I woke up in my bed feeling wonderful, my dreams had been filled with light and laughter. No lingering pains, in fact my mind felt clearer than it had in years, like a weight had been lifted from it. I took my time getting dressed just enjoying my good mood. I had no idea how much longer I had slept after everyone had left, but I didn’t care. Finally dressed I walked out to the dining room, it wasn’t really a dining room, although that’s all I had used it for. I think it was supposed to be an all-purpose sitting, eating, you name it room. Anyways that’s where I went.
I was greeted by Sophia and Airis sitting at the table, Sophia held a basic glyphscreen and stylus, drawing I think she was. Airis sat next to her watching. Avery was on one of the upholstered benches
“Tristan, you’re alright. I was so worried,” Sophia said as she got up. She came running over and hugged me.
“I’m fine Soph.” I hugged her back as best I could, which wasn’t that well. She came to just above my waist. I was basically hugging her head, I didn’t hear her next words muffled as she was.
She pulled away a bit and looked up at me, “Lyphia said you were an idiot. Did you do something stupid?” she asked.
I could see the lingering shadow of fear in her eyes. It must have been rough on her. I cursed myself for the idiot Lyphia said I was, the poor girl had lost her parents then almost lost me.
“I did, I’m sorry,” I said.
“Thats alright, everyone is stupid sometimes,” Sophia said with a glimmer of mischief in her eyes.
“Let’s do something fun just the us. What do you say?” I said to her.
“Yes! Finally. I’ve been so bored, Avery is no fun,” she said as she rolled her eyes towards Avery.
“She’s not supposed to be fun, shes got to keep you out of trouble,” I whispered.
She giggled and ran back to grab Airis. She was tugging on his arm, saying something about having to get ready.
“We don’t even know what we are getting ready for.” I heard Airis say as she dragged him from the room.
I smiled at her enthusiasm, it was nice to see in her. Good to see Airis integrating as well, he sounded like a real boy.
I walked over to Avery, she looked up from her book, one of the old ones too, actual paper and bindings. Not a glyphscreen.
“Master Tristan, I trust you are well?” She asked me, her sharp blue eyes piercingly focused on me.
“I am well Miss Martin. Please don’t be so formal with me, I really don’t need it. I was wondering two things if I can ask?” I said.
“Of course you may ask, I shall also endeavour to be less formal,” she even smiled at me. It made her look ten years younger at least.
I had to smile back, she had gone to the effort.
“How are Sophia and Airis getting on?” I asked.
“Well, very well in fact. I have no idea where that boy came from, but he is a marvel. He follows all the rules, is unfailingly polite and is a calming influence on Sophia. Sophia on the other hand is difficult, I know she lost her parents, but the last few day she has been inconsolable. You wake up and she’s all bright and happy again. Its hard to know what to make of her. You have to be more careful now you have a dependant,” she told me.
That took the edge off my happy.
“Thank you for the advice, I don’t plan on doing these things you know. Anyways, I had hoped to arrange some food and some invites. I would like to take Sophia on a picnic. I thought of inviting Jase and Fion, Lyphia, oh, and yourself of course. Is that doable?” I asked quickly.
“Yes that won’t take long at all. I can mirror everyone needed in a few moments,” she said.
“That would be perfect thank you, also how long have I been asleep?” I asked.
“Lady Lyphia left yesterday afternoon, I’m guessing you mean since then,” she said, with a hint of disapproval.
“Yes thank you. I had best prepare myself,” I said before walking away. I could hear her steps as I walked off, I assumed she was doing as I had asked.
I walked back to the table, I caught a glimpse of Sophia’s glyphscreen. On it was an image of her as an adult or maybe her mother in a mage uniform. Fire pouring from her hands. Well that’s what it looked like with a generous eye, it could also have been almost anything. Blobs of colour and line, but the intent was clear.
I didn’t know what to make of it, but I was pleased that she seemed to be aspiring to be a mage.
