Ethereum: day nine
Recommended listening is The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic.
Charlotte followed Riley with apprehension. Her onee-chan had refused to have anything to do with the twisted little Healomancer and had advised her to do likewise, but Riley had specifically requested her help with ‘upgrading’ a project, and May and Tom had both basically ordered her to go along, so here she was, in Wolf’s Lair’s dungeons. It was even creepier than it had been when they’d first arrived; most people had cleared out in a hurry after Riley took it over, so it was abandoned except for uncroaked and the few prisoners who still hadn’t turned. Charlotte had to light a power ball and carry it along with them, trying to convince herself that the shifting shadows it cast were just tricks of her eyes.
“Having all you guys around is really helpful,” Riley chattered (she hadn’t shut up since Charlotte had met up with her), “cos there’s just too much stuff for one person to know, right? Especially with Changemancy, you’re so lucky you get all that basically for free. I really wish Mal had told us about her insights, there’s got to be something for everyone there. It’d be nice if we had more Clevermancers here, too. I asked Dad if we could bring Akira out so I could brainstorm with her.”
“What am I supposed to be doing here, exactly?” Charlotte asked, nervously. “Lisa isn’t here, so we couldn’t link even if she agreed.”
“Nah, don’t worry, it’s just a little thing, we shouldn’t need a link. It’s probably easier to show than tell. You know how I’ve been doing experiments? Ooh, have you seen Frankie? I made a better one called Freddie, but Dad stuck him in the garrison guarding it and Big Sis yells at me when I go in there.”
Riley took Charlotte’s hand and pulled her toward one end of the dungeon, where her first flesh golem lurked in an open cell. With a squelch of ill-fitting flesh, it rolled over and gave them a look. Charlotte had glimpsed it at a distance awhile earlier, and in the poor light thought it was actually two or three units stacked together. She immediately regretted learning the truth.
“Disdand ne,” it breathed, its voice sounding like a handful of pieces of gravel being ground to dust.
Riley tutted. “He always says that, and he’s so rude about it. He never says please, or if he does, he doesn’t even say it right, and then when I tell him that he says this other thing that makes no sense, ‘I ath no lits’ or something. Mom gets mad if he makes too much noise, give me a sec …” With one fluid, practised motion, she pulled a scalpel from her apron, stepped forward, and sliced the golem’s throat. “Stay,” she ordered it sternly. She left the cell and took Charlotte’s hand again.
“Whoa,” Charlotte said, horrified but fascinated, “how did you do that?”
“Make him be quiet? Severed the vocal cords. I’ve got Healomancy senses, so I know exactly where to cut to do it, but I can’t think how you could do it without risking critting him.”
“No, I mean, I was watching its stats, and its hits didn’t go down, even when you injured it. You couldn’t have healed it, or it’d be able to speak again.”
“He,” Riley corrected, “and right, I keep forgetting that most people don’t know how bodies work. Healomancy senses and all. So, units are made out of what are called organs. Each one gives a specific doohickey, um,” she snapped her fingers, “function, and if they get too badly damaged, that function is lost. Some organs make units more useful, like vocal cords giving us the ability to talk, or legs letting us walk or eyes letting us see. Others don’t, but if you lose them then you croak, like the heart. Some of them make you croak at turn’s end, like the intestines. Crits are what happen if you damage a vital badly enough.”
“Now, Healomancers can see everything just by looking at someone, all of their organs and what condition they’re in and stuff. Normal units, though, can only see one number, hits, which is … well it’s a whole lot more complicated than this but you can think of it as being like the total condition of the cardiovascular system, which is like one big super-organ. It’s vital, and it’s so big that it goes under all of your skin, so pretty much any injury which isn’t just a scratch will damage the cardio, and that bumps off hits. It’s the most important thing for like a warlord or stuff to worry about, because it’s the easiest organ to hit if you’re just randomly stabbing wherever, so most units croaked in combat are because the cardio gets too damaged, and hits drop to zero, which is called exsanguination. But I can see it under the skin, so I know exactly how to cut to disable the vocal cords or whatever without damaging anything else. Well, ‘cept the skin, you have to cut that up, but it doesn’t do much except charisma checks anyways, and who cares about that, right?”
“I don’t know, I’m kind of attached to my skin,” Charlotte said.
Riley snerked. “You’re funny. Here we are.”
They came to a wheeled table. Beside it was a cell containing a stabber who gave a shriek as Riley walked into view. She smiled and pulled a white surgical mask over her face, then gave a silent command, and manacles appeared around his wrists and ankles. She walked forward and did the same precise cut to the throat, silencing him mid-scream, then pushed the table in and fiddled with the chains until the stabber lay on it, spread-eagled and struggling. She opened his shirt.
“So when you’re doing surgery, you don’t want to damage the cardio, cos then you have to waste juice fixing it again, or else you risk the patient croaking, right? But if you’re a Healomancer, you can see everything, so you can cut juuust deep enough to get through the skin without getting any arteries and stuff, like this. One nice big line from the suprasternal notch to the hypogastrium. If we do it right and we’re reeeally careful, we can open him up like a banana, all without touching the cardio and costing any hits. Then we separate the pectorals and the sternum, like so, and the ribs unfold and you can see all the goodies inside. Pretty cool, right?”
“Um, sure,” Charlotte said, nauseated. “Doesn’t that hurt? Like, a lot?”
“Huh? I guess it might if I did self-surgery without switching pain off, but why would I?”
“Never mind. Can you close him again?”
“Nah, I need to get some stuff out. So, most of the organs in the chest cavity are vitals, like the heart and lungs and stuff. You can’t destroy or remove them without the patient croaking. Buuut, if you only take a little bit of mass from the right places, they only have impaired function, incapacitation or a stat penalty or something, but they still work, and you just heal at end of turn. So you can get free bits of organs. It doesn’t even cost juice.” As she spoke, she very precisely carved out little chunks of various organs and set the liberated meat on the table’s lower layer. When she took a sliver out of the heart, the stabber’s hits dropped from six to four.
“… Why would anyone ever want to do that?”
“So I can make more flesh golems, duh. I want to do an experiment today. Frankie, that guy with one extra arm from before, he was my first try at making a golem, but I was really just messing around, you know? I barely had any juice – I still have waaay less than I’d like, I’ve got so many ideas but I can barely do anything in one turn, so I have to spread it out and it takes aaages and it suuucks, I don’t know how anyone can stand it – and he was my first mash-up, so he’s not really very good. Don’t tell him I said that, okay? I think that it’s just that I’m not experienced enough. Freddie was better, and I’ve got all these awesome ideas for how to do even cooler things.”
Having finished looting the chest, she made a single clean cut through one leg at the hip, eliciting a spasm. It cost three hits, leaving him on one. “Limbs are useful, but they contain plenty of cardio, so you can’t take many without croaking them. What can you do, right?” She moved up to his head, carved a hinge into the scalp, and opened it up, revealing the brain. “Man, I haven’t even begun playing with these things yet. There’s so much you can do, but you can croak the patient if you carve out the wrong area, because there are all these bits of string tied to it, and you can’t cut more than a few, but you do need to get some like Duty and Loyalty for golems so you can put replacements in. I got that from watching Pete work.” She made some very precise cuts, and abruptly the stabber fell limp. She delicately levered out part of his brain, then made the manacles lift him off the table and set him back on the bench at the back of the cell, unmoving.
“Aren’t you going to close him up again?”
“Why?” said Riley, pushing the table out of the cell.
“Well, he’s still alive, isn’t he?”
“Yup. Dad told me to make sure, so I’ve been careful. He’ll be fine tomorrow with the start-of-turn heal. Everything restores. You should totally watch it, it looks cool and I can do funny sound effects.”
