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Chapter 3


“Mana is the source of all. It in all its forms is what makes up the bedrock of not only our realm, but the firmament of existence itself. It is the wind that fills our lungs, it is the warmth of the summer sun, it is the frost of the darkest winter. It is all that there ever was and all that there ever will be. So, it is with these final words that I will leave you a warning as you all begin your journey in unraveling its secrets. Never forget or underestimate its limitless potential. Because with enough mana at one’s beck and call, and the Will to wield it, truly anything is possible.”

—Mastering Creation, Mattias Rastler, the Age of Tyrants, circa 3961 

It was beginning to feel like a pattern when Vincent climbed out from oblivion once again, his mind waking up groggy and disjointed as it tried to figure out not only what had happened, but where he now was. This time however, his awakening was not only rather peaceful, but also pain free, a luxury that he was immensely surprised to have.

I…survived? He couldn’t help but wonder as his vision cleared enough to see a gray stone ceiling above him, one that after a couple seconds of staring he realized as being made of brick and not natural stone. W-wait, I made it back to land? What happened to—

His thoughts were interrupted as a fit of agitated coughing to his right abruptly sliced through the silence that he had awoken to, prompting him to try twist in its direction. Yet instead of being greeted by its source, Vincent instead found himself staring directly at a rather thick curtain that hung a few feet away from him. Confused at the sight, and the fact that the sound of coughing on the other side of it quickly turned to that of vomiting, Vincent’s next move was to take a second look at his surroundings as he slowly pushed himself up.

Am…am I in an infirmary? Vincent wondered as he moved, soon realizing that all he had upon him was a thin blanket, whatever clothes he’d been wearing before gone completely. Moreover as he finished pushing himself into a seated position, he realized that he had been lying in a raised bed with several smaller tables on either side of him, stopping just shy of the curtains. The only way out, at least as he saw was towards his feet, where either partition of curtain ended, indicating that there was a hallway of some sort beyond. How did I even get here? Wherever here even is?

It was a question that Vincent fortunately didn’t need to wait long to get an answer to, for as he sat inspecting his surroundings, a squat figure carrying what looked like a stack of linens suddenly walked past the open curtains. One that Vincent’s Insight instantly identified to him as being a dwarf, an exceptionally peculiar one too according to his still waking mind.

Is his body covered in…stone? Vincent asked himself as he and the man made eye contact with one another, a brief flash of surprise appearing on his face. Or at least it did on the part that happened to still be made of flesh and blood, the third that was made of grey rock remaining fixed perfectly in place. However despite the dwarf’s condition, if it were truly a condition, it didn’t seemingly hinder them any as they quickly shifted the bundle that they were carrying to a single hand before raising a single finger in Vincent’s direction. A signal that even as lost and confused as he found himself was extremely easy to understand.


Though given how naked I am, it’s not as if I could really do anything else, Vincent added as he nodded to the dwarf, who promptly continued on his journey without so much as a word. As he left, Vincent couldn’t help but wonder how long he would have to wait until someone came to see him, hoping that it wouldn’t be a long time. More than anything, he needed answers as to what had happened to him, how he had ended up wherever he now was, and perhaps most importantly how his body and soul had fallen so far.

His soul especially.

No, I don’t want to think about that right now, he added with an unexpected panic surging through him, forcing him to take a deep breath to calm himself, lest his mind rush down paths left best uncharted, if for the moment. Needing a distraction, even if it wasn’t a perfect one, he busied himself by lifting the blanket covering him once again and looking at the state of his riven self. 

However even despite bracing himself, the sight of his thin and frail looking body did nothing to make him feel better, his eyes starting with the ribs that protruded all too prominently from under the skin his chest, then going down towards his feet. Along the way he saw little in terms of muscle under his pale skin, certainly none of what he knew should have had. Worse too, he saw the results of his riving in the form of a crooked, malformed arm, and a clubfoot leg that had twisted itself awkwardly to one side. All of which he correlated to the state of his soul, the injuries it had suffered causing the flesh and bone of his physical body to grow unpredictably as it tried to match what the spirit was.

But before Vincent could even begin to consider into how such a thing might have happened, his time alone came to an end in the form of three figures striding into his private partition, the two taller of the trio arriving with a noticeable speed and urgency to their step. Yet much like the dwarf that Vincent had seen earlier though, neither of the pair were what he would have called ordinary, their striking features causing him to abruptly freeze in place.

