Sitting on the partially created wall, Solus followed its shape with his eyes and felt content. Two days of continues building had made him weary, but looking at the towering wall that now encircled the remains of Skulltown, he thought it was worth the effort. Knowing it was time to speak with Drys, he rose. There were now a few new buildings dotted between the ruins, made by the few remaining bonemenders. Although not made of stone, they looked more like the building he had constructed than the previous ones, and as he watched he saw they were building more.
Looking across his shoulder at the hills he had once emerged from, Solus wished he could see the wasteland from where he was standing. That way he would see Silt and his army before they arrived. Stretching, he felt the mostly healed wound in his stomach throb, reminding him he needed to hunt for manaorbs. Grinder’s orb had long since turned to dust, and the small ones remaining were of little use to him. Walking towards the stairs he had made on the inside of the wall, he began descending. He looked next to the wall at a large pit and grinned. He recalled the previous day when he had jumped down instead of walking and had scared the remaining undead when his immense weight created a localized earthquake.
Arriving at the bottom Solus looked back up, to the top of the tower, wondering if could jump to the ledge. He thought he might, but he wasn’t entirely sure. Guessing that meant it was high enough now, he turned towards what they were calling the central building. He found it would do for now, at least until he got around to create something more fitting of the name. He had some ideas already, but before he could take time to build it, they needed to make plans for more important things.
Walking to the tower, he passed small groups of undead that were stripping the buildings of the bone parts. The bonemenders would be able to reuse the materials, so they were creating neat piles for them. At first, they had thrown it somewhere on a big heap, but now the side of his wall had been turned into a stockpile. Some of the undead stopped what they were doing and looked at him, nodding or saying a few words. He kept walking, ignoring them until he reached the central building. In between the teeth was a bone door, probably put there by one of the bonemenders to keep the dust out he thought.
Pushing the door open, Solus walked into a large room with no dividing walls or other exits. Looking around Solus noticed the insides were slightly crowded, with a bone cage in the corner holding a resting Norg and a large table with chairs in the middle. At the opposite walls were two stairs leading to the other floors.
Sitting in one of the chairs was Vingria, who was looking at a large stone plate on the table in front of her. Glancing at the inscriptions that were on it, Solus recognized it. It was one of the tablets that Drys had shown him long ago in the hall of patterns. It had an evolutionary inscription on it that could be used by a zombie.
From upstairs the sounds of a heated conversation were heard, and Solus recognized Drys’ voice. Ignoring it for now, he walked towards the table and looked down on the tablet Vingria was studying before looking at her. In any other case he would have left, but for some reason that he couldn’t pinpoint, he sat in a chair opposite her.
Vingria looked up, cringed when she saw who it was and then looked back down.
Curious, Solus began inspecting the female zombie and saw that her face had almost recovered from the recent troubles. There were only some large white scars left, where the flesh of her cheek had knitted together over the open wound. The lines formed a cross-shape, and it was unclear if they would heal any more. After a moment Vingria took a quick peek again and seeing him seemed about to say something. But then she sighed and put her focus back on the stone slab.
Solus was surprised. He had expected that she was going to ask him to evolve her again. After a moment he grinned when he thought of something.
“Trying to find a good revolutionary inscription? What are you thinking off?” He asked, determined to find out how long she could keep up her facade.
Vingria took a deep breath before pointing at two small inscriptions. “Drys said I should choose my next evolution. According to him, I would probably do well as any of them that demand physical strength.”
Then she fell silent again, her eyes still on the tablet. When nothing else came, Solus understood she was waiting for him to respond. Not ready to give up on harassing her yet, he decided to drag it out some more.
“And what do you think?”
An annoyed look crossing her face, Vingria snapped her head up and looked him straight in the eyes. “You know bloody well what I think. I want something more, something that will keep me emotionally stable. But you’re the only one who can give me that, and for some reason, you don’t want to.”
Solus leaned back in his chair, causing it to creak dangerously, a small crack showing in the back. He laughed as he looked at her angry face. It had taken far less time than he had anticipated it would.
“Well, why should I do that? You obviously want to be in charge around here, and if I make you more powerful how do I know you won’t use it on me?”
The look on Vingria’s face turned from annoyed, too angry and finally stopping on something that was partially upset and partially confused. In the end, she looked back at the stone tablet in front of her.
