The Newt and Demon-5.61 - Theo is a Sad Boy

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5.61 - Theo is a Sad Boy

The Potion of Berserk was a complete failure for the group. While the power it provided was absurd, Theo doubted they would ever coordinate enough to use it correctly. They tried a few more times without success, giving up when it was clear everyone wanted to drive. Tresk went back to her training with Alex, and Theo practiced with his new core, finding it hard to do much of anything without feedback. The advantage the core brought was substantial, though.

Since Theo now had a Zaul-aligned core in his chest, he had access to a long list of the god’s skills. This included willpower based skills, something he hadn’t expected. The alchemist assumed the Spirit Weaving skill was the one Bob told him about. But there were a few that had similar enough effects, and they were usable at Level 1. He narrowed it down to one, which he could exploit, since it was a universal skill. Before the Dreamwalk ended, just near dawn, he inspected the skill.

[Shadow Wrap]

Universal Skill


Cloak an item in shadows, fueled by your willpower. Depending on the type of item, a different effect is imparted. All items will be undetectable with magical detection techniques, regardless of level.


Once per day (resetting at midnight) you may wrap an item in willpower-fueled shadows. A higher willpower creates greater effects. This effect lasts one week (seven days).

Weapons will gain shadow damage.

Armor will gain extra resistances.

And so on.

There were a few strange things to note here. First, it was a universal skill. For what the skill did, that didn’t make the most sense. Next was the fact it could be used at Level 1, which seemed tailored to Theo’s new strategy. It seemed like a stranger version of Toru’aun’s type of magic, and was poorly explained. Even when compared to what the Queen of Mystery put in the information text for her skills and core. Since this skill could be slotted into any core, it was a simple decision. Anything that took advantage of his growing willpower was worth investing in.

“Ready to go?” Tresk asked, sensing that Theo was approaching the end of his investigations.

“Yeah. Hit it, you little lizard girl.”

The group was dragged out of the Dreamwalk with a bit more force than normal. Theo suspected the skill wasn’t happy with the way they had abused it to test the Potion of Berserk. Tresk was slow to get out of her bed, feeling just as much of the feedback as the alchemist. They made their way downstairs to find what Sarisa had prepared for them. And she didn’t disappoint.

When Tresk and Theo sat down, she brought two steaming plates over. A fluffy yellow egg, wrapped in on itself like an omelet, sat in the center of the plate. A red sauce similar enough in texture to ketchup to be ketchup had been drawn in a circle around the eggs. Small pieces of greenery poked from the omlete’s edges, joining with crispy fried mushrooms.

“Pretty sure I outdid myself with this one,” Sarisa said, winking as she went to grab her own plate. Rowan was already seated, waiting to inhale his food.

Theo’s inventory was filled with potions meant for the fight with Qavell. He would bring those to the Newt and Demon to hold and inform Aarok they were available for the army to grab. They had never put their deal in writing. They tossed the lab a few coins for their efforts, but both parties knew this was the cheapest option. It took the burden off of the adventurers, ensuring they could fight without fear of getting killed. That made them fight harder.

The alchemist sent his willpower out to check on his golem army. A bubble of something spread from his chest, washing over the room and darkening each corner. Sarisa and Rowan were on their feet, weapons springing from nowhere, before he could talk them down. The good news was that the golems were still on patrol, having taken it upon themselves to range outside of the walls and hunt nearby monsters.

“What was that?” Sarisa asked, jabbing her spear through the air. “Get down, Theo. We’re under attack.”

Tresk laughed. Alex honked.

“I forgot about that,” Theo said, cooking up the lie in an instant. “I took a skill that gives my willpower a tangible form.”

“Why does it feel so depressed?” Rowan asked.

“Theo is a sad boy. Don’t pick on him,” Tresk said.

“If you could stop, that would be lovely,” Rowan said.

Theo withdrew his willpower, having got what he wanted to know from the lodestone network. Just like magic users, he would need to train this new manifestation of his willpower to control it properly. That meant a trip to the tower. He watched as his companions discussed this new power, eating his food. He loved eggs, especially when drizzled with fantasy world ketchup. It wasn’t quite the same as he remembered from Earth’s packaged meals, but close enough. When breakfast was done, he bid farewell to his companions and headed off.