“… Why do I have to be here, again?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry for dragging you around like this!” Riley said, her eyes going wide. “I totally should have done this first and then got you. Darn it. Can we still be friends?”
Charlotte took a moment to consider the pros and cons of being Riley’s friend, before considering the pros and cons of not being her friend. “Of course. Don’t worry about it.”
“Thanks, Charlotte. I’ll try to hurry it up, and I’ll leave my dailies for after you’ve done your bit. Normally I’d use eight prisoners, but I can manage with six. It’s just two more cells, I’ve got four in this one here.” She opened the next door; Charlotte, who had thought she had been ready for anything, took an involuntary step back and averted her gaze. “Dad was complaining about having to pay upkeep for all these prisoners that don’t do anything, and I had this idea for … well, you see what I’ve done with them, it wasn’t that hard really, and it means you only have to feed one, which is pretty cool. Don’t need to put these guys on the trolley, they’re not going anywhere.” She chuckled, got out her scalpel, and set to work.
“I need them on their front anyway, to get a spine. You need one as the nerve bridge, you know, so that commands from the brain can reach the limbs and stuff so they can move. The problem is that you also have to have the heart and lungs wired to the spine, or they stop, so you can’t harvest an entire one without croaking the donor. What I did with Frankie and Freddie was to take the bottom halves of two spines and stick them together, cos if you cut below the heart you only lose motor function and have to fix the intestines, which is easy, but it doesn’t fit together right, that’s part of why Frankie flops around like that. What Imma do this time is take the left half of one spine and the right half of another, then bind them together lengthwise. Hey, idea, I can take half the ribs from each this way, too, and have them fit right. They don’t fit the bottom half of a spine, that’s why Frankie’s chest looks funny.” She huffed. “It’s hard work sawing through all these vertebrae, but it’s a lot neater. Last time, to get at the organs, I tried opening the chest from the front and working upside-down, but then everything spilt out onto the floor and I got spleen in my eye, and the heart got bruised and I had to waste juice fixing it.”
Charlotte had the distinct impression that the little Healomancer hadn’t found anyone to talk shop with and was overjoyed to have an audience who wasn’t chained in place and with their throat torn out. Even Pete avoided her. “You still haven’t said what you need me for.”
“Oh, right! Sorry. This stuffs really enthrals me. Or entrails me.” She giggled. “Sorry. So, after I get all of this together, basically I slap it together in a big pile and use some juice to make it into a flesh golem. Well, there’s a step with making it into a body mod and siamesing it, it’s a hack I figured out from Croakamancy, but whatever. I call it a flesh golem, but it’s not actually a golem, it’s like a, a thing, and it stops being an it and starts being a he when I do the spell. Or a she, if I used mostly girls, but we don’t have many of those here. He’s living, because he’s made out of meat and has a brain and stuff, and has free will – ish – and can learn and level and do stuff like that, which is super cool, but one super not cool thing is that he has to have all these vital organs, he’s not just full of stuffing or mud or anything, so that means he’s easy to crit. I’ve been getting around that by taking twice as many organ parts as I need and putting them together into two copies of everything, so it doesn’t matter if someone stabs his heart, he just uses the backup, what do you call it, redolency or something? And way extra cardio, so he has a lot of hits. But it’s so clunky. It wastes juice, and I can’t get enough brain meat to make two of those, you can’t harvest much of a brain safely, or what if someone gets lucky and hits all of his lungs?
“So what I was thinking was, what if we put the organs in special sheaths, made of like scale mail? Organs can smoosh against each other, so even if someone stabbed him hard enough to get through the sheath, they’d just squish out of the way and the point would slide off instead. He’d be like crit-proof. You couldn’t do that for the cardio, it’s too big and not squishy, but that wouldn’t matter if you piled on so much meat that he had like a million hits. But like I said, I can’t do Changemancy, so I need you to help with that. I’d ask Mom, but she doesn’t do metal, and cloth doesn’t last inside a body.”
“Make armour … for organs,” Charlotte said dubiously. “I … guess I can do that. You, uh, don’t need me to touch them with my hands, do you?”
“Nah, it’ll be fine, just drop ‘em in wherever when you’re done, it’s what I do. Like, the heart is supposed to be centre-left, but does it really matter if you get your lefts and rights mixed up? I once tried tying one of these guys’ intestines in a knot round his lungs, just to see if anything happened, but nah. You pretty much just have to make sure the tubes are all connected.”
Charlotte made a mental note to make sure Lecter did all her healing.
“Well, I’m done here,” Riley said, scooping out the last bit of brain. She pushed the wheeled table out of the cell, the lower tray now covered with organ parts. “Oof, heavy. Hey!” She motioned a stack of uncroaked over. Charlotte noted, with intense disquiet, that parts of their bodies looked much fresher than others, and didn’t quite match the rest. They moved fine, though, and took over pushing the heavily laden table.
“One to go. So this is the really really cool part, it’s the thing I most want to do when I get more juice and donors. I’ve mostly been using stabbers, so Frankie’s like a stabber golem, right? I mean, he’s got more hits and the extra arm ups his combat and stuff, but basically. This next guy is a knight, though.” They stopped at a third cell. Charlotte couldn’t bring herself to watch this time; she sat outside with one of the uncroaked, trying to focus on Riley’s words and not the squelches. “So, if I had an entire stack of knights, the result would be a knight golem, right? He’d have even better stats, and he’d be knight-class, with all the mechanical effects that has. You could do the same thing with archers or scouts or even other races, make like a daemon golem or whatever. I really want to try that, but Dad isn’t letting me.” She gave a put-upon sigh.
“But what if you do a mix-and-match, with like some stabbers and some knights? Half classes don’t exist, and everything has exactly one class. Does it count as a knight-class if you have only one eighth? How much do you need? Seven eighths? Half? What if you take one eighth of the bodies of eight different unit classes, what is it then?
“So I played around for a bit, and I found that only one little part of the brain determines your class. If I excise that and plunk it in the new body, the golem gets that class. The donor loses it and any perks, but gets them back when they heal next turn. Even with only one knight, I can make Frankies that are full knight-class. I have to take both this guy’s arms to give him good stats,” she punctuated this with two clean cuts, costing four hits and causing the knight to arch his back in agony, “because the class doesn’t give those directly, it’s having these big muscular arms, but it’s no big deal, he’s used to it. You’d know about that already, though, cos knight prom– promos are natural Changemancy, right?”
“Uh, yes,” said Charlotte. She’d never figured out how to do promotions purely by juice, and it occurred to her to be embarrassed: she’d just been lazily hardening the walls and tower, not bothering to think about it at all, and here a Healomancer, one of the most limited disciplines and not even elementally aligned, was asking fundamental questions about Life itself, and getting answers, even if she was doing so in literally the most disturbing way imaginable. She made a note to try again until she got it, it wasn’t even supposed to be that hard.
“So that’s cool, but what I’m really thinking is, why stop with just a knight? What if, wait for it, what if I could do the same thing with casters?” Charlotte froze. “Absolutely bananas, right?” Riley snapped her fingers and fumbled a lung, dropping it on the floor, before snatching it back up and blowing the dirt off. “Whoops. Still good. Well, what about a caster flesh golem? I could make another sort-of caster every turn. If I made Healomancer golems to help me, and if they made more of themselves out of themselves, it’d go exponential.”
“No way,” Charlotte breathed. That was an end-of-the-world scenario.