Solus rose and headed towards the stair. Just when he put his foot on the first step, Vingria cursed.
“I don’t know how I can bloody convince you. But if you evolve me, I will be content with following your orders. Even if I don’t like them…”
Thinking for a moment, Solus nodded with his back still turned towards her. “Don’t pick anything yet, I will talk with Drys. He knows you better, and if he thinks you will help, without backstabbing us, we will make you something.”
Without waiting for a response Solus stomped up the stone stairs, causing creaks in the entire building. The next floor was divided into two rooms with a single door in the middle wall. It was brighter due to the light coming in from the windows. In the middle, against the wall, was a single flight of stairs leading to the third and final floor. The floor of the room was littered with stone tablets, mostly broken. They had been scavenged from the ruins by the remaining undead. Seated between the broken tablets was Sig, holding up a sharp-eyed Drys. In front of them were parts of different tablets, arranged together to form an odd patchwork inscription.
“Glad you finally finished the wall Solus. I think Sig is getting bored of keeping me company.” Drys looked up, a lopsided grin on his face.
Now Drys had healed, Solus could finally get a good look at him. What he saw was a thin, fair-skinned zombie with dark grey hair and large hollow eyes. The pupils were shining with an amber light, startling Solus when he saw them.
“It’s not true, boss. Drys is interesting, and has already taught me some better uses for my skills.” Sig said, still holding the dismembered zombie up.
Solus looked at the two and felt laughter bubble up from deep inside. It had been a long time since he felt this relaxed, and his booming laughter shook the entire building, startling everyone in it.
“Boss, stop! You’re destroying the building!!” Sig shouted, followed by something similar from Drys that was drowned out. Luckily the outburst lasted for only a short while, and soon a snickering grey giant was seated in front of Drys.
“So, did you find a way to fix your problem, or do you need a hand?” Another short burst of laughter followed while Drys shook his head.
“Fine, have your laugh then. After you are done, I can inform you that I have indeed found a way to fix my problem. And to keep up with the joke, it’s a very handy solution..”
Solus who had finally gotten a grip on himself almost spit into Drys’ face as he put his hands over his mouth, trying to stifle another loud outburst. After a while, in which Drys was looking at him waiting for him to cool down, which didn’t help a lot, Solus managed to stop.
“So, how do we fix you?” He said, a big grin still plastered on his face.
“Simple, we evolve me. Or, better said, you evolve me. According to Sig here, you are capable of writing on other peoples manafields. I have patched together a combination of different traits that should allow me to regenerate my limbs.” Drys pointed towards the patchwork of stone plates on the ground.
Taking a moment, Solus focused on the pattern, noticing many familiar parts. After a moment he realized there were parts of his previous evolution combined with some of the bonemenders parts.
“Are you merging patterns?” He asked, sounding as surprised as he was.
“Yes, I used your previous inscription as the base and added some bonemender parts. If my guess is right, and it should be, it will give me the ability to regrow my body parts.” Drys was looking at the pattern with a grin, but then his expression clouded over. “But there is a small problem. It will require vast amounts of manaorbs, at least twenty. There is something else. I won’t be able to do this myself so you will have to do it.”
Solus felt his good mood increase when he remembered the many Sigmitons he had detected below Skulltown. “Don’t worry about that. I will get the manaorbs so you can regenerate. Can I evolve you now, or do you need more energy first?” Realizing he hadn’t asked anything about Drys his new invention yet Solus continued.
“Vingria shared your small inscription with me!”
Drys looked surprised when he heard Solus claim he would get the manaorbs, but the mention of his invention drew his intention away.
“Yes! I based it on the part of your inscription I didn’t understand!” Summoning his manafield, Drys took a look at the inscription. “I will need two or three manaorbs to be ready to evolve.”
Solus thought for a moment. “If I leave for a while to get the manaorbs will you be alright?”
A soft sigh came from Drys. “How bad it has gotten, that I can’t even be sure about that. If anything comes while you’re gone, we will not be here when you come back. We need stronger undead to guard the city while you are gone, or we will all finish as someone else’s manaorb.“
The room was silent for a while as the three mulled over what Drys had said. In the end, Solus was the one to break the silence.
“Drys, do you trust Vingria?”
Drys raised his head, a surprised expression on his face. “Yes. She is stubborn and can get angry fast, but I have yet to see her do anything that would suggest she wants to do anyone harm.”
