Chapter Six Hundred And Ninety – 690
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Chapter Six Hundred And Ninety – 690

Yin busied himself around the turret floor, inspecting the complicated array he had made. It wasn't an array as Vess understood these things. It was more akin to the summoning circles that the Risi Witches made use of, though thankfully blood was not a primary component. Sketched out onto the wide ground of the lone turret of Fortress Fenwald, Vess could even appreciate the strange artistry of it all.

Vessilia. Please place the talismans, Yintarion said from above.

She reached into her satchel and began placing them as her Companion instructed. The first were tufts of a Windblown Lamb, a strange floating plant tethered to the earth that she had found near the edges of the forest. They were gentle creatures, very much aware, and allowed her to take as many tufts as she wished. It had been the easiest of the talismans to acquire.

The second was a twig from a Wickerjak, a wood elemental. She found them in great colonies in downed Circadian Goliaths. That had required Vess to engage in bargaining, which ended when they had requested that she take some of the Deathdrinker Mushrooms they had attached to their trees. Though she was confused as to why, Vess did not refuse such a light payment, and even planned to have someone to cook them upshe heard they were quite tasty.

Next was a whisker from a hibernating Salamander. The Inferior Elementals were buried in the mud near the swamp, but only in the shallows. They were extremely hard to find and the messiest of her searches, though they did not so much as twitch when she removed one of their whiskers. Vess made sure to cover them back up with mud before she left.

Then there was a river smooth stone, one that had been bored through by the inevitable press of countless currents. She held it up, still shiny and a deep, glitter-flecked gray with a hole worn through its center. She had spent a long time scouring the many streams and rivers that dotted the mountains, flaring her Perception to its limits. The process was so arduous that Vess abandoned it twice to find other, easier to acquire talismans before returning and eventually stumbling across it. She held it up, and it still felt remarkably cold in her hand; like a shard of ice.

After that was a small jar, sealed with cork and wax. Within it was a small handful of loam excavated from the inside of a deep cavern and packed tight. It had never once seen the sun, and even the jar itself had its inside painted black. She placed the jar on the northernmost point of the circle, inside a complicated swirling pattern.

The last two were a bit harder to find, if only because the creature in question was a rare beast. Giant Kestrels, each the size of Dire Hounds, were prized for their meat and feathers. They had been hunted to near extinction by the Dwarves, raiders, and local hunters several decades prior, but Vess had learned a lot from her Uncle. Patrim had often led her through the forests and mountains beyond the Eastern Reaches, teaching her and a young Darius the ways of the hunter. When she had found the large birds, they were sleeping peacefully atop a cliffside nest. Just below their home was the first of the talismans: a single Suncryst grown from the muck of the Giant Kestrels. The faceted crystal shone gold and was almost hot to the touch, and as she pulled it free of her satchel Vess marveled that it still gave off a faint halo of illumination.

The very last item she placed in the center of the summoning circle: a Giant Kestrel egg, still warm from its mothers nest. It was smaller than she expected, only about the size of her palm, and like the crystal it retained heat all on its own.

As Vess placed the last talisman, she stepped back and admired the fine lines of sand that had been drawn out in all directions for nearly ten full strides. Yin bustled about, carefully putting the finishing touches on its design.

"Why so many talismans, Yin?" Vess asked.

"Each represents an aspect of the Green Wilds. Air, earth, fire, water, shadow, light, and life itself. I need them and the significance they carry to summon the creature."

Are they not too small and ephemeral to carry much significance?

Size matters little to meaning, and all of these are imbued with vital pieces of the Green Wilds. All I need is a connection. The ritual will do the rest.

Vess looked around the empty turret. It was cavernous and devoid of anything save the rough stone floor and age-worn walls. Huge, empty window casements let in the chill winds that ranged across the mountains. "Why here?"

"The spirit haunts these mountains," Yin said, before shrugging his little shoulders. "It haunts anywhere the Green Wild touches too deeply, but here most of all. The landscape has changed across the ages, but I've compared the maps. Here we're close enough to its power that we can reach it, and far enough that it will not be at its greatest strength."

Vess firmed her jaw and picked up her partisan. And you say its not an Urge.

It is not. Urges are concepts born of thought and wayward Intent until theyve gathered critical mass. The spirit is areflection of a greater process. Yin paused above the circle, meeting Vess gaze. In ancient Ages, some worshiped it as a godbut it is not a god either. It is a force, one we hope to turn to our advantage.

Vess took a steadying breath. She was uncomfortablebut she knew her Companions heart. Their bond could not work, otherwise. She trusted him. "Tell me its name again."

"The Grim Nightshade."

"What's that?" Evie asked, walking up the stairs and into the turret chamber. She was loudly chewing on a Volacris leg and carrying a woven chair of all things. Beef and Hollow followed closely behind.

"A spirit of the Green Wilds, woven from the song that shaped all of Creation," Yin said, irritated. "I told you only to fetch your Companion, child."

"She was waiting in the hallway," Beef said, spreading his hands helplessly. "We just walked in together."

This story has been stolen from Royal Road. If you read it on Amazon, please report it

Vess scratched a spot behind Yin's foreleg, eliciting a pleased arch from the Wyrmling's back. "Evie is fine, Yin. She can help us."

Yin cleared his throat and stepped away from Vess's touch. "Very well. You may aid us, but my word is law during this procedure. If you cannot obey me instantly, then I cannot risk you here."

"You got it. You're the boss," Evie said, flopping down into her chair.

