Combat was exhausting but satisfying. I learned a lot in the fight against Rodentia, but I wasn’t sure it was more than she did. It was a bit concerning that she could force me to use specific spells to defend myself and then follow up by overcoming that with something new. She had so many rat-based gadgets. Heat beams, the ability to bounce her cheese ray, and the ‘adaptive shield’ were all surprisingly effective for how inefficient they seemed.
Francois was quite happy to hear that our equipment held up against the cheese ray though. For whatever reason it only didn’t affect living tissue, which was good because otherwise I would just be dead. Then again, if I hadn’t seen the results on that poor civilian, I would have suggested a proper tactical retreat. Getting hit by beams you are unfamiliar with is a poor tactic.
I had leveled up, which meant I had 10 points I could spend if I wanted to keep my plan for helping Izzy return to our former world. I wasn’t fully sure I would be able to cast gate if I got it, but I had to be willing to try. I couldn’t allow even a former friend to remain somewhere they didn’t want to be. Though Izzy wasn’t fully certain on going back yet. I wouldn’t be spending those points to learn Gate until I was certain. 39 points was a lot! I could upgrade Stoneskin three, almost four times.
Either way, I was left with 10 points to spend how I pleased, no promises attached. I did have to consider Midnight, though. His level was improving quite nicely, but still lower than mine and likely to remain that way unless we went a long period without combat. Something like a year or more. Because while Curse of the Barbarian was annoying, it did make for pretty quick growth when I could fight.
The point being, while learning new spells was always tempting, I decided to upgrade things. Midnight could have upgrades equal to the upgrades of Familiar Bond- 3- so I first looked at the top. Firebolt wasn’t always useful, but it would be cheap to upgrade. Energy Ward was extremely helpful and the increased efficiency would be quite welcome. One level could cut off almost .2 mana. That didn’t sound like much, but it was a couple minutes of normal regeneration, and if I cast it on multiple people the efficiency was even more important. And more power behind it wouldn’t hurt.
For my last two points I had to try something. I hadn’t tried upgrading things below the first category- the spells I had learned spontaneously. I still didn’t understand them, and that annoyed me… but two points on the Light spell might tell me something. Or they might disappear into the void. Even if it worked I wasn’t super keen on the idea of more efficient light when tons of artificial sources existed, but I wanted to see if I could and thus I had to try.
The results were… interesting.
|Turlough (No surname)|
Shocking Grasp +3
Force Armor +6
Mage’s Reach +2
Familiar Bond +3
Energy Ward +3
Sonic Lance +2
Remaining Points: 13
|Mana Crystal Deposition +1
Basic Light Magic +1
First I was reminded of something I hadn’t thought about. In my surprise about learning the Light spell, the +1 by Mana Crystal Deposition had slipped in unnoticed. I hadn’t looked closely since then because my status didn’t change randomly, and experience was at the top if I was curious. I did remember it being there, though.
And now Light was gone. And Dancing Lights. And I had Basic Light Magic +1.
“Wow. You look angry. What’d I do?”
Sitting behind my status window, which was to say in front of me, was Great Girl. Which is to say, she had sat down across from me at the same table. “You didn’t do anything,” I said. “I think I broke my magic, though.”
“What does that mean?” she asked, tilting her head curiously.
“If I knew, I could fix it, maybe.”
“Want to try to explain?” Great Girl asked. “I don’t have the same sort of power as you, but I’m willing to throw ideas at it.”
“Alright,” I nodded. “So, I learned Dancing Lights.”
“Then I learned the Light spell the wrong way.”
“Now they’re both gone and my status window says something weird.”
“So you can’t use them anymore?” she asked.
“Uh…” A good point. I hadn’t tried. It would only take one point of mana, slightly less than that really, so I tried to form Dancing Lights. Four little orbs appeared around my hand. “I guess I can.” And Light? As I thought about the single orb form, before I could even fully gather the mana the four orbs combined. Not like when I first learned the spell, but completely. It even stuck to my fingertips. “This doesn’t make any sense.”
“I’m going to tell you a secret, Turlough,” Great Girl leaned forward conspiratorially. “Powers don’t make sense. All the explanations everyone gives for how powers work are half founded in scientific principles at best. Except the explanations by mental enhancement supers, which normal brains can’t comprehend so we can’t really know if it’s actually grounded in something real.” She shrugged, “I mean, why can I triple my height and proportionately the rest of my size? Why don’t I crush myself under my own weight? Instead I get proportionately stronger and tougher instead of the opposite.”
I thought for a few moments. “I thought you increased in size by two and a half times at maximum.”
“What do you mean?” Great Girl asked.
“Don’t you cap out at fifteen feet?”
“Well sure but-” the table snapped at the edge where she was gripping onto it tightly. “Uh, whoops.” she shrugged. “See Turlough? Powers are weird. I’m pretty strong, but not enough to snap that at my normal size. Not without my power, at least. I think it makes me stronger at normal size.”
“Okay but,” I tried to bring the topic back to the important thing. “For fifteen feet to be triple you’d have to naturally be like five feet tall and you’re like six feet… plus one or two inches.”
“Well, uh, actually…” her eyes darted around. “I can… reach eighteen feet. Sometimes. So that’s triple six feet, which is my height.”