Solus nodded, before continuing. “She is currently the only one ready to evolve, and she has been pestering me for my pattern.”
A burst of soft laughter echoed from Drys.
“Yes, that sounds like her. Don’t worry. She did the same with me when she first found out that I had created new evolutionary patterns.” Drys was silent for a moment before he continued.
“But your pattern won’t help her because her body and manafield wouldn’t be able to handle the stress. The first evolution she picked was a bad choice on her part. Now she will never be as strong as you, or even your two minions will eventually become.”
Feeling his hesitation slip away, Solus looked through one of the windows at the grey sky. “Ok, then we need to get her a pattern that will maximize her power so she can guard this place until I get back.”
“Yes. Can you show me your new pattern? Perhaps it will help me find something extra for her.”
Seeing no harm in it, Solus focused, and soon the room was bathed in bright green light as his manafield enveloped him. It also wrapped around Drys and Sig and stuck through parts of the floor and ceiling.
“…Incredible. You are a monster…” Drys whispered, looking around at the different parts of the manafield that were densely filled with small inscriptions. After a second he shivered and looked at Sig. “Get me the empty slabs and the sharp old world beam from the stockpile. I need you to copy certain parts of this for me.”
Sig hesitated and looked at Solus.
“You can do as he asks. While I am not around, follow Drys’s lead.”
Seeming convinced, Sig nodded and rushed out of the room, down the stairs.
“They are different from other undead. Where did you find them?” Drys asked all of a sudden, as he was lying flat on his back. When Sig, he had dropped Drys without a second thought.
Snickering a bit, Solus moved over and propped Drys up, with his back against a wall before replying. “They aren’t like us. They used to be sigmitons.”
Drys gasped, looking at Solus in disbelieve. “How is that possible? Tell me what happened!”
Shrugging, Solus gave a short description, from how he met the skeleton Uran and learned how to control sigmitons, to how he met the group of sigmitons crawling out of the crevice. He ended with a description of how he evolved them.
“Interesting, and you are going under the ground to find more?” Drys said after pondering for a while.
“That’s the plan. If I can find enough sigmitons and convert them, they can act as our army when Silt gets here.”
From below they heard running, and only a moment later Sig came dashing up the stairs, carrying stone tablets and a long metal pike in his arms. He moved towards Drys and dumped everything on the ground.
“Alright, look at the lower corner of Solus’ manafield. Do you see the circle? Start with that, put it in the middle of the tablet and copy everything surrounding it.” Drys looked on as Silt began following his instructions.
Within a short time, so fast it surprised Solus, large parts of his pattern were copied onto different stone slabs. After Sig finished another of Drys’ orders, he looked up, expecting more. But Drys wasn’t looking at him. He was staring at the patterns, his eyes softly glowing. After a while, he blinked and looked up.
“Ok Sig, you can go downstairs for a while now. I will call you when I need you.”
Sig looked at him, seeming somewhat surprised before glancing at Solus who just nodded. Understanding they both wanted him to leave, he went to the stairs and disappeared down without any more questions.
Looking at Drys for a moment, Solus looked at the tablets. “Why did you send him away?”
“Because we need to talk about a part of your pattern that has a problem. Are you aware that something isn’t working as it should? It seems… broken, or deactivated.”
Solus felt elated, and he almost wanted to jump up and down. “Yes! Yes, I have meant to ask you, it is something similar to the small pattern that you made. The one that shows how much energy you need before evolving? After my latest evolution, something happened, and this part stopped working.”
Looking at a part of Solus’ pattern, Drys nodded. “Yes, that makes sense. The part that makes it work, that small incredibly dense part in the corner of your middle most quadrant? It is connected on one point to the evolutionary part of your inscription. That is where it normally gets its energy from, and it is connected, but it isn’t getting any energy. As far as I can tell the part it is connecting too isn’t working as it should, and the parts of your evolutionary pattern that are working are too far away to supply it with energy. ”
Following Drys’ finger, Solus could see what he meant, noticing that the green lines that were touching the status window inscription were barely glowing. Compared to the rest of the lines it was almost like they were inert.
“Do you have any idea how to fix it?” Solus asked, somewhat worried.
“Yes, we need to add another inscription that touches both the part of your evolution that works properly and the unpowered part. That should make it work again.”