“Probably not,” Riley agreed sadly. “It’s easy to make a unit with the casting special, Loony can do that already, but the thing is you can’t give it juice, right? Juice is a stat, so messing with that would be Changemancy, but you guys can’t – if you could, you’d go exponential yourselves – and I don’t know what part of the body stores it, so dunno what I could do there. It might not even be in the body, it might be attached by like a stringy dealie or is part of the soul or even is the soul, who knows. Whatever it is, I can’t think how to give juice to a flesh golem.
“Maybe there’s a way round that somehow, but let’s worry about that later. Making knight golems is possible, casters aren’t for now. What if you try in between them, warlords? Dad won’t let me experiment on Thursday, blah blah blah trauma blah turning soon blah blah Loyalty blah, but Loony’s bringing that pirate warlady in later this turn, and he’s going to let me pick her brain, so I’m going to try to make a warlady golem. Will she get level seven leadership? Leadership is natural Date-a-mancy, and it’s a special, so maybe I’d need some of that or Weirdomancy to make it work properly, or even Dittomancy since I’m copying it? I really wish we had some Thinkamancers here for links.
“I think it is possible, but that I won’t have enough juice to stabilise her without throwing away most of the leadership ranks. Why can’t I tack on all the limbs I can find, or make golems out of levelled prisoners? I tried to stick like fifteen arms on Frankie when I made him, the more the better right, but I didn’t have enough juice to animate them properly, so the extra body parts didn’t take, they got apoptosis and just fell off, then decayed and depopped. It’s like a law of golems, the bigger you make them, the more juice you have to put in. That’s why Mom can’t combo with a mundane unit with fabrication and have that sew a bunch of extra limbs for her golems for free. So if I try to put rank seven leadership into a golem, it’ll basically take seven levels of Healomancy to make it stick, I think. Me and Doctor Lecter only have six, if I ask him to help. We could probably do it if we cheaped out on the body, you know, not bother with arms and skin and stuff, so she’s just like a walking leadership bonus – it’s a pretty cool idea, when you think about it – but I want to see what happens, just in case it is possible to make high-level warlord knight mashup golems.”
“That’s absolutely insane,” Charlotte said.
“I know, right?” Riley led the procession of uncroaked out of the cell, her operating table now piled high with mutilated body parts. “Sorry again about the wait. This is the good part, though. Now’s when we get to make him!”
She resized her table larger, then laid down five limbs and one big stretch of skin. She pulled a staple gun from her apron to fix them together, then began layering organs on top. She took chunks of organs of one type and smooshed them together, then used the staple gun and sparing droplets of juice to fuse them into single wholes, then inserted them into the body cavity, making sure to put lots of space between matches, so they couldn’t both be hit by a single powerful swing. She wrapped all of it in lines of arteries, making sure it was all nice and even.
“Do you want to help put it together?” she asked brightly.
“You sure? You don’t need to use Healomancy or anything, that all comes later. Well, more for me then. You still have to make the sheaths, though, don’t pretend you forgot!” she scolded.
“Oh, yeah,” said Charlotte. Gingerly, she got to work.
Changemancy was probably the broadest discipline, intersecting several others and with a number of unique effects. It was the magic of change; because almost all magic changed something, other than the divination disciplines and a few other exceptions, it followed she could mimic most of them to some extent, although not usually as well as a native. Making armour was simple; it didn’t need to move, it wasn’t full Dollamancy, it was just reworking the form of metal to encircle and protect.
As the resident fabricator, she claimed most of the city’s raw materials at the start of each turn and stuffed them into her bag. She was something of a hoarder; in her defence, it cost less juice than conjuring the stuff anew. Now, she pulled out sheets of iron, then paused.
“Iron rusts inside bodies, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. Can’t you make it into something else? Stainless steel? Ooh, or how about titanium?”
“Titanium’s pretty expensive.”
“Hmm. What about titanium for the immediate vitals and stainless steel for everything else? Brain, hearts, spine, lungs?”
Charlotte nodded, then focused. Her senses perceived the fundamental structure of iron, the unique identifier of the sheet of pure unalloyed Stuff. It took just a thought and a daub of juice to change it to that of the harder metal. She played with it like clay, moulding it into the shape of half of the fused spine in Riley’s hand. Then she frowned and twisted, reshaping it to have overlapping plates connected by narrow wires, so that it would be flexible but still let a spear slide off. She held it out; Riley placed the spine into it, and stuffed a thick artery/vein pair in too for safekeeping. Charlotte put more titanium over the front, sealing it up, and handed it back. Riley took it, then laid it down on the rear layer of skin, moving the organs she’d already laid down to one side and picking out a heart for Charlotte to do next.
In spite of how gross and creepy it was, Charlotte found herself actually having fun once she got used to it. One of the limitations of Changemancy she most resented was that it was the only kind of Stuffamancy that couldn’t create units: Dirtamancers had their fancy high-defence golems, and Dittomancers could make doubles, even if they depopped in short order, but she had nothing at all. Even if she was only responsible for a minor perk which might not even work, it was nice. Riley was surprisingly good company, too; she was polite and friendly and filled any and all silences with a constant chatter about her theories and plans for new experiments. She was completely unfettered, in the same uncomplicated way that Rhyme-o-mancers were about dropping sick raps, but brilliant, asking simple yet devastating questions about the fundamental nature of magic. Perhaps the two were related; normal people have inhibitions that stop them from doing things like disassembling and reconstituting the bodies of seven or eight units at the same time, so they never find out what happens if you do.
“I want to get the others to help too,” she said. “I was thinking I could ask Hedera to poison the fingernails, you could make them into claws or something, and Loony could do so many things. I really want to sit down with her and figure out how specials work. Like, if you have an organ that does something, like wings granting flying, then if you cut the wings off, it can’t fly until they heal, right? But she doesn’t need to work with organs. I think what she does is she puts a magical widget with the special into the unit somehow, probably stored in the brain. So, if she gives a unit water-capable, then I cut off its legs and staple them onto another unit, and the other way round, that’d mean the first one keeps the special, but it switches if they’re natural water walkers cos they’d keep it in their legs. If I find exactly where in the brain she puts it, can I use that to make golems with a whole pile of specials? Or could I transplant it into already existing units, and act like a Weirdomancer myself?”
“Uh,” Charlotte offered. Case in point. “I think most people would have something to say about having bits of other units’ brains stuffed into their heads.”
“Yeah, obviously I’d do their vocals first, but would it work? And there’s one thing I really don’t get. See, the way I think it usually works is, say you join fifty stabbers together into one flesh golem, he won’t have any specials, right? He’ll have good stats, cos that’s fifty units’ worth of organs, but specials don’t just come out of nowhere, you need either specialised organs or Weirdomancy or like magic items or something. Except for one,” she snapped her fingers, “heavy. I was thinking it’d be really cool, cos you could put him on a flyer, then he attacks a city, and they’re like, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just one stabber,’ and then he lands and he’s got like fifty combat and a hundred hits and they’re all like ‘Oh nooo!’
“But it doesn’t work, cos if you stick more than two guys together into one, he gains heavy, so he has to walk. It’s no big deal for us, cos Loony can just zap it away, but where does it come from? I was thinking it might be like hits, you know, where most units see this one dumbed-down number but there’s really there’s big complicated thing underneath that only Healomancers can see. Maybe it’s the same thing, like say there’s a hidden stat that all units have, and if you go above a certain number you automagically gain heavy. Does that mean that if someone’s only just above the limit and you cut off a leg, they lose heavy? Could you make them gain and lose it by cutting it off and sticking it back on again and again?”
“Do you have any ideas for experiments that don’t involve dismemberment?”
“Um … well, an experiment is where you change one thing to see if it changes another, right? What could you do if you can’t change anything about what organs people have?”
“… I have no answer for that.”