I sat at the table, waiting for Avery to arrange everything.
Sophia and Airis came out of sophia’s room in a burst of motion.
“Tristan!” Sophia screeched as she ran to me.
“Yes?” I queried. I looked her over, she had changed her clothes to a light weave top and trousers in a pale green, which looked quite comfy. When had she gotten them, I thought briefly before getting back on track. Her face on the other hand was bright red.
“Airis was watching me get changed. He’s a boy, it’s wrong,” she rushed out.
I raised an eyebrow, this was one thing I hadn’t expected.
“Oh, I’ll have a word with him. He’s an only child, he doesn’t know the rules,” I said
“I was an only child too, I know the rules,” she said confused.
“Yes, but you’re a girl. That’s different,” I said.
“Fine you talk to him, I don’t want him in my room anymore,” she said before stomping off to her room, she pushed past Airis and stuck her tongue out at him.
“Airis could you come here please?” I asked politely.
He came towards me slowly.
“Right, I know you overheard all that. Don’t worry about it, you haven’t done anything wrong, let’s just try to keep her pacified for a little while,” I said.
Airis just nodded at me.
I opened my mouth to say more, but I was interrupted by the door.
“Hello anyone here?” came Jase’s voice from the doorway.
“Yes we are over here come on in,” I called, not taking my eyes of Airis. I’d completely forgot what I was going to say to him and I hoped looking at him would help me remember. Nothing. I let out a small sigh of exasperation. I stood up and turned to Jase.
“Good to see you could make it,” I said.
“Make it to what? I was bringing up the skills module that you asked for,” Jase said. a look of confusion crossed his face.
“Perfect that will give us something to do while we wait for everyone to get here,” I said relieved that I had something to do to fill the indeterminate time for everyone to arrive or send their apologies.
“Who everyone? Make it to what?” Jase asked
“Shush it’s a surprise, we are going out, Avery was supposed to invite you,” I said.
“Oh, well I’m free. I don’t have any sessions with students booked today,” Jase said.
“The module?” I asked holding my hand out to him.
“Oh right,” he said as he rooted around in his pocket, a moment later he produced a small cut diamond. “ It’s a developmental trade skill set. Only basics to start with, but it unlocks at various levels.”
“Perfect, this is just what I’ve been looking for,” I said with a sense of rising excitement
“It is? I thought you wanted something more,” Jase said with a touch of confusion.
“I want to find out what makes them different to base skills. I thought I’d explained that,” I said.
“You did, but I just thought there would be more to it than that, there normally is with you,” Jase said.
“There is, but that’s the main reason. I want to implant Airis and make sure they are compatible for one, as well as refine my own skill creation so I can make them too.”
“Tristan, there is a reason they are considered dangerous. I don’t doubt you can do it, just don’t rush,” Jase said worriedly
“It will be fine, do you want to watch?” I asked, with a raised eyebrow. Jase had never turned down a chance to watch me work.
“Of course I do, I just want you to be careful,” Jase said, almost offended that I’d felt I had to ask.
“Come on then, you too Airis, to the work room,” I said dramatically as I walked around the table. Airis fell into step next to me, Jase followed along behind.
As we walked past Sophia’s room I said to Airis “ We had best get you your own room sorted out. You can have one of the empty ones next to mine if you want, or you can have the one adjoining Sophia’s. No, best not. We will put you next to me. I don’t know how she would react to having you right next door. We should probably head that off before she can get all irate about it.”
“I heard that,” Sophia called sullenly from her room.
I chuckled to myself, i could hear Jase sniggering too. Airis gulped and nodded at me. Little girls can be scary no matter what you are made of.
I led them to my workroom, I stood at the door gesturing them in. I hoped Sophia didn’t feel the sudden need to come in here, you can never tell what a kid is going to decide to do.
The lights brightened as we walked in and I shut the door behind us.