Looking at the surrounding empty areas, Solus felt somewhat hopeless. His manafield was huge, and to connect the status window inscription to the working part of his evolutionary one would need something almost as large as his evolution pattern.
Looking at Solus, Drys noticed the look on his face and laughed softly. “Don’t worry, there are a few things we can do to fix this, but it will take time for me to prepare. Although everyone can only have one evolutionary inscription, other inscriptions can add to them, and we can use those. After we fix me, it should only take me a few days to create you something. ”
Hearing him, Solus relaxed. He decided that after he had helped Drys make a new inscription for Vingria, he would go down under the ground and find more sigmitons for their army. The ones that didn’t listen, or died while he took control over them would result in plenty of mana orbs. Enough for Drys to use for his evolution and regeneration.
“So, then let’s find something for Vingria!” Solus said, excited to get started.
“Yes, and I have exactly the right thing. In your minion Skull his pattern, I have found the reason why he is so much bigger than normal skeletons. I think we can use this to change one of the existing zombie patterns. It will limit Vingrias future intelligence growth, but it will give her great control over her emotions. She won’t end up either as stupid, or as large as Skull, but she will be much stronger then she is now, and more powerful than anyone besides you. She might not be able to fight wyrms, but she will be fast enough to lure them away without getting caught. What do you think?”
Solus pondered for a moment before nodding. “I can’t think of anything better. What pattern do you want to merge her with?”
“It was one of the strength based ones called Tenacious Zombie. It will greatly increase her strength and constitution, but her intelligence won’t increase. After this, she will never be able to change to an intelligence-based evolution again, but can only go down the physical strength path. It should take me only a short time to change the pattern. If you can go get Vingria ready, and explain what she can expect?” Drys waited for Solus to agree before looking down the stairs.
“SIG GET OVER HERE!” Drys bellowed down the stairs. Soon a shuffling came from below, and Sig rushed in, heading towards Drys. Before he could even ask what was going on, Drys began explaining.
“You are going to have to follow my directions again and draw something on that tablet.”
Seeing the two of them get to work on the tablet, Solus walked back towards the stair. One last look showed Drys, loudly explaining the parts he wanted, while Sig began piecing together the inscription. Feeling he wasn’t needed at the moment, he headed down the stairs and saw Vingria walking around the room, constantly looking at the stair. As soon as she saw him arrive, she stopped and looked at him. She was biting her lip, trying to stop herself from asking something most likely.
Ignoring her, Solus headed towards the table and sat back down. “So. I have talked with Drys, and you are going to get a better evolutionary pattern. Drys is creating it right now, and it should be ready soon. ”
Vingria’s face went through a few emotions, as it did on occasion, before ending in a happy expression. “Will I stop having these emotional outbursts?”
“The emotions will stay, but you will be able to control them much better!” Solus replied, scrutinizing Vingria’s reactions. She seemed happy and content, stopping her pacing and walking back to the table to sit opposite Solus. Solus looked at the door as his mind drifted off. He would need to head down under the ground as soon as Vingria had evolved. There, he needed to get manaorbs and more sigmiton minions as fast as he could. He was a bit worried now because he had no idea when Silt would return.
Sometime later, as the sun began to set, and the room got dark, a loud yell came from the second story.
“Solus! We are ready!”
Looking up, Solus saw Vingria jump from her chair and rush towards the stairs. Smiling he followed her. When he arrived at the second floor, Vingria was already sitting in front of Drys, listening to his explanation and trying hard not to grab the tablet that Sig was holding.
“.. so you understand? You will get rid of your emotions, and get stronger, but… ”
Vingria interrupted him. “Yes yes, and no bloody intelligence. Who cares about that anyway! Let’s get started.”
“Ok. Sig, give her the tablet.” Drys responded, a lopsided grin on his face.
Outside of the building, a group of undead was searching for anything useful in the destroyed buildings. They had been busy since Solus had finished the first part of the wall and said it was safe. All of a sudden a high pitched scream disrupted their rummaging. It came from the central building.
Two blackguards that were standing inside the tower ruins looked at each other.
“That was Vingria…”
“Should we go see what’s going on?”
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“No. Solus is there. Either something is wrong, and he can’t do anything about it, or he finally got angry at her. And then there is nothing we can do. So either way, let’s stay here.”
The two undead listened for a while longer, finally relaxing when the screams stopped.
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