Riley connected the tubes of an armoured spleen, dropped it in, then closed the ribs over in slightly asymmetrical double rows, garnished the lot with some final arteries, and stapled a layer of skin on top. The result was still open in the neck, which just had the end of the spine sticking out. “Well, that’s everything except the umbilical and head.” She pulled down her surgical mask. “Loony’s probably delivered that by now. Let’s go see.”
Charlotte followed her out of the dungeons, leaving her power ball just inside the entrance. She blinked in the sunlight, blinding after so long in the dark dungeons.
Most of the others were probably atop the tower, but it had been getting tense there lately. The hot casters were going a little stir-crazy, being stuck at home while NV was out picking off Pro Toast patrol stacks and veiling himself as busemanns buzzed overhead, but Sharkey didn’t have enough juice to scry over the entire battlespace every turn, and they weren’t about to blunder into another ambush. Arthur and Saito were getting some action; they had taken the flying pig out to reanimate the drowned Mugmonster sailors and claim their fleet, to what end Charlotte wasn’t sure, because their poorly-worded treaty with Roham kept them from sailing away from the shore. Only May and Grim were really happy, methodically churning out more of those black robes and hardening them to take multiple blasts. Tom was surprisingly paranoid about those Archons, considering they seemed content to lurk in the farms. She’d heard a rumour he’d asked Cap to try making thinking caps that could spot veils, too, which seemed excessive when they already had two Foolamancers, but whatever, she wasn’t a strategist.
“Look, there’s a bunch of new daemons,” Riley said, pointing to the airspace. “They’re probably waiting in the tower. Mind if we stop by the kitchens on the way first? I’m really thirsty.”
“That’s fine,” Charlotte said. “Do you like chocolate? Jess and Loony are big on tea, but I can do all sorts.”
“Man, Changemancy is so unfair, you guys can do everything. I’ve never had chocolate, what’s it like?”
“You’ve never lived.”
There was something stilted about Wolf’s Lair, probably that it had been intended as just a brief stopover for their conquest of Pro Toast and yet they were still here five turns after, but it wasn’t a bad city in objective terms. The kitchens were quite nice, with long mahogany benches, high stools, and plenty of sacks and tubs of foodstuffs which had escaped looting; nothing fancy, but it would be fine for her. Mal had rigged some plumbing before she left, which was nice too. Charlotte found a large jug, mixed water, sugar, flour, butter, and salt, and concentrated. The sugar and salt she left as was; the water and some butter she mixed into milk; the flour and remaining butter recombined easily into cocoa butter and solids. The heady aroma of fresh high-grade chocolate wafted out.
“Hey, can you make anything into anything?” Riley asked.
“Eh … it’s easiest if they’re similar, like iron into titanium or butter into cocoa butter. Butter into titanium’s harder, because there’s … further to go?” Riley furrowed her brow. “Language never does caster senses the justice they deserve. Some materials are just closer in a Changemancy way, so they’re easier to convert. If they’re too dissimilar, it’s usually easier to just conjure from scratch.”
“Okay. So, could you turn something useless, like basic city materials, into wand cores?”
“Yes, but it’s not really worth it, not when there are sides that quest for cores and sell them for only a few hundred shmuckers. Besides, it takes a lot of juice to make them.”
“I thought wands were mostly made of pretty common stuff?”
“Yes, but they have an intricate fractal …” Charlotte searched for the most accurate words she could. “Fundamental shape? Think of a piece of cloth. You can have one which is pure gold, or you can have one which is black cotton with really detailed gold embroidery. The second one uses less gold, but it still takes more work to make. In the same way, a sword or a shield would be a solid block of iron, but a wand has to have tiny bubbles inside it in just the right way to let juice stay there. Making the material is easy, but shaping it right takes so much juice that it’s quicker to just find your own and trade it in the MK.”
“I’d like to go there sometime,” Riley said.
Charlotte blinked. Riley, the first magical daughter to the most magical side on Erfworld, had never been to the Magic Kingdom. Well, she was only five.
Riley took the jug and a glass, poured, and drank. She began with a tentative sip, then tilted it further, and downed it all in one go. She put the glass down, now sporting a milk moustache. “Hey, that’s really good!” She poured herself a second; Charlotte giggled and followed suit.
“Don’t make yourself sick, but have as much as you like, chocolate’s easy,” Charlotte said, sipping her own glass more sedately. She put a pat of butter into a bowl, poured on flour, sugar, salt, an egg, and enough water to moisten it properly, and spat in it.
“Ewww,” said Riley.
Charlotte chose to let that pass. She turned her spit into rennet, mixed everything thoroughly, and hey presto: instant cheesecake.
“Joining Ethereum was worth it just for this,” she said blissfully, forking it into her mouth. “One of the five exceptions to conjuration is that I can’t make food from nothing, and there’s not much dairy in the Magic Kingdom, so Jess and I could almost never afford it.”
“How is there any dairy now?” Riley asked. “I thought you needed farms for that? And I thought Changemancers were supposed to be rich?”
“Jess razed some farms when she assaulted Helyo and had the loot sent here. I really hope we get more before it runs out. And no, the other Stuffamancers are, but not us. Dirtamancers can do city upgrades, and rulers always want that, so they pay a lot, and Dittomancers can copy spells or top units, which is ridiculous.”
“But Changemancy can do so much too.”
“Yeah but it doesn’t do any one thing really well,” Charlotte said gloomily. “As a side’s first caster, a Changemancer is great, but in the Magic Kingdom, whatever a side wants done, there’s always a specialist who can do it better. You’re lucky; if ever you go barbarian, Healomancers always do alright selling scrolls.”
Tentatively, Riley borrowed Charlotte’s fork to eat a mouthful of her cheesecake. She mulled over the taste for a moment before polishing off the rest of her chocolate milk instead. Charlotte finished the cake, they put their glasses and bowl in the sink, and they took the jug and a stack of glasses up to the tower.
May had let Cruller leave for the capital, which as best Charlotte could tell was more a mark of contempt than anything else; she’d gleefully requisitioned Koume’s assistance in her stead, setting the irritable witch to helping her and Grim double crochet the sleeves of yet more black robes. Flacutono, looking very uncomfortable, was trying to weave veiling into a white skull-like mask, but without a link, he could only manage a weak baffle. Tom and Jess were charging their new wands; Loony stood awkwardly between them and James, who was flirting with Hedera. Pete, looking annoyed and playing with what looked like a clockwork disco ball, was off to one side with the manacled pirate warlady, who had been stripped of her magic gear and put into a white gown, while Lecter sat beside them, reading a book but still listening.
“Chocolate!” Riley announced proudly, as though it had been her idea. Charlotte set the glasses down in a row for her to pour into, and people bustled over to take one, tension sloughing off like an itchy cloak. “Nuh-uh, this isn’t free, it’s a trade. The chocolate” she lowered her voice dramatically “for the girl.”
“I’m a level seven seafaring warlady,” the pirate said, miffed.
“It’s really good chocolate,” Riley said.
“It is,” Jess admitted.
“I Vote for The chocolate,” said Grim, who had begun taking speech therapy with Lecter last night.
“It’s a deal,” May said, taking two glasses and handing one to Tom.
“Can I just say, prisoners are supposed to be for turning,” Pete said, as Riley stacked with their prisoner.
“There’s no rush,” Tom said, taking a sip and getting a small milk moustache of his own. “Besides, you still have Thursday and constructs to work on. Sweetie, do you need a hand from anyone?”
Charlotte had a moment of horrified prescience: Oh sweet Titan Madokami, they’re going to start punning.
“Well,” Riley said, repressing a grin, “the juice cost will be an arm and a leg. Doctor Lecter, if you’re not busy, would you please come help?”
The older Healomancer paused, then set his book down and got to his feet. “I may as well. This is tripe anyway.”
