Chapter 241 Feast
"A long day, I presume, O Elder" said Fler'gan as carefully held a crystalline crucible over a light blue flame with a pair of tongs. A pale white liquid boiled within the crucible, and a strange, damp smell filled the air.
"I got what I wanted to done," said Aldrich.
Getting Fler'gan started on his potion. Done.
Meeting with the chiefs, done.
Securing their alliance. A work in progress. Gerard still had not given his full seal of approval to Aldrich. But more done than not.
Getting the Blackwater students to stay on his side of their own will to maximize their performance. Mostly done as well. Most of them wanted material goods, and for that, he needed Sentinel status to get proper funding and a city that they could stay in.
"But I still have much more left to do." Aldrich sat in a chair within the confines of the cargo hold where Fler'gan's lab lay. He looked at the cramped, rectangular insides. "Like getting you a proper lab."
"Indeed, this lab is certainly considerably below the likes of the grand laboratories I used to toil away countless hours in." Fler'gan shrugged. "But how can this one complain?
In the later half of my life, upon my exile from my fellow scholars, my lab always changed. From one deserted cave to another. From one forsaken land to another."
"Why were you exiled?" said Aldrich.
"The search for immortality," said Fler'gan. "O rather, the way in which I sought it.
Undeath disrupted the natural order of things. That is the false knowledge the gods spread, and it was the gods that sponsored the scholarly body that I was once proud of.
And the masses ate that drivel up so very easily. I can understand why. To gaze upon lesser undead, the walking, rotting corpses or the trembling white bones that should do naught but rest in graves must truly be horrifying to frail minded peoples under the gods.
Yet if defying death alone was an affront to the natural order, then the gods themselves are prime offenders with their coveted immortality."
"Why search for immortality with such drive? What made you give it all up?"
"Knowledge, O Elder. My kind are all driven to seeking knowledge. From the moment we emerge from our eggs and develop minds capable of sufficient thought, we desire to seek the unknown.
In that regard, we are quite unlike humans that hold an innate fear of the unknown."
"That desire, though, is it really yours? Is it not programmed within you?" Aldrich knew that all Mind Eaters like Fler'gan served a deity called the 'Elder One' that sought to devour all knowledge it could, especially from the brains of live subjects.
The Elder One spawned Mind Eaters and implanted within them a drive to seek out knowledge. Mind Eaters would find that knowledge, return to the Elder One, and then transfer over the memories of their lifetime. Afterwards, the empty, memory-less physical body would get melted down and recycled into a new Mind Eater.
"It may be, but if it is simply my instinctive drive, then there is nothing I can do about it, no?" Fler'gan placed the crucible down on a heat absorbing pad. "Nothing except to take that instinct and make it my own. Instead of finding myself destined to share all the valuable knowledge I learned with the Elder One, I determined it best to hold my knowledge to myself.
Whatever hand one is dealt with at birth, those instincts and drives wired into the very being, cannot be changed. What may be changed is how one handles those instincts.
The path of least resistance is to allow those instincts to take over, but the path of strength is to take those instincts and become their master."
"Ah, this almost slipped my advanced mind. But I have encountered a minor problem of sorts in concocting your potion."
Aldrich cocked his head. "What is it?"
"These enhanced humans possess an innate resistance to mental manipulation," stated Fler'gan. "It is provided by the Alter Organs that fuel their great powers. It seems to create an internal field within the body that wards against outside manipulation."
"Right. That's a known phenomenon," said Aldrich. "It's almost impossible for Alters to use their powers within another Alter. But you're telling me the same applies for our magic based powers? I didn't encounter any issues using things like [Horror Warp]."
As a general rule of thumb, Alters could not just manifest their powers inside another Alter's bodies. For example, if somebody could create flames out of thin air, they could not just do that inside another Alter's head and instantly cook their brains.
There was an intrinsic field in live Alters fueled by the energy of Alter Cells that prevented that from happening. To a smaller degree, Aldrich knew that this also granted resistance to effects like mind control, but he had not expected it to work on magical powers.
"[Horror Warp] introduces a foreign agent from outside to within," said Fler'gan. "So it is more effective. Tell me, how well did my first potion work?"
"Quite well. There was an immediately noticeable shift," said Aldrich, recalling how Casimir warmed up to him near instantly after consuming Fler'gan's mind altering potion via wine.
"Quite interesting. The fact that the solution was drank and introduced willingly into the body likely bypassed much of this innate defense," said Fler'gan. "Though, I suspect, considering how unrefined that initial potion was to Alter physiology, that it only worked to such a degree because the specimen was already open minded towards you to begin with."
