Chapter Fifteen: The Path before me…
The sprite looked at him strangely but did as he asked. He drew the other sprites back as well, creating an open space around the ruby hued dungeon core.
Brandr blocked out the external world and reached deep into himself. He ignored the new essence that was constantly seeping in through the walls of his domain and even the domain itself, focusing completely on his ‘core’. Pushing past everything dungeon related and making sure his mind was devoid of everything else, he tentatively called on his core flame.
A golden blaze burst forth with heat and light so intense, it nearly burnt through what was left of his soul. The fire was eager and responsive but so powerful that Brandr was forced to put everything he could into placating and caging it. It was Goldfire, his core flame, a mystical essence flame of the highest tier and despite being its creator and master he was no longer qualified to control it. Only a deity or someone with the power of one could wield divine flames and Brandr was no longer either.
To his surprise, that did not bother him as much as he thought it would. Then again, he was too busy making sure that his own flames did not melt him into a puddle. Right now, he was an initial aurous stage crystal trying to hold back a divine flame that was once used to forge weapons for gods. A flame that once burnt an entire realm to ashes. It took herculean effort and skill to accomplish this feat.
Once the fire stabilised, he tugged at it, calling not to the flame itself but the flames in it. As weak as he was now, it was easy to forget that few cultivators were as intimate with fire as Brandr. It was the root of his name. His first mastered dao and even, the core of his power. One of them, anyway. His long reign also made it easy to forget that he had not always been a daolord nor had he always wielded the divine goldfire that had become his symbol. His path to mastery was long and harsh. The goldfire was proof of this. It was formed from every mystic flame he had mastered or created along the way.
Brandr had no hope of controlling his divine flame as he was now, but he could certainly use its components especially when they were things he mastered aeons ago. Diving into his core flame, he pulled out threads of a mystic flame he used back in his foundation establishment days. Slowly, motes of sunlight begun to collect over his goldfire.
When he had enough, Brandr carefully pushed his core flame away. Given that it was his core flame, he could not disperse it. Nevertheless, he could shove it deep and let it slumber till he had need of it. Once the only things left were the motes of sunlight, he gathered them, recreating a version of his old Sunfire mystic flame. The flame was weak but Brandr was content. He didn’t need it for combat just to experiment. He could nourish it later.
Opening his eyes, Brandr returned to the waking world. Everyone was staring at him. All the sprites, all forty-eight of them, were hovering in the distance with their eyes trained on him. Their expressions said awe and fear and looking around him, Brandr had a fair inkling as to why. Surrounding him was a lake of lava, spreading several metres in every direction. He could faintly sense his goldfire in the air. It told him he had not contained his flames as well as he had thought. Thankfully, it appeared only a tiny manifestation of his divine flame leaked out, most likely during the initial flare up. It was insignificant to most and for that he was glad. Had the actual flame gotten out, everything would be gone, turned into ashes on the wind.
Concentrating on the task at hand, he pulled up something he saw in Thorn’s memories. There had been crystals, sunstones they were called, embedded in the ceilings of the dungeons the sprite had explored. Pouring essence into his hand, Brandr created a large baby fist-sized ruby. Then, he fed it a trace of his sunfire. The ruby flared to life, casting warm light so bright it filled the room. It wasn’t the only thing. Several blue panels immediately occluded his vision.
|You have created a unique thing!|
|You have a created a new variation of sunstone!|
|Would you like to name your new creation?|
Theory confirmed, Brandr threw his head back and roared with triumphant laughter. He could practically see the path he should take stretching forth before him.
Slowly, the miniature sun he’d dubbed a Primordial sunstone rose to the ceiling where it shone bright sun rays down on half a hundred astonished sprites. While they gawked at the newfound marvel, their master stared at yet another blue panel.
[Primordial Sunstone | Grade: E]
Originating from the Dungeon: Brandr Goldfire nestled at the foot of the Battle Hammer Mountains. These sunstones do not just emanate light. They contain a spark of the sun’s true fire. The powerful light of this sunstone causes vigorous growth in plants, the vitality of animals and restores the strength of fire attributed items and beings as well as promote the creation of fire natured mana.
