Chapter 16 – Matsugo
Matsugo lay sprawled nude on a large flat rock above the entrance of their cave. It had become his perch. Where he studied. Where he spent his hours adjusting to this new life. It was secure; if he looked down, he could see into the tunnel leading to their current home. To the front lay the prairies spreading off into the distance. Behind him were great sheer cliffs which rose a hundred feet into the sky. It was always there, watching his back.
Devon preferred the brightness of the day; Mat liked the nights. He did his best work in the evenings after the innocent creatures had gone to bed, and the predators came out to play. He would climb onto the rocks with the stars shining overhead and study or just think. This planet wasn’t like Earth; it had two moons and was close to a nebula. Instead of a dark sky peppered with little specs of light, this sky was filled with whirling avenues of colored clouds and gasses. He knew the varying dots of lights inside the thick clumps weren’t distant worlds but newly born stars just beginning their long lives. It was still dark at night but not pitch, the community of stars and gasses gently lit the landscape with a soft glow. One of his new powers was an incredible night vision, it didn’t make it like daylight, and he couldn’t see as far, but for about a hundred yards his surroundings were vivid and sharp.
The conversation about alignments had weighed heavy on his mind. Here it mattered, back home, not so much. Here people’s beliefs were needed for their classes. It was essential for the powers they wielded and used to protect themselves. You could see it; it wasn’t a concept to be disputed. Mat wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He set his book down and laid back on the rock, staring up at the sky. His hand found its way to his sleeve, and he drew out a dagger and started spinning it in his palm. It had been a relief when he’d learned that Wizards, to a small extent, could carry bladed weapons. Daggers didn't seem to interfere with his spell work. As he stared up at the sky, he tried to settle the jumbled thoughts crowding his mind. He hadn't realized until he was here just how much he was going to miss the creature comforts. The Internet, electric devices…hell, toilets, and running water. He’d finally resorted to setting the hole they shit in on fire to kill the smell. Their new diets were not working well with their systems. He assumed that would change in time.
For the first time since they’d arrived, Mat was beginning to make sense of his new magical abilities. His first big discovery was that he wasn’t classified as a Necromancer; he was a Sorcerer with a specialty in Necromancy. This had answered the question about the number of spells available to him. He had at least twice as many as Devon. This made sense, if he didn’t have duel specialty (Sorcerer and Rogue) all he would have is his magic. Devon had his shifting, hand-to-hand and many nature-based skills as a Druid which did not require casting. A sorcerer was a type of magic user born with an innate ability to summon and channel the power of magic instead of using external components. The drawbacks were, there was only so many spells a mind could remember, and only so much mana a body could hold.
To no great surprise, the magical force stored in the body or drawn from nature was called Mana. More and more Devon and Mat were starting to think these little coincidences were not accidents. As for the spells, at his level of training Mat could remember about 30 spells at any one time. He’d originally believed that once the spell was cast, it was forgotten, that had been wrong. Magical memory was directly tied to the level of mana in his body. Mana wasn’t only used to fuel the spells but also stored the understandings of how to shape and channel it once committed to memory. A magic-user could continue using the same spells over and over, consuming mana with each use, without having to spend the time re-learning them. If his mana dropped below five percent, then the spells requiring more mana than he had available would be forgotten. It wasn’t like it was a big deal, a night of serious study was all that was needed to relearn your spells. This also gave you time to regain your depleted mana supplies. Mana could be regained anytime the mage wasn’t casting but at a very slow rate. Only rest or finding a natural source in nature could increase the regeneration speed.
At first, it freaked Matsugo out to think that if he dropped below five percent, he would be useless magically. Fortunately, he discovered that though he was a Sorcerer and didn’t need regents, he could use them in a pinch. The book even went as far as to suggest that if the spell didn’t require too many regents, the wizard (a general term) should utilize this option and save his mana stores. The whole magic thing was far more complicated than he’d imagined at first. But then Mat guessed that made sense. In games, it was just a button or telling the dungeon master what you wanted to cast. Here magic was real and therefore needed the correct components or energy to power the spell. Each page studied opened more questions than it answered, and by the end of most nights, he was exhausted and had a horrible headache.
