Authors: Brian Wilkerson
Journey to Chaos book 3: Mana Mutation Menace
By Brian Wilkerson
Copyright filed: 2015
First draft completed:
Map Design and
Illustration: Brenna Albert
Editing and Formatting: BZHercules
Editing and Consulting
Cover Design and
Illustration: LLPix Photography
This book is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s
imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coinci-dental.
All rights reserved.
Except as permitted under
the U.S. Copyright Act Of 1976, no part of this publication may be repro-duced,
distributed or Transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database
or Retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the Publisher(I.E.
Pirating Joke number 3:
What do you call you call
someone that downloads an ebook without paying for it?
What do you call someone
who does something else to compensate the author for it? (A review, fan work, a
good word with their friends etc.)
A fan who pirates or a
pirate who is a fan.
-My beta readers for helping
me to refine this book.
-My parents for their
continued support of my writing career/paid hobby.
-My fans for their interest.
Talking with you at my Facebook author page has been fun.
Table of Contents
The sounds of heavy footsteps echoed on a stone floor. Security
cameras watched the maker closely as they ran down a hallway. It was a teenage
boy, no older than fifteen years. He was muscled from regular physical labor,
and he carried a spear in his hands, but considering his world, he did not look
especially threatening. Certainly not enough to warrant armed and armored
guards stalking him at a distance. It was his name that gave them pause.
Eric Watley was known by many names. He was The
Trickster’s Choice, and thus a harbinger of change both good and bad. He was
the Vessel/Landlord of Dengel, and thus a formidable mage. On this day in
question, he was known by a third and more fearsome name: Grendel the Modern
Seven days ago, he fought a monster in a cloud of magical
energy known as Fog. In the course of that battle, he used magic that
de-stabilized the Fog and caused an explosion. Instead of destroying him, it
mutated him. His body and mind were twisted into a monster known as a “grendel.”
Two warrior mages found him and, together, they subdued him. They brought him
to this facility, the Containment Wing of the Roalt Branch of the International
Community Dedicated to Mana Mutation. Here, he was treated and here, he was
cured. Now he walked again as a human being, but the scientists of the ICDMM
remained wary. As a result, so did their security forces.
First of all, he shapeshifted to his human form on his own
and didn’t remember doing so. Second, during a discussion with his teammates,
he was pre-occupied with food and personal threats and these were two of three
constant thought patterns observed in monsters. Third, his eyes momentarily
returned to that of a grendel when he asked if he could eat another human. Eric
Watley was the first monster to be cured of monsanity, the monster mentality,
by humans in a controlled setting. No one knew what to expect, so the ICDMM had
prepared for the worst.
The walls were made of stone and reinforced with both
steel and powerful magic runes. Every inch of every hallway was monitored at
all times. If a monster escaped, they would find more barriers to hinder them
and plenty of countermeasures designed to put them down. The general populace
would be safe, but the scientists and soldiers stationed here would be at risk.
It took a veteran magic knight wielding a magic sword and rare bloodline magic
to bring the grendel down the first time. If Eric relapsed and became a grendel
once again, all of them could die.
So far, that did not seem to be the case. After civilly
talking with his teammates, Eric expressed alarm that the receptionist of his
guild was worrying about him. He ran out of the room and spoke to himself of
the numerous friends he wanted to see and reassure that he was all right. Then
he passed by a room where two scientists were listening to the radio.
“This nation is going to shit because our so-called
‘divine queen’ is putting out for a foreign prince,” talk show host Quikis
Limberpug claimed. “Seriously, he’s got her wrapped around his little finger.
It’s only a matter of time before he makes her wear a collar and leash like his
other female subjects.”
Eric stopped dead in his tracks. The guards following him
tightened their grip on their weapons. One of them gulped.
“Threat,” Eric whispered.
