77 Chapter 77 The Fog
They had a big breakfast while Joseph went about stealing mana from the fog touched creatures to keep the fires going. The whole day passed quietly. Way too quietly. He hadn't seen a living thing except Stella all day. Even the ice trolls and winter wolves they had seen were already frozen solid. It looked like some of the monsters tried to eat some of the frozen or freezing barbarians that were afflicted with the fog, and it continued to affect the monsters.
When they went to stop for the evening, they were getting close to the northern highlands. The traveling was so much worse. The snow was piling higher and higher. As an adult, this would be challenging, but as a kid its monstrous.
It happened about midnight. Suddenly, a sound like distant thunder rang out over the landscape. Joseph watched the mountainside heave. Frost heaves caused an avalanche and it was headed right for him and Stella. They had no chance of out running it, so he created the tallest and hottest CREATE FIRE that he was capable of right in front of them.
The avalanche was vaporized but the steam hit the rest of the snow and exploded, blowing them both back. They were drenched in water that quickly tried to freeze again. Fortunately, the avalanche stopped but they had to strip their wet clothes off and dry them.
Creating a ring of fire around them by using the selective area on CREATE FIRE, Joseph made sure to face away from Stella. Fortunately, the fire stones had just finished.
Suddenly, he began to smell something.
"Yes, Master Joseph?"
There was a sizzle.
"Are you cooking something?"
"Yes," she said in a small voice. "We lost the pack in the avalanche."
"Stella, what are you cooking?"
"I found an owl-bear frozen over there."
Joseph turned before he could think, and saw that she was fully dressed. He was still naked, and his clothes were soaked.
"Stella how did your clothes…"
Her clothes were laid out, drying near the fire. But she's wearing clothes?
"Oh, these were in my purse."
"Yeah it was 2 points from the system. It stores about a suitcase worth of items."
(YOU'RE A GUY. I WON'T DO MAN PURSES. DON'T ASK.)
'That's not fair.'
(YOU CAN PEE STANDING UP. LIFE ISN'T FAIR ANYWAY.)
"Stella, do you have any clothes I can wear?"
"Of course, Master Joseph. Why didn't you ask?"
He knew his mouth was open, but no words were coming out. She must still be mad about the ice thing. He closed his eyes for a moment, and decided that he would ignore the fact that she had jumped over the five foot flames to retrieve a magically frozen piece of meat, in order to return inside his magical fire to cook it. The energy was better saved for later, he was sure.
It was another long day of trekking across the snow. The cold was enough to hurt their faces when the fire stones started to get weak. The snow was frozen so hard they could walk on it again, but the fire to recharge the fire stones melted several feet of it.
The fog was approaching. Joseph had just finished charging the fire stones, so they waited. He gave Stella's hand a squeeze.
"I'm really nervous." She just nodded at his words.
Fortunately, as the fog approached, he could feel the stone start to warm up and the fog split to the sides around them. As they walked, the fog moved away from them. If they ran full speed, the fog would probably not move quickly enough to get out of their way and they would touch it, but standing still, it stays about 5 to 6 feet from them in all directions. That was a relief.
It was getting dim. He could see in darkness, but he couldn't see anything through the fog. They started walking forward again. The fire stones were quickly weakening and the fog was getting closer. He would have to use CREATE FIRE after every hour, in order to recharge them. The fog was pushed back almost 15 feet but it's gotten thicker. The mana in the area was higher, too.
Joseph could feel it when he breathed. But it felt weird. As the fog and the mana keep getting thicker, he felt more and more uneasy. It took him until the second stop to recharge the fire stones, before he figured out what was happening to the mana around him.
Mana is made by living things. This mana wasn't made by something living, but extracted from killing something instead. The mana was…not opposite like positive or negative mana, but like heads or tails on a coin. Yeah. Drawing FIRE with this mana would make it colder instead of hotter but otherwise act like fire. It would make cold flames. But he knew FIRE controlled energy to some extent, so there was already both HEAT and COLD as modifications of FIRE. In fact, if he thought about it hard enough, hot and cold were perspectives based on what temperature he was at currently.
Then, what was up with this mana? It felt off, but that's because he hadn't ever dealt with it before. That meant it might not necessarily be bad or evil.
