Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 78

The second diary's first couple of pages dealt mainly with Landes' seven basic spells. Landes even drew sketches of the formations. And explained the principles behind how they worked.

Claude didn't really understand why Landes wrote the diary that way. It felt less like a diary and more like a textbook, not that he was complaining. If not for that, the diary would be worthless to him as a way to learn about magic.

Landes' core spell was Magus' Hands. It was one of the most popular choices for rune magi. It was an essential spell for experimentation. The diary said that some experiments needed ten casts or more. No rune magus worth his salt engraved it anywhere but the hexagon.

The spell created mana manifestations of hands that could be controlled by thought, allowing a magus to perform experiments on his own that would otherwise require any number of assistance. Once one got used to working with several times as many hands as was natural, it was far more efficient than trying to coordinate the movements of several assistants. It was also essential to conduct experiments that used poisonous, corrosive, or very hot or cold materials like acids or molten metal.

His first slave spell was Eye of Appraisal. It allowed a magus to scrutinise objects, especially runes and rune formations far more closely than the human eye could, even the mana-empowered eye of a magus. Not only that, but the caster could shift his point of view relative to the target as he wished and view it from all angles.

His second slave spell was Fine Control. It was a supplementary spell to Magus' Hands that boosted their dexterity; it also allowed the manifestations to be morphed into different shapes, allowing them to turn into all manner of useful tools such as knives, hammers, needles, and so on.

The third was Decomposition. The key and sole role of one-ring rune magi was to do the preparatory work for experiments lead or done alone by senior magi, and this spell as essential for that. It decomposed an object or material into its constituent parts in as far as the caster understood them. A magus, for example, who didn't know about atoms, for example, couldn't decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. They could, however, decompose a rock into its various constituent materials such as silica sand, organic materials, and individual ores.

That setup again made sense to Claude. Research projects and their experiments were usually handled by professors or senior researchers, while the juniors under their care or tutelage would handle the menial preparatory and documentary tasks. Less junior assistants might be put in charge of smaller, component experiments and the lead researcher would just review their reports to incorporate into the main experiment.

The fourth slave spell was Reconstruction, the opposite of Decomposition. It allowed the caster to assemble materials into larger matrices, to recreate the rock from the ores, as it were. The two were core spells in potion creation. Base materials were decomposed into their constituent elements, and the desired materials selected from those and then reconstructed into the potion. More effective or complex potions would require additional spells or rune formations, however, but they all functioned on the same basic principle.

Landes' fifth slave spell was his combat spell Magic Missile. The mana channelled through the formation congealed into a semi-solid, plasma-like projectile that could even pierce thick metal plates. It felt very much like the plasma guns so popular in earth's science fiction.

The projectile took on the properties of the mana used to form it, so Landes's was much like a small ball of fire. In his case, his affinity made the projectile more powerful, while others might make it freeze the area around its impact, or shock anything it touched. Each element imparted its weakness to the projectile as well, however. In Landes's case, though his fire mana made the projectile more powerful, it also severely limited its range. Like a piece of burning wood flung through the air, it very quickly snuffed out. It could do rapidly decreasing damage out to only about ten metres. If he really pushed it, he might be able to burn exposed flesh or clothing out to twenty metres, but the projectile dissipated at that point.

That, to Claude, was 'true magic'. He remembered a video game he used to play that had its magi throw fireballs with their bare hands. At least part of it was due to his age at the time, but he'd always thought stuff like that was really cool. He pictured Magic Missile in much the same way. He didn't care about the range limitation, he could just shoot anything more than ten metres from him with his musket.

If he knew that spell, he would not have to worry about stuff like niros crocodiles or thugs anymore. In fact, he would relish drawing the poor sods in close and then pummelling them with fireballs out of nowhere. In his excitement, however, he forgot how taboo magic was. If he left any witnesses, his life would end not long after.

Landes didn't feel the same way Claude did, however. He felt Clean would have been a far more useful spell to engrave there. He was always saddled with cleaning duty after experiments, and he resented not being able to just cast a spell to do the work for him. Well, he could still cast it a few times, but since he had to draw the temporary formation every time, he had far fewer uses than others, and it was never enough.

The sterilising agent he had to use when doing it by hand also burned his hands, so they were always discoloured and blistered. Claude didn't think Landes was thinking far enough ahead, however. His complaint was only relevant for the couple of years he had to be an apprentice and assist with experiments. In the long run, once he became more senior, he would pass those duties on to his juniors, and then that spell would be mostly useless to him. The combat spell, or indeed any of the other simple spells, which Claude didn't know, would be worth more than Clean.

The final spell made Claude look twice. It was a complete joke. Mental Shock was one of Landes' original -- read 'plagiarised' -- spells.

His main assistant role was that of feeder. He was responsible for feeding the beasts kept by the tower for its experiments. Most of them were small critters, but some were more fearsome. The tower kept several snakes and niros crocodiles, for example.

The standard research procedure in most towers was as follows. The tower master decided what research was to be conducted, and passed his decisions on to his most senior rune magi, who would design the experiments and pass on material requisitions to their apprentices. These would scour the tower's stores to gather said materials. If the tower didn't have one or more of the materials, the battlemagi would be sent out to find them.

The towers didn't breed the wild beasts or keep them permanently. Instead they were caught in the wild a few weeks or months before an experiment was scheduled to be done, and kept in or near the tower until they were used. Niros crocodiles, for example, were most frequently caught for their skins, which were used to make talismans for use in low-level spells.

Shortly after Landes' arrival at the tower, the towermaster decided to investigate the devolution of niros crocodiles from magic beasts to normal animals. He suspected that the high level of ambient mana and magic materials was what triggered the evolution of animals into magic beasts, and that without them, they'd return to being just normal animals. Naturally, this called for testing.

He sent Tawari and several other battlemagi into Kemda to catch a couple crocodiles. They were kept near the tower in an enclosure surrounded by a large formation which funnelled magic into the cage. Some poor first-rank sod had to inject his mana into the formation every day, and some other poor sod had to feed the beasts.

Landes and his colleagues were living batteries for that experiment. Loenk wanted to test whether creatures that had always been normal animals would evolve into magic beasts if given enough mana, so he had several other species caught and caged as well.

Landes was chosen for the unfortunate job of feeder. He came from a house of fishermen, and thus was deathly afraid of the beasts he now had to feed. He literally shat himself when he realised that if they ever did turn into magic beasts, they could easily break through the formations that restrained them now and eat him.

That fear was what drove him to finally accepting Tawari's advice to engrave a combat spell in one of his triangles. Tawari also taught him another spell to use with the temporary formation: Banshee's Howl.

Neither spell could kill the beasts if they were strong enough to break through the formations restraining them, but they might just buy him enough time to get out of there, alive.

Banshee's Howl was a psychic spell that sent its targets into a panicked frenzy. Its effects were too strong for Landes' comfort, and it used too much mana. So Landes decided to derive a simple version of Banshee's Howl that used less and didn't have as extensive an effect. The original spell was a crowd control spell that affected everything within a certain range, which was the main reason for its heavy mana cost. Landes' derived spell, on the other hand, focused on just a single target and only momentarily incapacitated the opponent, rather than sending it into a frenzy. He decided to call it Mental Shock.

Tawari nearly slapped his hexagram right out of his void space when he heard what the idiot had done. Not only was the spell weak, it could only be used up to ten metres out.

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