“Really? Aren’t you like six foot two now?” I asked, standing up. “Compare with me.”
She hopped over the table and stood back to back with me. “See? Same height.”
“I’m six foot two, though.”
“Uh, it’s probably my boots,” she said, looking down.
“We have the same boots.”
“Guess I grew taller then!” she said. I heard her muttering something but didn’t get all of it. “That would explain why I-” she coughed and spoke normally. “Anyway weren’t we talking about your magic being screwed up?”
“Oh yes!” I nodded enthusiastically while making a mental note that Great Girl might be five feet tall. I wasn’t sure of that, but it seemed like one of those things I wasn’t supposed to ask about. “It now says Basic Light Magic instead of either of the spells I’m supposed to know. But it just does the same things.”
“Are you sure?” Great Girl asked, the two of us sitting back down.
“I just showed you the two different spells it was.”
“Is that it?” she asked. “Did you try anything else? Can you make a laser?”
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “There’s not a spell for a laser. Look.” I held out my hand, catching a laser in my eye. Or at least a beam of light. I immediately dropped the spell when it blinded me, blinking.
“Maybe don’t point it at yourself?” she raised an eyebrow.
I pointed my finger at the table, imagining a beam of light. I had to cast the spell again, using the expected amount of mana, but it turned into a beam. I tried to focus it more, like a laser. They were supposed to be able to heat things up. When I saw it burning the table next to where Great Girl had snapped a piece- which took several seconds of sustained focus- I reduced the intensity. Then I tried wobbling it around.
I quickly learned that the limits were more about what I could imagine. I could produce anything… to some extent. Not complex shapes, and anything more than the four orbs akin to Dancing Lights, but I could reshape it at will and swap between the various options I knew or could think of. I could make it float freely or stick to things. And then it disappeared before I thought it should be done.
“Hmm,” I stroked my chin. “I think it uses up the mana more quickly to change forms. But it’s definitely different. And the spell is still in the wrong spot.”
“Okay,” Great Girl said. “Can you learn other things like that? It was a combination of two things so… what else can you do it with? What about Firebolt and Burning Hands?”
“I don’t know Burning Hands,” I pointed out.
“But you could.”
“Well… not right now.” I looked at those 13 free points, but I held firm. “Maybe next level.”
“Or… you could learn it through the other thing,” she pointed out. “The Portal Power way.”
I shook my head. “My apprentice is quite adept at learning new spells in that manner, but I’ve never done it on purpose,” I pointed out. “Maybe with Mana Crystal Deposition, but I didn’t really expect it to work. Or be a spell, if it’s actually a spell.”
“But you can learn that way,” she reminded me. “It’s already happened two or three times.”
“I suppose. But I don’t know how.”
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out at some point,” Great Girl said. “You’re smart.”
Sophia took a deep breath. Today was a rough one. Turlough almost learned one of her big secrets. Her other one was still completely safe, though. There was nothing strictly wrong with being a short nerd, but… it wasn’t very heroic, was it? Or a great mercenary image, she supposed, since Sophia hadn’t been able to become a hero. And it was that woman’s fault. She almost wanted to go punch her into a crater in the ground again, but Shooting Star would probably be ready and if she did that now Sophia might find herself on like… double probation. Or fired.
She couldn’t really afford that right now. There were so many minis she wanted to buy and they were going to come out with a new edition soon. She needed those books. Digital copies were fine, but there was nothing as good as a nice hardback rulebook.
Her head was so filled with thoughts that she almost walked into someone. That wasn’t a frequent occurrence- at her normal size, most people stood out. But this was someone actually shorter than her- a kid. A kid who expertly danced around her instead of letting them collide.
“Oh, sorry,” Sophia turned and called back. “I didn’t s- I wasn’t looking. My bad.”
The kid turned around to reveal she wasn’t a kid at all, just a very short woman. There was a clear difference, once she actually saw her. Pretty much the only thing the same was her height, because the body shape and face were all as expected of an adult woman. Was this what it was like when other people looked at herself?
“Don’t worry about it,” the woman said. “I’m used to it.”
“Yeah but…” Sophia shook her head. “You shouldn’t have to be. I have people bump into me all the time.” Well, she used to at least. She spent more time at work or coming and going now, so she remained taller.
“Hmm. You’re not bad for a tall person.” She stuck out her hand to Sophia. “I’m Izzy.”
“Sophia,” she shook the smaller woman’s hand. She got called tall. Not by a martian, but by someone who looked like her. “It’s kind of weird to ask but are you by any chance… a h-”
“No I’m not human,” Izzy said in a practiced manner. “I came through one of those portals. I’m a halfling.”
“That’s exactly what I was going to ask.” Izzy was beginning to turn around when Sophia said that, but turned back. “Do you want to hang out sometime? I know everything here must be unfamiliar if you’re not from Earth. Unless you’ve been here for a while?”
“Not that long,” Izzy replied. “A few months. Still perfecting the language.”
Now that she mentioned it, Izzy did have a bit of an accent. Though a few months was pretty impressive. “Are you using magic?”
Izzy shook her head. “Don’t have magic. Language learning is a class option though.”
“What class?” Sophia asked, trying to not seem too eager.
“Nice! What can you do?”
Wizards were the best, but talking directly to anyone from a type-F world was a rare experience. She wanted to hear everything she could.