“Airis if you could step on to the disc please? I shouldn’t need to activate it, but I would like some scans,” I said as I walked further into the room.
Jase had stood to one side watching everything intensely, he always got like this about golems, I vaguely remembering him saying many years ago, that he was fascinated, but he couldn’t make them live. I was younger, and really didn’t like Jase back them. I hadn’t paid much attention.
I walked over to the console, clutching the diamond in my hand. I sat down placing my left hand on the screen. It flickered to life. brightening the room further. Airis was stood in the center of the disc as I ran the scans, I stored a copy for later viewing, although a few things stood out with just a glance. I tapped the screen twice to enable it to record the process.
Jase couldnt tear his eyes away as I called on my magic and my authority as Airis’ creator to empower the lattice that was Airis’ core. It faded into view. There I could see the gaps I had left for future developments although a few large chunks of the lattice were different, even after a few days. Nothing critical had changed, they were clear as day and solid as an oak, but some of the smaller threads had grown and tangled, tiny patterns starting to form. I nodded to myself, it was gratifying to see everything working as i had envisioned. I walked through the misty tangle of threads to one of the skill slots I had made. I channeled a small amount of raw magic into the diamond, it lit up. I held it out, lining it up with the slot. The glow intensified as it travelled to the indicated area. A web of sigils settled into a circular pattern inside the slot. This is the bit I had to do something, flexible systems are all well and good, but they are a bitch to automate. I brought up my reading to get a better look, there on the outer ring of sigils was the dock. I just had to find the corresponding thread to use. I spent a few moments, reacquainting myself with my work. I stood absorbing the way the weaves thickened and thinned in a regular rhythm almost like a heartbeat. An idea occurred to me as that thought crossed my mind.
“Airis, can you feel what I am doing?” I asked.
“Yes Tristan,” Airis said.
Just as I expected, I smiled at him.
“Do you think you can do anything to integrate these skills?” I asked, I was really hoping this worked like I thought it would. Without my reading the sigils made absolutely no sense, with it I could get the faintest hint of their purpose. It was truly higher level stuff. I wasn’t sure I even had the tools or learning to prise meaning out of them.
“Yes Tristan, you only had to ask,” Airis said a bit cheekily,my younger face, no his face now, showed a hint of mischief.
“If you would then please,” I said as I stepped off the disc. I joined Jase to the side of the room to watch.
Threads shivered into motion, a strange dance as they wove around the outer ring of sigils. They seemed to wrap around and rotate the circle, a squeeze and the ring started spinning, forming a fast-moving sphere, liquid light poured through as the threads penetrated the outer shell, a single burst of light and the lattice faded from view.
Airis staggered slightly.
I rushed forward to help him, but he brushed me off.
“I’m fine, there was just a lot to adjust to,” Airis said slightly drunkenly, his eyes refused to focus.
“We can’t go anywhere with you like this, if Avery or Lyphia saw you like this, they would peel my skin off,” I said. I looked to Jase who just shrugged.
“Give me a moment,” Airis said, I could feel pulses of magic from his body as it shifted back to his golem form, solid stone. He grew quickly.
“Airis you can’t, you need to be a boy for now,” I said panicked. I couldn’t risk Sophia finding out yet.
“So thats how you did it, a base form, I know you said before, but it is startling to see the core,” Jase interjected from the side.
“Yes, are you going to help or just stand there offering oh so helpful comments?” I asked frustrated that he felt now was the right time to question me.
“I think I’ll just stand here,” Jase said, a twinkle in his eye.
“Wonderful, what use are you?” I huffed. “Airis, are you okay now?” I asked the hulking rock man.
A bright green glow came from his eyes. I shivered at the weight of power in them, far more than there was a few days ago.
I had created this, a fully independent stone soldier with access to his own magic. As well as being entirely upgradeable with the ability to look human. The implications hit me as they never had before. The council would destroy him rather than risk the damage he could do. I wouldn’t, I couldn’t. In a very real way he was a child, my child.