I…I’d thought that was just a trick of my mind from before, Vincent whispered mentally as his eyes flicked first to the tall, bald, middle aged man that had appeared, instantly noting the pallid and sickly hue of his dark, ashen skin. It was the kind that most people would associate with a corpse, or from the disjointed memories that bombarded Vincent in that moment, a necromancer on the final steps of shedding his mortality completely. Nor was the only notably feature that Vincent could see upon the man’s body, with intricate lines of living shadow visible across his skin appearing as slowly moving rivers of ink. However despite all of that, the man was dressed quite plainly, wearing a simple linen robe that had been pulled tight around his arms so that they wouldn’t interfere with anything he touched.

It was a way of dress that was shared with the other, substantially younger man that had accompanied him, even if there were stains of what looked like dried blood upon his robe. But that was where the similarities between the two of them ended, with the second man displaying wholly different set of traits upon his body. Beginning first with perhaps their most striking feature, Vincent’s eyes couldn’t help but leap up towards the man’s deep azure blue hair, its length closely trimmed as if to prevent the need to actively maintain it. More too, it’s exceptionally short length helped accentuate the faint whorls of green and gold that ran out from beneath the remaining hair and coursed down either side of the man’s head, across his dark skin, and then vanishing down his neck and shirt. Altogether, the two men’s appearances combined with the dwarf’s caused Vincent’s mind to nearly blank as he struggled to determine why they looked the way they did. 

Not that he got very far before one of them started to speak.

“Good morning, Ascendant, you are in a place of safety,” the death mana aspected man said without any sort of preamble, his words coming out soft and kind, if also somewhat hurried, as if he wanted to get them out quickly. “You are in a place of healing, my place of healing. It is a clinic where we take in all who need help, and we have been taking care of you and your injuries. Do you understand?”

It took a second for Vincent for the words to sink into his mind and realize that the Ascendant was him, even if he had no frame of reference at all for the title used.

“Y-yes, I do,” Vincent replied, his voice coming out hoarse and strange sounding to his ear. So strange in fact that it was at that very moment that he abruptly realized that he, and everyone else he had so since waking up in the cart, had been speaking a different language. One that he never recalled learning.

What in realm and all that there is beyond happened to me? Vincent wondered for what had to be the hundredth time, his face mercifully staying still as he gazed back at the man who had spoken. Or to them? 

“Good, that’s good then,” he replied, a slight tension that Vincent hadn’t noticed at first leaving both his and other man’s shoulders. The dwarf on the other hand remained completely placid, simply watching Vincent calmly. “In that case, I’d like to introduce myself as Mender Ayre Conteras, and this here is my son, Theo. I am a qualified Dormant Mender and he is my apprentice. You’ve already met our assistant earlier, his name is Norin. Is there…a name that you would wish to share with us?”

“Um, Vincent,” he quickly replied, not knowing what to make of either of the man’s reactions, nor the subtle trepidation that Ayre spoke with. It was as if he were terrified that he would do something. “Just Vincent.”

“Very well, Ascendant Vincent it is,” Ayre said before going on to motion towards the open space beside Vincent. “Now that you are awake, I’d like to ask for your permission to examine you. You were found…in a dire state and I am afraid your natural defenses have prevented us from doing much more than treating your most visible of injuries.”

My natural defenses? Vincent asked inwardly as he simply stared back at the men, who watched him warily for a response. What do they—wait, do they mean my Insight? If I were rendered unconscious it would have tried to protect me…but enough to stop them completely?

Regardless of what the answer was, the request was one Vincent couldn’t find any reason to deny, especially given the fact that they seemed to know something of what happened to him and had identified themselves as healers.

“Of course, t-thank you,” he replied, both his mind and body feeling more than a little bit shaken despite the fact that he seemed to be out of immediate danger. More to the fact, whoever the people were before him, it was clear that he had been at their mercy for quite some time now and could have easily already harmed, if not killed him, had they wished. “You said that you found me? Where exactly? The last thing I remember is being in water with a large…creature of some kind attacking me.”

“It was the Deepchewer,” the other man, or really a teenager on the cusp of manhood now that Vincent could hear the pitch of his voice, answered as both he and his father slowly rounded either side of the bed Vincent was sitting on. “It was a beast that lived in the reservoir you fell into, eating all things that were unlucky enough to end up in there. That is until it met you.”

“Me?” Vincent asked, it attention shifting for a moment as Ayre gently reached out to take his hand. “You mean I…”

“Killed it?” Theo prompted before going onto nod once. “Yes, yes you did. We found both you and it together, beached on the shores of the reservoir when we were finally able to find out what was causing all the chaos. The purifiers wanted us to thank you for that by the way. That thing was a menace.”

It was a answer that Vincent had no idea how to even begin to start replying to, a barrage of questions quite literally exploding into his mind. Nor did he get the chance to even attempt to do so, for before he could start to form a follow up questions, did he feel a warning flash from his Insight, followed by a sudden presence of death and shadow mana beside him. 