Tresk and Alex had been tasked with spotting for Zan’kir again. They had no plans to stop the bombardment. Before making his way to the portal, the alchemist checked in with Salire at the lab. She agreed to prepare the stills and ingredients for a few third tier runs and was excited to receive the potions they made yesterday. She busied herself by stocking the shop, and he headed off.

Theo stepped through the portal, arriving in the tower in an instant. He was tempted to feel around with his willpower, but judging by the reaction Sarisa and Rowan had he might end up at the end of an angry wizard’s spell. Instead, he ascended the stairs to find Xol’sa and Zarali lounging on the second floor. They were always hanging out on the second floor, just sipping tea and reading books. What a charmed life.

“Theo,” Zarali looked up, tilting her head to one side as though she heard something in the distance. “What’s wrong with you?”

Xol’sa gave Zarali a confused look, setting his book down. “What do you mean?”

Theo felt the familiar sense of someone’s magical senses washing over him. The warmth spread through him, but halted at his soul. The cloak of shadows around his soul shielded him entirely.

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“I can’t sense him. At all. He’s not there.”

Xol’sa’s magical senses felt nothing like Zarali. His was cold, whereas her’s was loving. “What nonsense trickery have you pulled this time, Theo?”

“Don’t worry about it. So, you can’t sense me?”

Xol’sa passed his hand through the air. Magic sigils formed in a trail behind his fingers, forming an intricate array. A pulse rushed out from the circle, passing around his soul. “That spell was fairly advanced. I can’t detect you.”

Theo looked up, smiling at the wooden ceiling. He allowed his will to spread out, covering the group. Like the Dreamwalk, he was certain that no one could hear them inside the bubble. Not Drogramath, Khahar, or any other god. Tresk and Alex were the only ones that could pierce that bubble. “Not even the gods can hear me, now. I think.”

Zarali seemed to shiver. “I would support that idea. My connection with Drogramath feels strange.”

Theo had to agree. When his bubble of shadows was protecting him, his position as Champion of Drogramath felt weak. He would need to test to see if Zaul was spying, though. He needed to find a way to exploit his willpower even more if he wanted to accomplish his goals. But this was a great start. For the first time in a long time, the alchemist wanted to talk to Uharis. He didn’t know a more powerful mage.

“So, here’s what happened…” Theo ignored the advice Zaul gave him. The shadow-dude was a weirdo who was unlikely to have any close allies. Theo? had a town filled with people he trusted with his life. He explained what had happened in the heavens and how he planned to use the new core to take advantage of his burgeoning willpower.

“If you could hold off with the bad ideas,” Zarali said, nodding with a concerned look. “For at least a few seconds. Just stop trying to anger the gods.”

“But, more importantly,” Xol’sa said, laughing to himself as he rose. He made his way to his many books, pressing his finger against each until he found the one he was looking for. He pulled the musty tome out, and held it for Theo to take. “You can do aura training.”

“There he goes,” Zarali said. Theo spotted how she stopped herself from rolling her eyes, coughing into her hand instead. “Ever the scholar.”

“Naturally,” Xol’sa said, waving a dismissive hand. He looked around the room, studying the shadows in the corners. “It has the form of a normal aura, doesn’t it?”

“The form, but not the textures,” Zarali said.

“Zaul is helping you make up for your… lacking magical ability,” Xol’sa said. “It means he knew you were increasing your willpower. And a thousand other complications with godly politics that don’t involve me.”

That was how mortals often thought, though. Theo stopped himself from seeing them as mortals and gods, feeling far more comfortable thinking of them all as just people. Complications was a good way of putting it, but that’s the way it went.

“So I just read this?” Theo asked, holding up the book. It was thicker than most given to him by Xol’sa.

“And practice. At my tower, if you can spare the time. And check your administrative notes. I’ve done some calculations on the flying city.”

“Just remember,” Theo said, punctuating his statement by jabbing the book in the air. “If you need an absolute sphere of silence, ask me. We can finally have some privacy.”

Theo pulled his willpower in, wrapping his soul in the comforting shadows. It was nice to have a better feeling for what his willpower was. He tested removing the core and inserting his Earth Sorcerer’s Core. The sensation was unpleasant, but not the pained response he had come to expect based on Luras’s testimony. Lower level people had trouble swapping cores, he had come to learn. The shadowy cloak around his soul faded, but the alchemist was aware of the willpower left behind. It was easier to visualize, even without the Zaul Shadowspirit Core. He swapped them once again and the cloak returned.