“Shall we head down?” Riley asked Charlotte.
“Please stop,” Charlotte said.
“Hey, it’s just some armless fun,” said May.
“Yeah, don’t bite my head off,” Riley said.
“She does tend to blow up at people,” Jess nodded, deadpan. Charlotte gave her a betrayed look. “Hey, I’m just saying, you could stand to swallow your pride sometimes.”
“It’s a difficult thing to face, though,” Riley noted.
“You’ve got to hand it to her for trying,” said May.
“Its Not Half impressive,” Grim agreed.
“Seriously, can we go,” said Charlotte.
“Okay,” said Riley, taking the pirate’s manacles and guiding her toward the stairs. “Doctor Lecter, we still have a bit of prep to do that we don’t absolutely need you on hand for …”
“I’ll head down with you regardless.”
“Okie-dokey. Enough jawing, let’s go!”
“See you!” said May, winking.
Charlotte followed the warlady and Healomancers down the tower stairwell. When they got to the bottom, it was actually the warlady who spoke up first.
“That man with the eyepatch was a Turnamancer, wasn’t he?” she asked.
“Yeah, Pete,” said Riley. “He’s such a softie.”
“So why isn’t he turning me? My side isn’t going to pay ransom for me, so until you do, you’re just footing the bill” Charlotte growled “for my upkeep for nothing. For that matter, nobody’s even asked me to turn.”
“It’s a Loyalty backlash dealio,” Riley said. “It happens if I cast on someone who’s on side, but not for prisoners.”
“What exactly are you going to do?”
“I’ve already explained it once today,” Riley said. “It’ll be quicker if I show you, anyways.”
Two uncroaked stacked with them when they entered the dungeon, and Lecter took the powerball.
“It’s kind of gloomy down here,” Riley thought aloud. “Charlotte, could you make like some bright paint or something, or would that be Signamancy?”
“Either can do it. I’ll put most of my juice into the outer walls and see if I’ve got enough left tonight.”
“Ooh! We can have a slumber party!”
They marched the pirate toward the operating table. She dug in her heels when she got close enough to see what was on it. Lecter examined it with deep interest, being able to see some of the metal innards with his special senses.
“What the flip is that,” she said.
“Hey! Don’t swear!” Riley chided, enlarging the table again for room, and the uncroaked manhandled the struggling prisoner onto it beside the incipient golem.
“What – no! I’ll turn! I’ll flipping turn!”
“I said, don’t swear, and no you absolutely will not!” Riley snapped. “I already told you about the Loyalty thing. And anyways, if we were going to let you turn, we’d have Pete do it so he’d get the XP. Now shoosh, no-one likes a complainer.” She pulled her mask back on and drew her scalpel. Lecter watched with keen interest.
“I don’t really get how leadership works because Dad won’t let me check,” she said, sulking for a moment, “but I figure it’s probably part of the head. I don’t know where, so I figured I’d take everything I can from you now and see if it works, and next time I’ll split it up with the others and see what bits I need at a minimum. So, start with a tracheoectomy, cos maybe it’s a voice thing, caaareful to not nick the jugular or carotid cos those are really delicate, go around the masseter so we get the whole mandible without breaking anything, peeerfect. You have nice hair, so we might as well borrow that, it’s only a little juice to include a scalp and I was going to have to go through it anyways. Warlords get spot checks and stuff and I don’t know whether that’s an eyeball thing or a brain thing, can’t hurt to try both, we can get Flacutono to help test later. If it’s brain, I’ll go back to splitting that part up, cos heterochromia iridum like Frankie has looks so cool. Hey, can you guys – thank you,” she said, as the uncroaked moved over to secure the pirate’s shoulders and head to stop her from thrashing. Riley moved down.
“Just out of morbid curiosity,” Charlotte asked, “is there any reason you leave the brain for last, even though they stop twitching after you get into it?”
“Sure,” Riley said, neatly severing one arm, then hopping up onto the table to reach over the warlady’s chest and get the other. “Healomancy senses lets us see nerves and how they’re firing, and if I accidentally go too far, the nerve patterns tell me right away and I can stop. When you damage the brain, the nerves stop working right, so I can’t see any more and I’m likelier to croak the donor. Don’t worry, it’s not going to happen, I do this all the time,” she assured her patient. “So it’s safest if I leave it for last. I mean can you imagine how mad Dad would be if I croaked her, a level seven warlady? Okies, next I’m sorting out the umbilical. I want some length to work with, so I’m going to borrow a bit of intestine for this and some spare nerves from before, and that means that you” she poked Lecter in the chest “have to turn around, because she’s a girl.”
“I’m a doctor,” Lecter said.
“A boy doctor. I’m not doing another cut until you turn around,” she said sternly.
Lecter shut his eyes, counted to five, and turned around.
“Good. So, lift up the gown, don’t cut it away because I’m putting it back in a sec, don’t need to worry about the ribs this time so it’s just a simple incision, plexus to hypogastrium, pull it out so I can see it better … can you believe how many units are critted from intestine damage? I mean, check out how springy this stuff is, I could skip rope with it if the ceiling were higher, you wouldn’t think of it as being fragile.”
“Riley,” Lecter said with strained patience.
“Right, sorry. So, cuts here and here, staple the ends back together, seal with juice, and pull the gown back down. You can look again, Doctor. Now, this can connect anywhere to count as a body mod, so I’ll stick it to the oesophagus for now, I’ll do the other end in a bit. It doesn’t even have to be to her – by the way, does anyone know her name? – we could use a stabber or whatever, but she’s already here so might as well. Okay, final step, the brain at long last. Ugh, tomorrow I’m asking Mom to make this thing +3, bones are such a hassle. Hey, Charlotte, crazy idea, what if we do one without any bones at all? I cut off the tendons and stuff, and you make like stainless steel rods instead? If I don’t need to stabilise them, I could use the juice to throw in some extra cardio or even like another arm or something.”
“If it’s not part of the unit and it gets damaged, it won’t heal,” Charlotte pointed out.
“Mm … I guess not, but how likely is he to survive having a steel rod shatter inside him? And I could harvest it and use it for the next golem instead. Give it a try?”
“Cos what’s the worst that could happen, right? So, I only took stuff like parts of vital functionality and motor skills from the other guys’ brains, they still have their higher cogick– congit– thinky bits in one piece, cos I figured that’s all stuff that might be part of leadership, right? So that’s most of what I’m taking here, I’m not touching the cerebellum or anything. Frontal lobe, hypothalamus, that kind of thing.” The warlady finally stopped thrashing; the uncroaked released her and backed off. “Cool, so that’s everything. Charlotte, titanium again, right?”
Riley took the fresh brain fragments and the brain half she’d assembled from the other infantry, squished them together, patted bits of it down, and held it out. Charlotte took out another sheet of iron, transmuted and shaped it again, and wrapped the brain. Riley took it, wrapped it in some spare arteries, attached it to the soon-to-be golem’s spine, and covered it with the other head parts she’d just taken. She slit open the sides of the chest, stapled the last arms under the two from the knight, and patted it all smooth.
“What do you guys think?” she asked.
Charlotte and Lecter looked it over. Three legs, two right and one left, the central one set forward and connected to a slab of nameless muscle in front of the pelvis, protected by a second rib cage; four arms in matching pairs, the lower set at sternum level; a chest bloated to more than twice the normal size, ribs not aligned quite right and one missing where Riley’s scalpel had slipped, an extra pair of pectorals over the solar plexus to work the second set of arms; a feminine head, with the skin from the upper lip to forehead taken from a man, including the nose but not the eyes, the entire thing misshapen because it was built around a flexible armour sheath rather than a rigid skull, the jaw off-centre; a patchwork of starkly different skin tones and body hair densities over muscles clearly taken from other body parts, most jarringly the neck, which had biceps instead of trapezius; and uneven connections and staples everywhere compensating for body parts collected from seven different units of three different classes.