“Ah, I’m sorry for startling you, Ascendant. Are you ready for my examination?” Ayre asked from Vincent’s side as he held his hand, causing him to look in his direction and see that the man was watching him warily. “It should be quick and painless, I assure you.”

“Yes, sorry, you may…proceed,” Vincent replied, taking a breath to steady himself after the response from his Insight, which had immediately caused him to flinch and raise his Will. Not that he could blame it, given that from what he could sense from Ayre the man was practically overflowing with death and shadow mana, to the point where it suffused his entire body and spirit. 

Is… is that why they look like that? Vincent wondered as he calmed himself and let go of the barrier his sleeping mind had put up, allowing the man to begin his examination. Because their entire body has been suffused with aspected mana? 

It was a question Vincent filed away for later as he felt a thin presence of shadow mana start to flow into his arm, guided by Ayre’s faint, tentative Will. Not knowing what to expect from the process, his all too fragmented memories not helping him any, and unable to help but feel wary despite the trust that he granted, Vincent kept his Will at the ready in case he felt something untoward happen. 

But fortunately, nothing of the sort did. 

Moving slowly, glacially slowly from Vincent’s perspective, he eventually felt the Mender’s Will and the shadow mana that he was wielding begin to quest up the arm that he was touching. However the further that it traveled, the slower that it became, until eventually, around Vincent’s elbow he felt it come to a stop completely.

“Hrm,” the man grunted softly, his eyes narrowing in concentration for several seconds that caused a kind of pressure to build up in Vincent’s arm. But whatever the Mender was attempting to do, clearly did not work, prompting him to eventually pull his Will and mana back. 

“My apologies Ascendant, it appears that I cannot conduct an examination after all,” Ayre began in a gentle tone, despite looking suddenly worried. “It appears that your mana channels have been—”

“Riven,” Vincent interrupted, realization of what had happened slamming into him as he stared down at his arm. “That…that explains everything.”


“My mana channels have been riven,” Vincent repeated as he looked back up at the mender. “That’s why I can’t sense any mana unless I’m touching something that holds it. I was wondering why that was. I suppose I should have known.”

“Ah, y-yes, of course,” Ayre replied in a unsteady voice before abruptly falling silent, clearly uncertain, if not afraid, as what to say next.

But why would he be afraid? Vincent thought in the seconds that followed afterwards as he stared back at the man, during which Ayre, Theo, and Norin all exchanged glances with one another. And why do they keep calling me an Ascendant? Is…is that what they call Incarnates in…in where ever it is I am now?

“In that case then,” the man eventually continued once he managed to collect himself, “I must ask you directly so that there are no chance of misunderstandings. You are aware that you have Fallen, yes?”

Oh. That’s why, Vincent thought at the familiar term, suddenly realizing the reason for fear he’d seen. They can see that I am riven. Badly so. So they must know that I have soul melds, dead ones. They must worry that I would be ready to take my own life at the news…or that I will blame them for it as I go wild and slaughter all there is around me in my sorrow with whatever power I have left. Little do they know that I have absolutely none left to me…not that I would be the kind to do so in first place.

Regardless, it was worry that finally made sense in a context of what Vincent understood, prompting him to nod back at the mender.

“I know,” he said simply. “And don’t worry. I know that none of you are to blame for what happened to me, and nor am I inclined to take my life over it.”

“That is…reassuring to hear, thank you,” Ayre said slowly, matching Vincent’s nod with his own. “Now, before we move onto other things is there someone that you would wish us to send a message to in the city so that they might be able to aid you? One of the Dynasty families, or perhaps a guild, or even the guard…?”

This time it was Vincent’s turn to stare blankly back at the man, once again completely at a loss as how to reply. Inwardly he knew that there were people he could call on, Zera, first and foremost, along with what his mind painted as a vague haze of people that would trip at the opportunity to help him. Unfortunately as he soon discovered that shadowy recollection was about as far as he was able to get, his mind simply unable to draw out any firmer detail to tell the two Menders. 

A problem that as with all those that he had encountered so far, his Insight once again picked up on.

Though as it did this time, it didn’t respond with a pang, a surge of knowledge, or anything else that he’d experienced so far. Rather instead, it did so by projecting an image in his mind, one that after a second’s inspection Vincent identified as being his soul, or more specifically the threads of his soul that represented the different facets of his mind. 

Oh…oh no, Vincent said, instantly feeling his hands start to tremble as he saw the wound, the cuts that had inflicted it appearing just as precise as the one he’d seen upon the threshold of his soul. Cuts, that in no way matched the burnt, scarred state of the rest of his soul. Cuts that told Vincent all that he needed to know about what happened to him. 

That somehow, someone, or something, had carved a way into his soul, into his very mind, and stolen a piece of it from him.

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