Mat made a clicking noise with his tongue and waited, not a minute later he could hear the flapping of wings in the distance. The only sign the creature was approaching was the black shape as it masked the striations of the nebula behind it. It was larger than the bats back home. Since the start, Mat had focused on learning the spell to summon a familiar. He wanted, no needed, a pet. When the opportunity presented itself, he jumped at it. He’d found the little guy in the back of the cave, just into their second week. The bat had broken its wing and was on the verge of death. Mages like Devon could recruit familiars or pets at any time if the creature was willing. For Mat, being a Necromancer, he wasn’t as much recruiting as enthralling, which is why it was best if the creature was found just before death. A familiar could be created from scratch, but there was just something about creating it that didn't make it a pet in Mat’s eyes. When something like the bat was close to dying the necromancer cast a spell sealing the life force in the body as he imprinted himself as the creature’s Master. The amount of autonomy the creature had, after being enslaved, was entirely up to the Mage. It could also be given a greater degree of intelligence and even allowed to learn, whether or not they would was anyone’s guess. The manual noted that if the creature didn’t perform as expected all the Mage needed to do was withdraw the tiny sliver of mana he’d used to animate the creature, releasing it to die.
The first couple of days with the bat had been hit or miss, its learning and obedience slow and sluggish. Strangely it had also grown in size, by double, making its wingspan just over six feet. Mat read that if the creature was smart enough, it could learn a limited number of simple spells, which fell into three categories: defensive, offensive, and purely personal. It was the purely personal ones which Mat had focused on initially, teaching the creature a modified shape spell, allowing it to compress itself into a smaller size. Once the bat, which he had named Darth, learned the spell it was its responsibility to perfect its use, something it had embraced with enthusiasm. Within a couple of nights, Darth was able to shrink down to the size of a canary, thus being easier to hide. In its larger size, it had learned to expand its talons, enabling it to hunt. Mat hadn’t told Devon about that part since they were practicing on small animals. The downside of Mat’s choice for a familiar was that Darth was almost useless during the day and about a quarter as strong. After the sun rose, the bat was no longer able to shift until the sunset that evening.
Mat had also learned that like he and Devon, Darth got headaches if he tried to advance too quickly. Unlike the two of them though, Darth couldn’t rub his forehead and get snarky, he instead tended to start biting. It was an interesting fail-safe, keeping them all from trying to learn too much, too fast. They’d both come quite a long way since waking up on that first day. The only skill Mat still hadn’t practiced was his rogue abilities. Yea, he could lurk, as he called it, vanish and stuff like that, but he needed people. It was a topic he’d discovered not to bring up with Devon. It's not that Devon disapproved of Mat being a rogue. He just insisted on constantly reminding his friend to refrain from practicing on the innocent, weak, or people who didn't deserve it. Mat pretty much ignored this advice since he saw his abilities as nothing more than a tool used for questing or finding jobs at the local taverns and thieves guilds.
As Mat lay back, Darth landed beside him, “Greetings Master.”
Mat smiled; the bat had been working on speaking. It was the slowest of its burgeoning skills. “Hey Darth, did you eat?”
“Yes,” was all that Darth said. Since he was still learning, his answers were often slow. His personality needed further refining; he was blunt, succinct, and answered exactly with no additional details outside the scope of the question. Mat had faith that would change in time. Darth most certainly had a personality; he just couldn't fully express it yet.
Over the next few hours, they worked on Darth’s words as well as his comprehension. He was starting to learn to ask for definitions or which word best described a certain feeling or thought. The biggest challenge was him getting his point across to Mat. Since they both were impatient, it often devolved quickly into huffing and yelling more than actual learning.
Towards midnight, as Mat began to fall asleep, Darth flew off letting his master rest. He found an animal in the brush, swopped down, shifting his claws and snatched it up to take with him to his lair.
The next morning Matsugo was awakened to a shadow moving over his eyes blocking the sun he was already trying to shield. When he opened them, he found a set of legs leading into a tunic and a cock hanging down swinging gently back and forth. Squinting, he said, “If you’re trying to show me that thing again, give me a sec to run inside and see if they included a magnifying glass.”
Mat smiled at his friend as he sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “We’re going camping, remember, you ready?” said Devon as he handed Mat a muffin.
“Um…I just woke up, and I might add, not well, getting a look at that first thing,” commented Mat as he reached up and grabbed his friends' bulge. “Give me time to wake up. Is this a muffin, where did you get muffins?”