Brandr smiled at his work. He actually wanted to smack himself for not thinking of this earlier. It didn’t matter what form he was constrained to. He was still a cultivator. The essence of this world, while different, could still be used to cultivate. He’d done so himself in the days before he understood his new state. Additionally, he still had his techniques, his daos and his divine essence. The last was pitifully small compared to his old reserves but it was still there.
The best part. His old core and his new one were one and the same! If the traces of things he’d devoured and their imprints could be used to create new ones then what of the traces that came from his old core? Sinking once into a meditative trance he extracted embers of yet another flame from his core flame. Soon another crystal joined the first on the ceiling.
[Primordial Moonstone | Grade: E]
Originating from the Dungeon: Brandr Goldfire nestled at the foot of the Battle Hammer Mountains. These moonstones do not just emanate light. They burn with a fire from which shines the purest moonlight. This powerful light is enriching to the spirit and mind. All creatures who grow under this will receive boosts to their intelligence and wisdom. This light is also capable of enhancing icy mana.
Brandr watched the crystal pulse with silvery light as it rose, its light competing with that of its predecessor. There was a small commotion around him as some strange ghost lights, companions to the sprites, were unable to hold back and rushed at the ceiling, fighting over spots to bask in the light of his creations. He ignored them, pleased instead with what he had achieved. A few more tests were needed but for now, he could see no obstruction on his newfound path. Thinking back to the things the sprites had supplied his dungeon with when they came, he called up the pattern of a generic but familiar looking strain of grass.
Concentrating on the pattern he reached into himself. If this test was successful…
It took a few moments but soon enough, a new plant, created from superimposing the grass’s pattern with tinder fescue, a mystic herb from his youth, came to life between his palms. The plant lost its fresh cyan colour and began to look dried out instead. At the same time, it grew taller and sported several tufts along its stem. Brandr examined it carefully, comparing it to the tinder fescue in his memories. The results were conclusive. He’d succeeded!
It was only the first of many tests but the rest would only help define his current scope. Right now, time was of the essence. His path couldn’t be more clear. He shoved aside the new blue panels. Pulling up the starter race selection panel, he chose beasts.
Thorn did not know it but he was the one who had caused him to realise the thing that had been staring him in the face. He was also responsible for his master’s choice. Beasts with elemental variants? Monster cores? Magical creatures? Cultivators had a name for such things. They were called daemons and they were not one whit inferior to human cultivators. The creatures in Thorn’s memories might only be capable of their cores to store essence and casting innate spells but with his knowledge and his techniques… Brandr was looking forward to creating an army.
“Thorn!” he yelled. “Gather your warriors! In fact, grab everyone you can spare. I need you to go out there and seize any poisonous creature you can find. Toads, scorpions, millipedes, snakes, spiders, anything you can lay your hands on!”
Well, Brandr’s made his choice. What do you think of it? He’s decided to raise an army of daemon cultivators. I’m sure that will be so easy.
Those of you who picked beast must feel so prescient right now. Especially, those of you who picked beast for the same reason Brandr did.
Small confession: Thorn is basically me inverting the trope where everyone in novels is somehow able to explain things perfectly to everyone’s understanding. Now, I understand why that is so. I know its important that the readers comprehend what is going on but it always struck me as off. I mean, no one is vague? I’ve met people who couldn’t explain even the simplest things, give clear directions or demonstrate an action. In fact, I’ve met too many to count. However, you never find them in books, at least, not in the ones I read.
So I tried to subvert it a little. I’m fortunate that I can rely on genre awareness and a mix of Brandr’s abilities and experience to explain what I need to while I have Thorn bumble about. It’s the only reason I’m even attempting it. Even so, there’s always the chance I might lose someone or something in the telling so if you do think so or have issues with this innovation let me know.
Now, who can guess what our former daolord is up to?