“Long live Ethereum,” Charlotte said.
“Truly, you have taken Healomancy to places previously undreamt of by mankind,” said Lecter.
“Do me a favour, and don’t mention this if ever you visit the Magic Kingdom,” he said.
“Why not? Wouldn’t people like Healomancers more if they knew we could do cool stuff like this?”
“I don’t think I could handle all the attention.”
“Fair enough. Okay, so there’s just a bit more work to do to finish up here. We take the other end of the umbilical, like so, and we’ll use the oesophagus again, although ears work fine. So, Doctor, this is the part where I need you to help.” He nodded and laid his hands on the golems chest. “We’re going to make this a body mod, revivify it, patching into the host’s system to get past the rule against bringing the croaked back to life and stability cascade problems, then cut the umbilical, and we’re done. You’re going to have to do most of the work. Okay? So, body mod, count of three. One … two … Pagoda!”
There were flares of juice from her and Lecter’s hands. To Charlotte’s eyes, the warlady-thing’s stats shot up, but she still registered as having only three hits left.
“Easy peasy. Next we revivify. So … I do lungs, you do cerebellum, borrowing blood with this” she patted the umbilical “for a bit until I have time to get the heart working, then you do higher brain function and we split the other vitals?”
“Logical,” Lecter nodded.
“On three. One … two … Niwbog!”
More juice ignited. The double unit thing’s hits dropped to two for a moment, then rose steadily up to six. Lecter joined Riley, funnelling juice into the golem-part’s barrel-like chest, which was now rising and falling with its breath. They went over the chest several times, before satisfying themselves that it would survive.
“Great! Last step, and this is the big juice-hungry one, so you’re going to have to do most of the lifting here. I’m going to sever the umbilical, one little notch at a time. You’re going to have to stabilise … her, I guess? since it’s a girl brain and I forgot to put any naughty parts in? her, stop her from going into systemic shock and croaking. I’ll take it nice and slow, let me know if I need to slow down even more, okay? Three … two … one …”
She very slowly brought her scalpel down on the umbilical and began sawing through it. As she did, the unit’s hits and other stats began to drop; Lecter poured on juice, and they levelled out, then fell and rose chaotically. The golem’s eyes blinked, and its (her, Charlotte corrected herself) fingers twitched, all twenty of them, one after another, then her fifteen toes. Riley took a full minute to cut through the repurposed intestine; she began singing under her breath, “And the science gets done, and we make a golem, for the people who are still alive …” As she severed the last shred of serosa, there was a crazy moment with a blinding burst of juice, and the stats split in two: one set for the mutilated warlady, one set for the new flesh golem. Riley pulled its mouth open and cut out the last of the umbilical, then removed the other half from the warlady.
“Eeee!” she squeed, tossing the scraps of intestine/umbilical in a corner. She hugged at Lecter, who twisted and deflected her onto Charlotte instead, whom she spun around joyfully. She joined in with the little Healomancer’s infectious laughter. For possibly the first time ever, a Changemancer had helped create a new unit, and it was her, Charlotte, a level three adept. “We did it!”
“What,” said the golem, and she had the warlady’s voice, deepened by about half an octave. “What … am I? Pain … I can’t …”
Riley released Charlotte and bounced over and up onto the table. “Don’t try to move, your major muscle groups are all basically shot, it’d waste juice to fix them now when they’ll heal tomorrow for free. Let me stack up with you and – yes! Leadership three! Ahahahahaaa!” She hopped off the table and did a graceful pirouette, tried and failed to seize Lecter’s hand but succeeded with Charlotte’s, and pulled her toward the tower. “Come on, we’ve got to show everyone, this is so so so so cooool!”
Do not try this at home. Not that I mean to imply you would.
This chapter was fun to write. Riley, being a native to a caster side, instinctively thinks in terms of multi-disciplinary magic; it’s part of why she classed up so quickly. She’s easy to write in some senses, but hard in the sense that she’s almost as smart as me and inclined toward munchkining, so I have to be extra thorough in having complete mechanics that can’t be gamed too badly.
The coexistence of hit points and injuries to specific body parts is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a real game. Hit points are an abstraction to simplify damage; if the game engine maintains a detailed map of injuries anyway, there’s no purpose to having both. I’ve thought of a few alternative models, but mine is the most parsimonious I could find that behaves more or less intuitively when one isn’t deliberately trying to break the system.
yay new thing ... *reads* ..... *shakes in horror* ....... i really like riley, even if she is a little creepy, maybe its because i can't visualize this very well having 0% background in anatomy, and maybe because I'm creepy too but riley is great and i want to see her interact with others including loony, lisa and tom. also she mentioned big (sis), and (Mom) and i don't think erfworlders have two parents. and I'm not sure who (sis) is
Not sure how to describe my reaction to this, honestly. I'm mostly getting an Ollivander vibe(describing Voldemort's work as terrible yet great), as however much I'm never going to write anything like this and I prefer not to read it, its horrible nature is well presented.
I also liked your use of Riley's unique perspective, as thatonesungod commented, although I think I understood the parents and siblings bit. Tom is the Overlord, the only direct parent, but May as Chief Caster plays a role of co-parent at times, so Riley would naturally see them as Dad and Mom, and Tom's first daughter popped on day three, is the Chief Warlady Belle who probably has some tricks up her sleeve, and would be seen as an older sister to the later-popped Riley.
Charlotte is adorable and I love that she swears to Madoka.
Riley is creepy, but I love her munchkinning of the health rules, and how upbeat she is about the whole thing. From the other side of a computer screen, at least...
I wonder why Belle keeps Riley away from the garrison? Is she worried about her cutting up their soldiers?
Hi guys! Riley here. :D Thanks for writing in! And gee, thanks everyone who likes me! I like all of you too!
Necky: Dunno who that is, but nope, no God here. Only me. :)
Sunny: Jumpster's right. May's like a Mom to me, she's always really nice and helpful and tells me stories when I go to bed and teaches me about magic, so I call her that even though she isn't really. Big Sis is Belle. She's not a caster, but Dad says she's still in charge around the garrison and with like infantry, so I have to do what she says there. We still love each other though!
Rad: Yeah, Charlotte's pretty cool. I hope Jess lets us hang out more.
There's a bunch of old Pro Toast infantry that hangs out in the garrison, you know, that Pete turned, and I don't think they like me, and I think she's keeping me away from them. :( Dunno why, it's not like I've done anything to any of them after they turned, Dad won't let me.
Rekiem: Aw, shucks! I think he's got to be close to adept by now. I was actually hoping I could get to master soon. Imagine it, a master at level two! Mom says I'd be the first ever. I mean, with her teaching me, and Charlotte helping with the golems, and if I can get the others to do it too, I reckon I could. Like, it's no stranger than adept at one, right?
Hajo: Maybe … I'll ask Koume, but I dunno. I think doubles aren't real Matter, like they don't leave corpses, right, and I can't think of what you'd even call it to, like, realify them, let alone what kind of magic it'd be. And I mean if it were easy she'd already be doing it. I've got a big advantage over other Healomancers cos I don't have that dumb hypocritic oath they all swear, and a really great Dad who gives me prisoners and lets me do whatever, mostly, but Dittomancers double people all the time. Hey, what I could do with her, though, is get her to help the revivification and stabilisation parts, cos she has a lot of juice and can copy me doing it, right? That's like twice as much juice if Doctor Lecter comes too, we could do the full thing next turn, and make like a rank seven warlord knight heavy flesh golem with extra arms and armoured vitals and like poison claws and maybe even like permanent damage reduction and flying and stuff!