“The supplies you set out had all the stuff I needed, and I found the berries while out walking, and made muffins.”
Looking up as he took a bite, Mat scoffed, “You made muffins, who the fuck are you, Martha Stewart.” Raising an eyebrow at how good they tasted, he added, “Oh my god these are good, but please don’t tell me I’m the first to try these berries? They’re not poisonous, are they?”
Rolling his eyes, Devon laughed, “What’s to worry about, I have a poison spell. Plus, you think I’d come all this way to kill you now. There were plenty of opportunities back home when you were passed out on my couch.” Matsugo’s eyebrows shot into his hairline. “No, they’re fine, I checked,” added the druid.
“They’re good, and I guess we know who is on cooking detail now.”
“Like there was any doubt. There’s no takeout or delivery on this world, so you’re pretty much useless in the food area. Last time I checked the only thing you could make was people angry. Plus, you don’t send someone trained in poisons to cook dinner, seriously.”
“Hey, we don’t know if there aren’t any take out joints, you won’t let us go into town. They might have Dominos,” added Mat with a mouth full of muffin, little crumbs escaping between words.
“Seriously dude, is this how you’re going to kill people? Make them watch you eat, gawd, your table manners.”
“We’re sitting on a rock. There isn’t a table,” corrected Mat as he burst out laughing, sending even more bits of the muffin fanning out from his mouth. As he wiped off his chest, he said, “Oh, Darth spoke last night.”
“I thought he’d been for a few days?”
Mat nodded, “He has, but last night it was in context. It’s a significant step.” Taking another bite of the muffin, “So have you planned where this little trip’s going to be?”
“Actually, yes, there’s a spot about half a day's travel from here that I think would be good. It has a pond, a waterfall and lots of trees. More importantly, it seems to have wildlife so I can practice a few spells. How's that sound?”
“Sounds great, how do you know all of this? Did you go scout?”
“Nope, I used an animal vision spell and saw through a bird’s eyes. The place was just at the edge of my range and looked good.”
“You know the route between here and there then?”
“Yes, can you do something about the cave?”
Matsugo thought for a second. “Yea, I think I can. There's a spell that protects an area up to a certain size. I think I can cast it over the opening. That way, it won’t use as much power that way.”
“Well if there is nothing else let’s get going.”
“Actually, there is,” answered Matsugo. “I figured out that wooden door.”
“Really! What is it?”
“A portal. Come, let me show you.”
Together they rushed back to the cave, and Mat carried the two-foot square wooden door into the center of the room. “Now watch,” he instructed as he turned the handle to the right, “to activate it you need to align the ring of the handle parallel with the door.” Then pulling it back he revealed a black square in the ground the same size as the door. “Step into it,” Mat instructed.
“Are you kidding?”
“Nope, trust me, do it.”
Tentatively Devon reached forward with a foot and slowly extended it into the void. As it vanished, he jumped back. “What is it doing?” he asked hesitantly.
“Gawd, watch,” instructed Mat as he stepped forward, dropping into the blackness and vanishing.
For several seconds Devon stood in wide eyes shock. His friend was completely gone. “Now if you will turn around,” he jumped as he heard Mat’s voice behind him. Turning, he found his friend standing against a discolored section of wall at the back of the cave.
“What the fuck,” baked Devon.
“Remember the area we thought was curiously colored? Well, come to find out its for a reason. It is the other end of the door's path.”
“We carry the door with us, and once we activate it, it’ll bring us back here. To the cave,” answered Matsugo.
“Really? That is so fucking cool.”
“Yea, I found an entry about it in the book. There’s a downside. It’ll always bring us back here, but the door stays behind. So, no matter what we do, we’ll have to go back to pick up the door if we want to use it in other locations.”
“Oh…then it wont work too well for an escape route in case of emergencies.”
“It might. It would at least give us a chance to heal and arm up. Well, have to experiment with it.”
“What keeps the enemy from coming through as well?”
“Good question. I have set the parameters of the door to only respond to Darth and us. Anyone else would walk over it like it was nothing, but that could be useful, leave it on the ground open then add the person as they walk over it, they should drop through ending up here, confused and disoriented, which will give us time to dispatch them.”
“Clever, leave it to you to think of an odd way to use something.”
“Hey, creative spellcasting. It's part of the learning curve.”