Vess raised her brows. Evie was wearing a thick woolen cloak, which wasn't her normal style, and it bunched strangely around her chest and shoulders. She ignored Vess's pointed stare.

"What's the plan?" she asked.

"To Evolve. But first you must know the details of our adversary." Yin cleared his throat before intoning deeply. "In the times before, the Dragons were part of the Green Wild, but the Threnodies of War shook us. We strayed into destruction and away from the Wilds gentler side. The Grim was once an aid to us and our Dragoons, to press ourselves further along our chosen paths.

"I thought the Green Wilds was all pretty and niceness. Flowers and sunshine."

"All things reside in a spectrum, chainmaiden. The Grim walks the darker edges of the Green Wilds, where the song of creation rides tightly with destruction. Flowers bloom, but the frost will kill them eventually. A storm has no morality, nor does a wildfire or landslide. This is where the Grim's power stands. Through the Grim's might, I can solidify my Evolution. Without it, I will be forced into a far lesser choice."

"And you're gonna... eat it? Beef asked.

"No. I must strike a bargain with it."

"A bargain," Hollow said. "Like an Oath?"

"It is similar, but we do not just give our words and risk punishment. Instead, we forge a bond between us that allows for the transfer of potency. Similar, in effect, to a Companion Pact," Vess explained. "Just far riskier."

"I am in no danger, little Dragoon," Yin assured her.

"What does the Grim get out of it?" Beef asked. "A Companion Pact goes both ways."

"So it does, child. In return for a piece of its power, the Grim gains a portion of the significance I earn as my life progresses."

"Sounds like a bum deal," Evie said around a mouthful of bird.

Yin pushed his chest out and shook out his mane. "For a mortal, perhaps, but Dragons are vastly longer-lived and stand to earn far more significance than most mortals could ever dream of. It will be a deal the Grim cannot deny."

Vess was not so sure, but she trusted her friend. If he believed the bargain would work, then she would go alongand make sure that it did.

Yin swam in a small circle around the sand and talismans, eyes roving. "We are almost set to begin. Understand this, all of you. No matter what happens, the Grim must remain unharmed. Only I can approach it."

"Why?" Hollow asked. "What will happen if it's harmed?"

Yin's expression darkened. "Nothing good. It will void the bargain at the very least, squandering our attempts here. And the Grim is not called such for its merry disposition. It will repay all wounds tenfold."

Evie swallowed her mouthful of fowl. "Don't touch the Grim. Understood.

Good. I have the pieces Vessilia has collected, and all I need next is"

"One thing, though," Evie said. "Sorry. Its important if we're about to face some monstrous horror." She opened up her cloak to reveal the shimmer of red-silver armor that covered her from neck to ankle.

Vess' eyes widened.

"Anyone want their new gear?" Evie asked.

After finishing up the enchanting for Harn, Felix and Pit went hunting.

It was a relatively short trip, compared to the competition Felix had held days prior. This wasnt about food for the fortress, however. This was about Essence.

Felix and Pit descended on the mountains like a plague, eradicating as many beasts as they could find. The weakest were ignored, as were the trees and the strange wards woven into the air; he didnt plan to strip the land of resources, or the protections of the Gloaming Way. Instead he skirted the swamps entirely, focusing on the patches of forest that clung to the drier foothills and deep, dark caverns. Inside they found quite a few monsters that approached Adept Tier, and even one large beast that was reminiscent of a newt covered in thick, coarse fur. Felix consumed them all, and it was enough that he finally felt comfortable attempting his combination array once more.

Now, the two of them were settled atop the fortress inner walls, same as before. His old array had been scrubbed clear though, and now he worked to build a better one. With Magus of the Grand Design, finding and eliminating the flaws in his original design was easy, and he etched the wall with sure strokes and brimming confidence. As he inscribed the last sigil, Felix felt a gathering in his chest as the ring-bound planet of his Skill burst with new power.

Magus of the Grand Design is level 101!

The new array was far more refined and complex, yet it promised to be twice as efficient as the last. Felix flared Stone Shaping and all at once his inscription sank deeper into the rock, as if stamped by a massive hand.

There we go, Felix said, dusting off his hands. Pit, Im gonna try this again. Stand guard?

"Okay," Pit replied, clearly unconcerned. He stretched his little doggy form before curling up just outside the edge of the array. "Wake me up if anything interesting happens."

"Will do, buddy."

Felix made sure to check over his array one more time, letting his eyes and Skill drift across its sigaldry. No other flaws jumped out at him, and the autocorrect-like feature of his Skill was silent. That wasnt to say that the array was perfect, but what was?

Ill need to reach Paragon at least before I start to approach perfection, he thought with a wry grin. And even then

Perfection was the enemy of good enough, and Felix was tired of waiting.

Go time.

Felix initiated the array, and immediately felt the Essence within him flood out through the Mana Gate in his knees. It fed into his siphon array, spiraling out through the outward bend of the greater circle and into the glyphs designed to represent every Mana type he could remember. After that, it spun back, following the inward bend back toward the center and back into his Mana Gate on the soles of his feet.

Felix laughed. The wind blew through his short hair, cold and invigorating, with a touch of a promised spring. It works!

The array was losing almost zero Essence and Mana to the air, a marked improvement over the last design. Moreover, his power wasnt just spinning in pointless circles, but refining itself through the glyphs at a pace he could track. The whole thing thrummed in a certain way that resonated with the Skills in his core space, their revolutions interrupted by an ascending rhythm.

Gathering his Intent and Will, Felix reached for his shaping Skills.

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