Oh man, I've gotta go ask! Love you all! Byyye!
You are one sick son of a gun. This is horrifying. Riley is a monster.
I have a degree in biology so I could follow along. You did a good job with the anatomy, close to the real but super Erfy, very impressive.
What has me the most disgusted is how this has my brain whizzing now. So many things she could make...
I guess I'm a monster too.
I never actually read Worm to the point where the S9 made their entrance, but I suspect that this Riley is still slightly less horrifying, somehow. This reaffirms my decision to have stopped reading Worm. This is probably the most horrifying thing I've read on this particular website though, and the discussion lasted for a long, long, far too long, time. You sure do know a lot of medical jargon... It's a little weird though. You take pieces of a unit, dead pieces, but can make a living unit out of it? You should have given it the Frankenstein's monster limitation and needed some shockamancy to jolt it back to life. Probably by using a wand.
I'm mixed on promotion. I suspect that it's natural moneymancy, rather than changemancy, but changemancy can duplicate the effect. The warlord probably would be able to turn. I don't know of any way to stop a prisoner from turning to your side. It's normally not an issue. I think the idea of stopping Lecture from seeing a nude female body might be going a bit far. If you follow that logic, then Riley would have to cover her eyes when working on the male subjects. Besides, like he said, the man's a doctor.
Also not sure about leadership 3. It's a new unit, and leadership equals level. Unless the unit itself is level 3, but why would it? Just because it gets made from high level units doesn't mean that it's going to start at a high level itself. Oh, and Dirtmancers seem to be rich because the MK needs them not because of other kingdoms. Latest updates say that there are only about 20 of them in the dirtmansion. They'd make so much money just from keeping the MK infrastructure that they wouldn't even need to get money from kingdoms, and probably don't for the most part. Also, my understanding is that dirtamancers are underutilized in various kingdoms and are kept making golems instead of doing infrastructure.
Personally, I think that, while changemancers can't make new units, they'd have a lot of flexibility on modifying existing ones. Wierds give specials without change (can make a unit fly), change modifies the bodies until a special appears (give a unit wings and it will gain flying special).
Dunkie: Hey, that's mean! :'( It's not like I croaked or even tortured anyone.
I know, though, right? I can't believe no-one else has ever tried this stuff. Once you have the basic idea, there's so much cool stuff you can do with it. I hope we fight Archons soon and take a few prisoner, cos I'd love to try to get into their heads and there's sooo much I could do with them, even if I can't get juice working. <3
DrDM: Well, duh, of course not, what would I go and do a thing like that for? O:) I'm not a monster. Besides, if I did a dumb thing like that, Pete'd tell Tom and he'd let him turn her, and then where would I be?
Toma: No way, I'm way nicer than Bonesaw. She's chaotic evil and goes around torturing and croaking people for fun. I'd never do a thing like that. I'm lawful good, or at least true neutral.
Oh that's the cool bit. ^_^ Say someone gets like an arm chopped off or something. You can regenerate it, which takes a whole pile of juice, or you can just stick the arm back on for cheap, right? Or you can graft on an extra arm, which lasts a few turns then falls off from tissue rejection cos the unit didn't begin with it. Whichever you do, it's fine as long as it came off a living unit that turn, so it's not necrotic or anything. So what you do is you graft on enough organs to make a viable unit, all made of nonliving matter obviously, and you revivify each system one by one, which is just basic Healomancy like with reattaching a limb because they're all part of a living unit again, the host, so those organs become living again. The heart starts fine with the brain's natural Shockmancy, same as it does when you first pop. Then you split and stabilise it, and it's all live organs, so no Croakamancy, and it doesn't decay or dust or anything, and there's no tissue rejection cos the unit began with all those parts. I'm really proud of thinking of all that, let me tell you!
I think promotion is Changemancy that you can trigger with Moneymancy, so I guess that's the other way round. Same with city upgrades, it's Dirtamancy, but if you chuck money at it, you can trigger it. Moneymancy does a bunch of stuff like that, triggering other magic by spending shmuckers, but I don't really know cos I've never seen a Moneymancer.
Nope, no turning without someone to accept it. It does shenanigans with contracts, like if you have one with a shmucker penalty for attacks, you can have a bunch of pikers turn, then they autoattack you and you get a ton of money.
I didn't look at their naughty bits at all, I'm a good girl, I even shut my eyes while I was cutting down there, but Doctor Lecter's a boy. It'd be rude if he peeked. See? Lawful good.
I'm not 100% sure about this, but if I've got it right, it's technically not leadership, it's leadership n. The warlord class has the perk of +1 to it whenever you level, so n usually equals level, but not always. Archons only have one chance in six of having it rank up, so they usually have n lower than level. For this, the body was level one, but the head had leadership 7 spliced in. But me and Lecter didn't have enough juice to get the full thing across and do everything else at once, so the brain took some apoptosis and most of the ranks fizzled.
I know some sides buy Dirtamancy scrolls to upgrade like towers and stuff, and I can't think why that would be worth it sometimes but not always, as long as you have at least one caster to use it, so I figure they must sell a lot of scrolls, but you're right, they do a bunch of work for MK casters too, so maybe half and half? Dunno, we should probably ask one.
Yeah, I think Changemancy can do that. Charlotte told me Mal can turn into a dwagon, so it must be something like that. Loony's way better at it, though.
Chairman: Shucks, buster! And yeah, I know what you mean. Like, if you could double each turn, it'd be like six turns before we could take over the MK, and it's pretty much game over after that, right?
Sunny: I think casters usually do level bonuses, I get them for my golems which is cool, but yeah, it doesn't have to be, not for warlord types.
Xellos: Yeah looks like you can. I got the Boss to go back over 8-dash, too, the silly.
Cay: OMT I want one of those. I wonder where Jetstone is from here …
Riley is lawful, I'll agree to that. I an not sure what sort of definition of torture she uses though, cause she sure doesn't mind watching them suffer. Actually, the way she carves them up, can they even eat? There are two meals a day, at the start and end of turn respectively. Depending on how they are trussed up, they may not even be able to eat the start of turn meal, and they sure as heck can't eat the end of meal. Actually, I was kind of afraid when riley talked about reducing meals for the prisoners along with the body mods that she would be doing her own version of the Human Centipede movie. I was very glad that was not the case (I seriously thought that this was just a South Park joke before I wrote this, but it's an actual movie. THREE movies??? Good god!).
The medical jargon is very hard for me to follow. I actually don't know if you can regraft arms or how well another unit's arm would stay on, sounds sorta logical though. Basically, I think I'm hearing that any body part can be preserved until the end of turn before it becomes fully dead, much like keeping a heart on ice while it is in transit to the recipient. It's an interesting question. If you regraft someone else's arm to the armless patient's body, will that arm still be there the start of next turn? Change in a unit's body is hard. Even something simple like a hair cut can't stop the hair's restoration the next day. I suppose that sort of thing is signamancy?
In the end though, we are making a golem. A lot of parts are cut off from various units, and then stitched together as a brand new unit. As in Frankenstein's monster, I think? Rather than taking a living unit and adding a lot of things to him, which was an early effort that you didn't like. I'm not sure that just healmancy is enough though. Healmancy can't bring back the dead, and the golem is a lot of dead parts, which is why I said that maybe shockamancy is needed to get the restart.
Hmm, I like the idea of moneymancy being a trigger... I had actually started thinking on the similarity of city promotion and dirtamancy when I said it. So moneymancy would be more of a... copy effect of other magics that you use money to create. Anything money can create, a moneymancer can use juice to imitate.
