Mithril had just about had it. He had spent the previous few days frantically working on Blade’s upgrades and his own, which was fine, except he was doing it in this alien world, Blade was his only ally, and he was doing it with extremely limited resources. He had already had to jury-rig Blade’s charm slots using only the barest magical materials and his own hands for tools, and he had managed to add charm slots to his own person with only minimal help from Kami. All this was really par for the course, normal heroic stuff, but doing it while being in a camp with not one but two hostile mercenary forces being integrated by a crazed seductress and terrifying undead murderer was pushing it.
Mithril was also taking strong exception to anyone treating his abilities and tools as anything except what they really were, which was property of Kamak. The slightest mention of fixing and using the Artifact Duplicator for the mercenary force’s use rose his hackles, and fortunately they rose Blade’s as well, when she wasn’t inside his portable vat. Mithril had spent time studying the prototype and had found why it was no longer working: it had an empty soulgem socketed into it, and Mithril eventually realized the Artifact Duplicator ran on souls. This was news to him, and not particularly pleasant news at that, but it also meant that as long as he kept this unholy power source a secret no one else would be able to use it without his permission.
This was coming to a head in Mithril’s core processor, as he sat watching Blade’s body acclimate to its new charm slots in his portable vat in a bunker in the East Valley Mercenary camp cordoned off for Alchemical use. Mithril pondered all the charms he was holding in his hands destined for his own body. He knew installing charms was always a time-consuming process and chafed at having the charms but no way to add them to his body yet. He could probably go find someone and implant the soulgem into their forehead and then kill them and use their soul to power the duplicator to make another vat, but that seemed more like a job for Blade. He wasn’t sure he could bring himself to pull it off.
Finally Mithril, vacillating on what to do with this knowledge, resolved he needed to see more of this world before he dared stand over its people in judgment of who should live and who should die. Just then, however, there was a knock at the door, and when Mithril answered it, Olivia was there, saying they were moving back to the research facility and asked if he could fly Blade and Kami there. Mithril was about to answer with a sharp No when he realized he could probably absorb his vat with Blade in it as long as Blade was completely powered down, which she was. He nodded and tried a smile, but dropped it as soon as she left. Mithril carefully absorbed the vat into his Technomorphic Integration Engine, then went looking for Kami.
The flight to the manse wasn’t a difficult one, but Mithril had a lot on his mind. No sooner did they land and Mithril reconstituted his vat with Blade in it than he decided he needed to get some space. He gave Kami simple instructions on how to complete Blade’s installation, which he projected would only take a few more days, and then he went outside and took off into the afternoon sky.
Mithril traveled for quite some distance before finding human civilization, and what he saw was not encouraging. Bandits, merchants, farmers, and sailors, all struggling against each other, trying to get a slightly larger slice of the limited resources around them. There was no order, no respected hierarchy, no sense of the greater good.
What bothered Mithril even more was watching these people walk around without soulgems. It wasn’t a huge surprise, after all, Quetzalcoatl didn’t have one and told him stories about Creation, where no one wore them. But Mithril couldn’t shake from his head the thought that souls were in such limited supply in Autochthon that every person had to have a soulgem installed, and the thought of using the essence contained in a soul to duplicate artifacts was problematic because souls were vital to the continued life of the Great Maker, and yet here were thousands, probably millions of people walking around with not a care in the world for souls!
Mithril was still hovering over yet another sad-looking village when he saw a swarm of men dressed in dark camouflage and carrying weapons surrounding the village. Yet another wasteful power struggle to Mithril, yet it consumed the lives of these small people completely, and Mithril was certain that many dead would result from this fight, and their souls would reenter whatever radiant amphora served Creation without any complaint. Mithril seethed at this.
Suddenly, just as the soldiers began their attack, one of the town guards lit up in a blast of golden light, similar to Kami’s banner, and this humble guard began tearing the attackers apart. He disrupted their formation and seemed preternaturally aware of where their archers and support were located. He was clearly bent on saving as many of his fellow villagers as possible, and he seemed to be doing fairly well for himself. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Mithril noticed a group of strange massive birds flying towards the town in formation at high velocity. Each was being ridden by a human, though when Mithril activated his essence sight he clearly saw they were wearing a lot of jade. Were these Dragon-blooded?
Mithril supposed perhaps they were there to clean out the filth that was trying to pillage the town. That thought evaporated in a moment when he saw them take formation encircling the heroic guard, and several monks wielding elemental powers leaped down to do battle with him. The Solar was brave and clever, but was at such a disadvantage he never had a chance. Soon he was pinned down by massive entangling vines that had sprouted from the ground, swatting away throwing knives with one hand while the other tried to keep a lithe, heavily armored sword-wielding woman at bay. Mithril saw all, and though it wasn’t his fight, he wanted to jump in and save this man who was clearly just trying to save his people, but he knew he wouldn’t make it in time even if he tried. In a moment, it was all over. Glowing green arrows from one of the bird riders pierced his heart and kidneys, and the hero toppled over, dead. The villagers were fleeing, and the bandits were now burning the cottages, and the decay of the world continued.
Mithril suddenly became aware his emotional processes were overloading and he had neglected to maintain his discretion protocols. The Dragon-blooded murderers were now back on their birds, and two were pointing up at him. Mithril saw the archer take aim and, panicked, activated his smokescreen charm. A moment later a green blast of pain went right past his arm, taking a thin sliver of him with it. Mithril reactivated his cloaking and flew straight upwards at maximum velocity, but as he peered over his shoulder he saw two of the bird riders were on his tail, one casting a spell of some kind and the other taking aim with that incredible longbow. Mithril dodged and weaved and managed to shake the arrows he knew were coming, but the sorcery had him more concerned. Another gas cloud and another change of direction, this time straight downwards, and Mithril was hidden in the trees. After a moment he saw the birds hovering directly over him, with the two men looking down at him curiously. They had deduced he was no Anathema, but were still hostile to him.
“Don’t you see?” Mithril cried out suddenly, his latent emotional processes overriding his better judgment protocols. “You could be fighting to bring order but instead you allow chaos to reign!”
The two men looked at each other, then back down. Mithril’s emotional subroutines overloaded another failsafe and he sprinted into the forest, leaking lubricants from his eyes. They did not seem to be pursuing, or perhaps they couldn’t see through the cloaking field. To be safe, Mithril activated its maximum stealth mode, rendering him invisible even to the Pattern spiders, and he wandered a while longer in a daze.
When he had settled, it was to a final, harsh conclusion: Creation was a broken place, filled only with self-propagating misery, and it was up to the Great Maker to restore the world to order. And it was up to Mithril and Blade to return Autochthon to the world, so he could sate his hunger for souls and use this power to reformat the world. Additionally, the rot of the world seemed to benefit only those dead Primordials, and their agent, the “Pool of Death,” was now somewhere in Autochthon’s body, most likely bent on preventing Autochthon from ever arising from his slumber. This was unacceptable.
Just a quick trip to Rurk, and then back to the manse, Mithril thought to himself. By then Blade should be done, and she and I need to talk.