“I am fine,”came a deep rumble, like the fall of rocks in a landslide. The vibrations echoed in my chest.
“Good, can you change back please? We need to get going,” I asked, I didn’t want to let on how unnerved I was.
“Give me a moment, Tristan. I have some internal rearrangements to do,” Airis’ golem voice said.
“Okay I will just stand with Jase while you do. Please don’t step of the disc, I need the scans for my research,” I said as I stepped back,
Airis nodded his soldiers helmet in acceptance.
“So you didn’t think this through again, I did warn you,” Jase remarked a grin on his face.
“Shut up, how was I supposed to know how different the modules are?” I muttered.
“I told you they were, but you didn’t listen as usual. He is magnificent by the way. I haven’t seen one of the warrior class since I was a boy,”
“I vaguely recall they went out of fashion after the mage-king used ten to conquer half the known world, but I liked it. Anyway, you saw the module active. I’ve never seen anything like it. Care to explain?” I said never taking my eyes off Airis, he was shimmering, his glyphs shifting and growing as new shapes took form on his body, it was mesmerizing.
“Not really,” Jase said, also entranced by the display in front of us. “ It’s not something I have a great deal of experience with, but the gist is, most of the magic you use is raw. You do physical magics really well. But the modules use something so far advanced of that, they are classified. I can only tell you the basics of them.”
“The basics are fine,” I said as I crinkled my brow as I tried to understand how my magic is raw.
“There are so many areas of magic that you haven’t covered. Do you remember much about charms and wards?”
“Not as much as you would like, I’m sure, I can use some of the simple ones, but that’s about it,” I said confused. I had no idea why Jase had brought up wards.
“The higher level magics have many effects, layers upon layers. They are condensed into sigils. Shapes that make sense. Similar to the glyphs we use, but on a whole different level,” Jase said absently.
“So I just won’t understand?” I asked, partly offended.
“Probably not, it’s wizard magic. I only grasp the basis of it. The sigils are personal. So it takes years to make your own set. I have four. I’ve been working on it for years,” Jase said, he looked at me to signal just how serious he was.
“Four? That’s it? There has to be hundreds in that one diamond,” I asked, frustrated that yet more magics were beyond me.
“I have no doubt you will get further than me, I don’t have time for it anymore. Fion has a few hundred, but the magic talks to him, like it does to you. It never has to me. Well once, but that doesn’t count,” Jase said hurriedly, as if he was covering over a misstep.
“Once?” I asked. The magics voice was vast and confusing. I had no idea what it really said, its was all intuition and guess-work.
Jase was spared from answering by Airis. The glow has faded and the glyphs had stopped changing, his shape wavered back into his boy form.
“I’m done, some of this should make it easier to be more human,” Airis said in his human voice.
I for one was relieved to hear it. I had the vague fear that I had broken him. Trapped him in his stone form or something equally awkward to fix.
“Good, and its all settled. You aren’t going to break?” I asked nervously.
A large smile appeared on Airis’ face, “No. I’m not going to break. This module is surprisingly easy to get used to, its all segmented, lots of small chunks that I can integrate easily, and on the plus side I can fix stuff now. Do we need any furniture making?” he asked impishly.
“We’re good, I think, although I’m sure we can get you some tools if you feel the urge to make some,” I said with a smile.
“Thank you,” Airis said.
Jase coughed, we both turned to look at him.
“Weren’t we going somewhere today?” Jase gently reminded us.
“Yes, if you’re both ready, we can go out to the main room to wait. We haven’t been in here that long,” I said.
“Longer than you think Tristan, its been half hour at least,” Jase said.
“Oh, that’s alright. We gave everyone time to arrive,” I said with what I hoped was my most charming smile. “Let’s go.”
Jase and Airis fell into step behind me.
A single thought floated into my head as we left the workroom,
Where does the stone go when he’s a boy?