Wait. If he cast CREATE FIRE, then the fire would be magical. Even if it naturally spread farther than he could control, the fire would stay magical fire as long as he maintained the spell. So, this fog kept spreading, and what? Cold burning?
But if he thought about it that way, then all he needed to do was circulate it and take control of it. You can always flip a coin over again. All that matters is that you have a lot of coins to begin with.
"Ah, finally stopped muttering?"
"Yeah. I'm going to do something I think I can do, that will freak you out, ok?"
"If I tell you, do you promise to let me do it?"
Stella paused for a few moments to think. She finally muttered, "better just do it," in a small voice.
He gave her his heat stone and approached the edge of the fog. He breathed in deeply, pulling the mana from the fog, but not the ice itself.
This mana didn't behave. As soon as he brought it into himself, he could feel it disrupting his rotation. Every time he tried to push, it came closer, and pulling made it run away. It acted opposite…
He fought his habits as he tried to separate his mana and to keep it going down the right paths and to reverse the new mana from the fog. His lungs stopped hurting, but the pain just spread out through the rest of him. The dead mana kept bumping into his mana and they interfered with the flow.
It seemed to act completely opposite to his intentions. It shouldn't be reversed, he could feel that wasn't the right path. The mana wasn't opposite of his, it's…it's…upside down. Think about the coin. Cycling the dead mana inside himself wasn't going to work, but what WOULD?
Dozens of thoughts passed through his mind and were discarded quickly. What did he know about magic? FOOD. Living things eat dead things. Plants use sunlight to make food but animals and fungi don't. Some fungi are required for forests to recycle nutrients. His mana, until now, had been like plants, slowly collecting and mostly tame. This dead mana obeyed like a feral cat being given a bath. He needed to think about being a predator.
Suddenly everything clicked. He couldn't take the dead mana in like this, or it would try to poison him. He needed to take its power and switch its nature to life. At the same time, the mana that left him needed to be able to cycle back into the world.
He expelled the dead mana back out. He had fallen on his knees at some point. Grabbing the dead mana in the fog, it felt like sinking his teeth into the neck of something he was about to kill, and then he yanked it to him. As it touched his skin, he flipped it back to living mana. Meanwhile, the mana he was cycling for stability, seemed to become stale, so he pushed it out and let it die.
How many years would it have taken to learn this, outside of this area that was so full of living and dead mana. Living mana from all the fires he'd put out that weren't able to escape because of the dead mana barrier. And dead mana as the fog consumed the lives of everything it touched.
It's amazing. His mind was so clear. His heartbeat was strong. The ridiculous amounts of mana he was absorbing were healing his insides from the damage of when he took in the dead mana directly.
(YOU HAVE LEARNED THE FOLLOWING SKILLS: MANA PREDATION, MANA TERRITORY, AND SACRIFICE. MANA PREDATION, MANA TERRITORY, AND SACRIFICE ARE CONSUMED BY GRAND SKILL MANA CONTROL. 19 HOURS OF PROFICIENCY HAS BEEN GAINED TOWARDS MANA CONTROL. BECAUSE MANA CONTROL IS AT INTERMEDIATE LEVEL, THE EFFECTS OF ABSORBED SKILLS ARE ENHANCED.)
(SACRIFICE-MAY SACRIFICE HEALTH OF CASTER TO POWER SPELLS, MAY SACRIFICE HEALTH OF WILLING OR RESTRAINED SUBJECT TO POWER SPELLS, ANY SPELL FAILURE THAT WILL RESULT IN LOSS OF HEALTH TO DO BACKLASH DOESN'T.)
(MANA PREDATION- MAGIC SPELLS TARGETING YOU OR THE AREA IN WHICH YOU EXIST UP TO 5 POINTS OF POWER MAY BE NEGATED AND ABSORBED AT 50% EFFICIENCY.)
(MANA TERRITORY-YOU MAY INFLUENCE ALL MAGIC WITHIN 3 FEET OF YOURSELF. OTHER MAGES MUST HAVE YOUR CONSENT TO CAST MAGIC WITHIN YOUR TERRITORY OR WIN A CONTEST OF WILLS TO OVERCOME YOUR CONTROL.)
(YOU HAVE GAINED 23 HOURS TOWARDS THE COMPREHENSION OF THE RUNE NECROMANCY.)