"I can see that," said Aldrich. Casimir seemed to not be a man to hold any prejudices. He had an open mind all the time, always ready to pick out the best deals for himself, and that had been his downfall.
Or rise, depending on how a partnership with Aldrich was viewed.
"But imbuing your voice with hypnotic suggestion, I fear, will more easily be resisted," said Fler'gan. "There is a degree of separation between vocal introduction of the hypnotic effect and direct ingestion into the body."
"I only really need to know one thing: will it be effective?" said Aldrich.
"It will. But the specificities of the effectiveness will change," said Fler'gan. "Even with ten eyeflowers, I fear that the potion, when activated, will only grant you perhaps five seconds of strong suggestive capability.
Beyond those precious few seconds, the effectiveness will wane considerably."
"I see. So I really only get one sentence to convince the hearing." Aldrich thought about this for a second. He might get even less than that if the people in the hearing were powerful Alters, though he sincerely doubted it.
Generally speaking, only B rank supes and above started to have high enough AC concentrations where they could start to reliably ward off mind controlling powers.
Aldrich sincerely doubted most of the pen and paper wielders that made up the AA's upper management had high enough AC count to resist the hypnotic suggestion.
It was the time that hurt Aldrich the most. One sentence to convince an entire hearing added a considerable layer of challenge.
"A suggestion, O Elder," said Fler'gan.
"I will add in an additional effect. In exchange for completely limiting the effectiveness of the hypnotic suggestion to a time frame of five seconds, thus preserving its power in a smaller threshold, I can add a condition where the suggestion grows exponentially more powerful when a listener is under strong emotions."
"Indeed. Particularly if those strong emotions are geared towards you," said Fler'gan.
"Interesting. So if I make them hate or fear me, then the suggestion can become even stronger?" said Aldrich.
"That is so. If the emotions are strong enough, the effect can become as permanent as if it had been willingly introduced into the body," said Fler'gan. "A thing to note. In my experience, I have observed that 'positive' emotion opens up the mind far more to invasion than 'negative' emotion, though certainly, both can work."
"Go ahead and make that change, Fler'gan," said Aldrich. "I can work with that."
"Understood, O Elder." Fler'gan's mouth tentacles curled up in reverence. "May fortune favor your future endeavors."
"Feast! Feast!" Volantis's voice boomed through the vast expanse of an enormous dining hall.
Aldrich found himself sitting at one end of a sizable rectangular table packed to the brim with large dishes of every kind. Steamed meats, grilled meats, braised meats, pickled meats, meat prepared in ways that Aldrich did not even know - all of it sat upon the table, just waiting for hungry mouths to devour them.
There were also plenty of vegetable dishes, plates of fruit, and sweet looking breads, jellies, and other confections.
"Devour to your heart's content!" the Death Lord declared from the other end of the table. "Viz, my grand chef, was a man of legend known throughout all lands for his divine skill in the culinary arts. When he heard that we were to have a feast for the first time in who knows how long, he was quite overjoyed.
I assure you, he will not disappoint!"
"I am glad you are back." Valera smiled at Aldrich from a seat beside him. She had on her dress for the occassion, matching Aldrich's suit well.
"Right," said Aldrich somewhat absent-mindedly. He thought about what his troops had accomplished for the day.
In the first trial quest, they had harvested six eyeflowers already. As Aldrich had hoped, the Geist claimed ownership of all six flowers using Crow's help, though if the Geist had not had a friendly relationship with the other creatures, Crow alone would have done nothing.
Aldrich wanted the leader of his monsters to be one capable as a leader, not just as the strongest among them all. The Geist seemed relatively well suited towards the role.
Okeanos had completely smashed through the second trial quest, and for his troubles, Aldrich had obtained the corpse of a Gigant Worm and spellbooks.
But most importantly, Aldrich received the hierophant's finger, sand seal, and a genie. The genie complained quite a bit from getting removed from her tomb, and she was thoroughly depowered to the point she had no wish conjuring power, but over time, Aldrich figured she could amass enough power to create a wish which would be invaluable.
The hierophant's finger, Aldrich had hopes that he could ask the Death Lord to try and raise. The hierophant was an immensely powerful figure of legend who was said to have the ability to call down the stars themselves, reshaping entire lands with meteor showers.
Getting that as an undead would no doubt make Aldrich's military might near unquestionable.
The sand seal was useful too, as it granted Aldrich a strong defensive matrix, though since it was immobile and anchored to one spot, it would only really get useful once he established a more permanent base.