all of the corpses had been removed and disposed of already. It wasn’t me, probably the dark elves or red goblins, but the blood stains, metal/bone fragments and scorch marks were still there. They probably didn’t notice, but if they did, they didn’t say anything.

Neither one of them had any idea why we were traveling south through the forest in the middle of the night. It wasn’t simply because Rae was a vampire, I couldn’t risk someone seeing what I was trying to do and either copying me or actually beating me to it.

Outside of Rae and Ethir, there was no one else I trusted. When we were about a mile south of the clearing, we stopped at a calm riverbank that had many large rocks. I turned the biggest one I could find into as flat and dry of a surface as possible, then placed my already prepared small pouches of untested mixtures onto the table.

Rae finally asked “So umm… Michael… what are you doing? I’m happy I can breathe some fresh air for once but, what exactly did you bring us here for?” in a nervous voice, while staring at the mysterious pouches.

I smiled at both of them, even though I had very few teeth left, and said “Well, Ethir is here to watch and learn… you’re here to heal me, in-case something goes wrong.” in a happy voice.

After hearing that, Rae was making a very worried expression. I emptied a gram each of the 9 different powder types at least a foot away from each other. They were all the same granule size, so their differences would be determined by formula.

I motioned for the two of them to stand back, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be too much different from my expectations. The far left was the one which should have been the least effective, and on the right was supposed to be the most effective.

Using a very small spark of electricity, I ignited the first sample. When it burned up in a bright flash, Rae jumped back and squealed… which obviously made me laugh.

After I wrote down the results, I continued through 5 more without being overly impressed. Each was slightly more powerful than they would have been without mana, but it’s always number 7 that seems to be special.

When it ignited, the powder exploded instead of just burning quickly. With that flash, the other two exploded as well, but the last one actually blew a small chunk out of the rock. Which could have done some serious damage if I was standing a few feet closer.

When I looked back, Rae was hiding behind a tree with her fingers in her ears and Ethir was just staring in amazement. After that first test, I tried igniting a long and thin line of number 9 to get a better idea of how fast it really burned.

It was so quick that I almost couldn’t see it, but that was relatively normal. I wrote down the results and we went back to the palace.

The next test took a lot longer to set up, plus I needed Ethir to gather a few new ingredients. Mostly lead, steel, and copper, but also a some more items from the alchemist shop.

Magic is the manipulation of mana to move, alter, or create at least one of the elements. The main ones were Fire, Air or Wind, Water, Earth and Nature.

You don’t have to know how your central nervous system works, in order to move your body. Magic is the same concept, you don’t have to be a quantum physicist or understand what’s happening on an atomic level. All of the most complicated parts are done subconsciously or unconsciously.

Minerals, including metals and metallic alloys, are the element Earth. The mana probably interacts with the crystalline structure, but that isn’t what’s important.

Simpler is usually better and easier, rocks and soil can contain more than just minerals, so they aren’t a good choice for Earth magic. When it comes to sand, wind is usually much more effective and efficient.

Black powder was relatively easy to manipulate with Earth magic, which meant that I could not only create it faster and more efficiently, but also utilize it in weapons with much less effort.

The main purpose for gunpowder, is to become a propellant. It was possible for me to create a steel pipe with rifling, place a lead or steel bullet in one end and simply use mana to launch it with close to the same muzzle velocity as a musket.

I had a few designs based on that concept already, but the reason I needed black powder was for its use as an explosive. A magically propelled grenade, designed to detonate on impact or air burst.

Unfortunately, my research and development was interrupted by political drama… the three days were up. Bariel and Chrissella took what was left of their royal guards, and anyone still loyal to them, then fled the city.

It was annoying to lose even more of Black Mithril’s dwindling military, but what happened afterward was even more irritating. They usually just pick the most powerful mage or healer out of the entire district’s population.

One of Bariel’s many daughters, Lachel, was selected for her fire magic which rivaled her mother’s. When I met her, she seemed to be thankful towards me for creating such an opportunity.

The real problem was the dark dwarven district which had no candidates. There wasn’t a single halfway decent magic user.

Rather than wander around the city, looking for some random dark dwarf female who had a decent mana pool, I decided to turn it into a competition.

Any adult dark dwarven woman could enter and participate. The venue was that wooden stage where Ethir was almost executed and the three judges were Nadja, Lachel and myself.

Yup, it was a talent show… it didn’t have to be magic, just anything slightly interesting or entertaining. I could have made it more like a political debate and had the citizens vote for their leader, but that would be awful.

The first contestant was an acrobat calling herself Lorelei Iron-Cleaver, who literally dyed her hair black and tried to pass as a half-rat tribe, dark dwarf. Although, she was disqualified immediately for being too young.

There were actually quite a few cross dressers and females from the other two races who tried to enter. Surprisingly, a few legitimate hybrids did make it into the top 5. Even though cross breeding was usually frowned upon, they had some of the most interesting performances.

The best singer in the entire city was a rather strange looking, but mostly humanoid, dark dwarf-rat tribe girl who could hit notes beyond my auditory range. However, since everyone else was either part elf or rat tribe, their positive reactions were all I needed to see and hear.

Rae actually cried after a song called “A Litter Of Two” which seemed to be about the singer’s young daughters. It wasn’t a sad song, but still managed to open up an old wound.

The top contestant literally did nothing but stand there in skimpy clothing and read really vulgar jokes. She was a mix between wood elf, dark dwarf and red goblin, but managed to keep the most attractive qualities of each.

The crowd seemed to be overly excited by her, so I thought there might be some sort of illusion spell or pheromones that weren’t affecting me. However, Nadja thought she was hilarious and Lachel’s eyes were just filled with lust.

The comedian was pretty funny, but my favorite was a girl named Ailyn Ironheart, an average dark dwarf. She was considered a blacksmith, but I knew she was so much more than that.

Each round she would display one of her weapons or armors, but people lost interest pretty quickly. She wasn’t an entertainer or performer, Ailyn was an inventor.

After seeing her demonstrate a large, spring loaded, repeating crossbow that had a mostly enclosed barrel and used steel wire instead of string. I knew that she was either a genius, or like me.


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