I have no idea if you need someone to accept you turning. You don't need it to go barbarian, on the other hand, it is, like you said, a major exploit. Charlie gets his archons to turn to GK and... no, if they turn they wouldn't do anything to help him though, because they'd have loyalty to the new side. On top of that, to turn, they would need to want to help that side, therefore you can't make yourself turn with the intent to betray, normally. Hmm, may not be as easy to exploit as I thought. I suppose it sounds logical though. Especially since we've seen lines of troops that are prisoners, knowing they are about to be executed and none try to turn to save themselves. I had thought it was because infantry were just too stupid but a warlord would have the initiative to make the effort to save his own skin but your idea is also good. I suppose there would be restrictions on which units that are allowed to accept someone turning then. I suppose only command units can accept someone turning?
On peeping, there is nothing good about being unable to peep. The real crime is keeping the cute bodies of pretty girls all covered up due to how society shames people for their sexuality! The human body is a beautiful thing, ya know. Well, it is when the skin isn't being peeled back for gruesome surgical experiments. :(
I think the idea of gaining extra leadership is a bit much. I can see stealing the leadership special but levels is such an abstract concept. Getting more hits is easy, just get a bigger body. If you want a partial recovery of the leadership number... I think you need some of the memories too. Leadership is connections with others, you can't preserve the connections if you don't have the memories of having them. So the unit needs to be the pirate warlord and whoever else's brain was taken to make the new unit, which would be also cool. She would have a jumble of different personalities, with massive blank spots. Probably be prone to insanity, especially the early models. I think that sort of goes well with the golem's first words, since it didn't know what it was right off the bat, which new units should be able to do. It's like something that was transplanted into a new body and asking what the hell you did to it. It actually might work better if memories were erased so that the unit had a blank slate when being reborn, which would make it like a baby, needing to be taught everything by mom Riley. Just 5 turns old and already having her own kid. How adorifying.
I didn't mean to imply that dirtamancers didn't sell scrolls. I guess I was thinking on different terms, I was assuming you meant that they typically got hired for work and, given the risk of bad things happening when you leave the MK for some unknown side, I'd think that most dirts would avoid that, since they can make LOADS of money by just staying in the MK.
I've been trying to work out the idea of how a commoner unit could get the noble special and level them up, in house, for my story. Since my idea is that Unaroyal had a system for doing this, using its casters. First off, use a findamanceer to pick out a good infantry unit, turnamancer to either force it or other expendable units to barbarian, then it can croak your units for xp, cause you shouldn't get exp for killing allied units. After you get it up a few levels, changeamancer to make it a warlord and... change again to make it noble? Seems to easy. I was thinking you'd also need a carny to get rid of the rule that commoners can't be noble, and then it becomes possible for the change to do it. Might need signamancy instead. Seems like sign might be for delicate modifications, while change is for major overhauls. Or maybe you need to go with weirds and a permanent special addition? While being a noble doesn't give a big physical boost, it does give a lot of status among others.
(lost my long, long comment, and it was a mess anyway, so I wiped it. Suffice to say I love this installment so much I'm going to become a stabber just to tip twofer all of it)
~You have a beautiful mind, Riley.~
Well, this was a brilliant and heartwarming chapter. Also, deeply disturbing, but that's life.
~I'm very happy you have such a great new friend Riley. Please take care of Charlotte and listen to her wishes and be careful yourself too, the city is safest, but be wary, someone might try to hurt you someday.~
~What would you do if Dad allowed you to operate on Charlotte, but she told you please not to? Would you respect her wish even if you might not understand why? How do you feel about operating on yourself?~
(Hopefully Charlotte can talk her into making the procedures more graceful and less painful. I'd be happy to volunteer for some donation myself if she followed some basic procedures and I got part of the payout, like Thinkamancy computers or a graceful and happy golem servant. It'd be inefficient, but kinder.)
I've spent some time trying to understand what's going on in and with Riley (crushing on her brilliant artistry though. Just wow!). She obviously empathizes and desires to have good relationships with people, so she may be a heroic psychopath of some sort able to turn off her empathy at will when she believes it is necessary. Her actions being towards the enemy doesn't seem to figure in so much, since she wants access to Ethereum's own units. If she's supremacist against non-magicians, it's not entire, as she talks to the Warlady and wants to operate on casters as much if not more than regular units.
Probably she's primarily oriented towards art and passion, her passion for healomancy makes her think anything healomantic is good. But there's obviously also some level of psychopathy going on here, inherited from parents. Discrimination of others as less worthy and deserving of suffering is probably the least of it. She believes her actions are lawful and good, and she would not torture or croak anyone for fun. She's definitely lawful. Is she good?
I hazard that a big part of her is. Riley seems to think her discipline is always good, so it's an acceptable sacrifice that pain occurs. If she makes friends who give her empathy lessons she should get better, while continuing to shine like a graceful diamond and being a good influence on them as well. :)
Such a bright, cheerful girl, full of life. I really wish her the best. God Bless.
Anyway, if she is ok with being operated on she probably to a great degree really views Healomancy as an axis of Goodness, as a passionate artist and a professional having fun and and advancing magical technology and society. If no, it doesn't necessarily mean she is a psychopath, because she might be saving herself for more graceful operating procedures for the sake of her side, but it'd at the very least mean that she thinks some purposes of healomancy are holier than others. Plus she could always be a heroic psychopath, turning off her empathy for the sake of others (though that's a grey line, what's for the sake of others may be for her own sake), but she's so young I doubt she's doing that.
The question is what will she refrain from and for what reasons.
Anyway, there was a lot adorbz and darkness in this installment. Ah, I wish I hadn't lost my comments. Oh well.
I really fear for a number of characters now. Really wish them the best! Hope they learn to be a lot nicer, but goodness is goodness, even if it's surrounded by suffering or even directly linked to it.
Charlotte understands that, she's been a lot of interesting creatures. :)
I'm afraid I have a really big nitpick with Riley's Healomancy senses. Namely that they sound way too much like Croakamancy senses to me.
Healomancy is Clevermancy - defined by the absence of the Life, Motion, and Matter elements - and thus should not be able to suss out detailed information about a unit's Matter so easily. Unless Riley's been studying under a Croakamancer (or doing dissections), she should not have such detailed knowledge about how a unit's body works. As a Healomancer, her senses should be tuned towards Hits, status effects, and how to apply magic to restore a unit to full functionality. Basically, more abstract and less detailed.
Anything further should require a lot of study for her.
Riley needs to be disbanded. By all that is holy, she needs to be disbanded. It's like if you took the skills and ethics of Dr. Mengele, gave the inquisitiveness and insight of Einstein, along with a dash of philosophy, all in the form of a cheerful little girl. That ain't right. Cause I'm a munchkiner too, as well as knowing enough biology to follow along with what she was doing. Unfortunately. That is one sick, dangerous, little girl.
True enough, she is an intelligent, vivacious darling of a person.
And she is 4 days old. She is a young child, with the grandiocosmic/dna inheritance of Tom and May. She is a gifted toddler with the blessings of a total lack of restraint.
She's getting love from the people around her, her mother and father and Charlotte now. She just needs guidance too. It's proven that psychopaths can be taught empathy, and she's obviously got some empathy already, beyond just calculating other people.
I think she's also a selfish little intellectual, a health professional so dedicated to her art she ignores the irrational complaints of those who don't understand.
But we can teach her.
I realize there's a large cost in human suffering, but even beyond the mere fact that she's actually a mostly nice little newpopped unit, she is a valuable genius and a resource for Erfworlds magical R&D sector.
At the very least if you can't live with a scientist doing what they want you capture them and give them projects.
~But we'd never let anything happen to you.~