Xol’sa had made an entry in the notes section of the town’s administration screen. Theo bid farewell to his friends, heading back through the portal as he flipped through them. The wizard had theoretical schematics of the mechanism that floated the city, including power requirements. The alchemist wasn’t confident that he calculated the city’s mass correctly, but it was a decent ballpark. They were burning a gold coin’s worth of energy every second to float, and twice that to move forward. Xol’sa had theorized the city was moving at a brisk pace when they started, but slowed the closer they neared Broken Tusk.

Whatever creature helped Hanan move the city had cut too many corners to make it effective. Throk’s words echoed in Theo’s mind. Flying artifices were dangerous. The Wanderer might have decreased his necromantic energy in the area, but it was still there. Qavell had been battered since the moment it took flight, and there was only one endpoint. The bay outside of Broken Tusk, resting with the waves.

Theo entered the Newt and Demon, finding the shop unattended. Salire had added a bell on the counter in case she didn’t hear the chiming of the bell at the door. He made his way upstairs and found her sorting ingredients, most of which weren’t ones he requested.

She turned and smiled at him. “I had an idea!”


“We have enough reagents for the dangerous potions. Some of them, anyway. But there are a few others… Although I did start fermenting more Holy modifier. Kinda,” Salire said, gesturing to the burn marks on that side of the building. “My first attempt fell flat.”

“Which potions should we make, then?”

“I was thinking Limited Foresight, Assail, Poison, Desperate Attack, and your Rust Bomb.”

Rust Bomb was a fun one, which piqued Theo’s interest. It produced a sludge that would eat away at metal for fifteen minutes, and a third tier version of the bomb would be interesting. The only problem was the smell. Grimelings were nasty creatures. The reagents they left behind had a smell that was doubled when distilled. The alchemist shrugged before nodding to himself.

“Let’s get to work.”

Salire was ahead of him. Pozwa Horns would go through the alchemical grinders sometimes, but were often too tough for the artifices to handle. She had hired Ziz to turn a fair amount into powder. Since Ziz liked smashing stuff, he did it for free. The duo worked to get essences for each of their targets, preparing five stills for the batch. What essence they didn’t use for the third tier brew would go into reserve, allowing them to make more later. That was the key to third tier, the alchemist realized. Having enough essence in stock to create the dilution.

One still got the Pozwa Horns, Another got Widow Lily, Reanimated Skeleton Fragments, Zureah Talons, and… Grimeling Ooze. The scent from the ooze was instant and disgusting. Theo and Salire had to evacuate the building, opening every window and dousing every surface with cleansing scrub as they waited. The fog it created with a choking miasma that lingered long after the brew would be done. Folks passing on the street covered their noses, or retched.

“I don’t care for the ooze,” Salire said, gagging.

“Ooze,” Theo said, studying her expression. She gagged again.

“Stop!” Salire shouted, slapping at Theo ineffectually.

Theo considered doing it again, but resisted. He thought a bit of discomfort was the least Salire could endure to pay for suggesting the Rust Bomb recipe. He couldn’t imagine how other alchemists did this. He imagined they simply didn’t. A memory of Perg’s original tannery came into his mind. Everyone avoided that place based on the smell alone.

“Let’s take a break,” Theo said, turning away from his lab and heading toward the Herbalist’s Workshop. “I want to look at some plants that need splicing.”

“Oh!” Salire said, wiping her hand over her mouth to clear away some spittle. “I had some ideas about that.”

“Let’s hear them.”

“Well, we need to research Glantheir’s Tears, but I have some notes for you to look over. But I can just tell you what I found.”

“Alrighty,” Theo said, entering his Herbalist’s Workshop. He narrowed his eyes. Two small marshlings were sitting on the far side, playing a game with stones. They looked at him in fear. “Just don’t touch anything, children. The garden outside is dangerous.”

“We know,” one shot.

‘Your observations?” Theo asked.

“Do you remember Throk’s Weed? Of course, you remember everything. Its different than Zephyr Berries. So, why did zee plus wheat create something different under different circumstances?”

That was a good question. Wild hybridization must have been different than controlled splicing. “A keen observation, Salire. Now, let’s turn to the topic at hand. Which plants to smash together with another.”

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