“Why, just the other day, a valiant patriot snapped a
photo of them in the royal courtyard. No one else was there. Her Slutty Majesty
claims they were ‘discussing agricultural trade agreements,’ but we all know
what they were
Eric’s eyes spontaneously shifted into something
resembling a cat’s. They were slitted and feral. When he spoke, it was not with
a human voice but something deeper and savage.
The guards prepared to pounce, but their leader held them
back. He wanted to believe that Eric wouldn’t relapse so quickly. After tasting
the hope of a cure, he didn’t want to squash it so soon. He waited to see what
Eric would do. The mercenary brandished his spear and leapt into the room.
The scientists jumped away as he harpooned the radio. The
sound cut off immediately, but Eric wasn’t finished. He re-chambered his spear and
stabbed it twice more. It shattered into fragments and tiny, magical explosions
sparked like fireworks. Still not satisfied, he stomped on the wreckage. Then
he raised his head and appraised the two scientists. They stood to either side
of him, too terrified to breathe.
He gave them both a once over. “
The scientists sighed. “
He pounced on the meatier one. Then he howled in pain as
three lightning stun spells zapped him from behind. Spinning quickly, he
snarled at the guard mages who cast them. Abandoning the food, he attacked the
new threats with a spear thrust. It clanged off another guard’s shield. Eric
roared as wind gathered around him. He attacked again and, this time, he
rebounded off a wall made of air.
Other mages had trapped him in a Wind Vault. To all six
sides, a wall of air enclosed the monstrous human. He slashed, kicked, punched,
and head-butted them, but they were as firm as the wall of Constantinople.
“Put him back in his cell,” the lead guard said. “Forget
he was ever sapient. It was just a cruel joke by The Trickster.”
A girl emerged from among the guards. She was the youngest
person present, but everyone gave her a wide berth regardless. She was dressed
as they were, but she was not like them. Her shoulder-length hair was green and
streaked with golden-brown. She carried a staff topped with a crystal arrowhead
like Eric did. She was Kallen Selios, and like Eric, she carried other titles.
Among them were The Trickster’s Choice and his Favorite Follower. Moreover, she
too was a Modern Demon, but cured under different circumstances.
“If you let me talk to him, I can reach him.”
“Kallen, he is too dangerous.”
Please, Uncle Talbot
The human man gripped his sword hilt and took a breath.
“I’m not your uncle. I don’t know why I ever let you start calling me that. You
have one chance.”
Kallen smiled. “Thank you very much. I won’t let you
down.” She approached Eric and asked, “Eric, what’s wrong?”
was a threat to my little sister! I had to destroy it! Now I’m hungry and those
threats are stopping me from eating!”
“These people are not a threat to you,” she said softly
but firmly. “They’re simply defending their friends, like you were doing for
Eric cocked his head.
What is ‘friend’?”
“Do you remember Revas and Oito? The people you studied
with at Roalt Public High?”
Eric was silent for some seconds. The feral look left his
eyes and they returned to the shape typical of humans. His voice resumed its
human pitch as well.
“Oh…If that’s what it’s like.” He turned to address the
scientists. “Sorry about trying to eat you. I didn’t know you were someone’s
“So you remember friendship?” Kallen asked.
Eric nodded. “A friend is family that’s not family.
They’re not threats because they help you counter threats, they’re not food
because they help in finding food, and they’re not obstacles because they also
help in overcoming obstacles.”
Kallen giggled. “I forgot how simple the monster mentality
“What do you mean?”
Kallen gestured to Talbot and he instructed the mages to
create a hole in the Wind Vault. Kallen grabbed Eric’s shoulder and smacked him
on the side of the head with her horn. There was no mistaking the bony
protrusion growing out of her forehead. The pupils in her eyes were triangles.
For the first time in Eric’s memory, she was deadly serious.
the only one in this world who can understand what you are going through."
The horn retreated, her pupils returned to normal, and she smiled perkily.
"I can empathize with you and be truly sympathetic to your condition. I
want to help you because I care about you as a person, regardless of personal
gain. This means I am your friend.”
“Okay. So there’s threats, obstacles, food, family, and
“There’s more categories besides that.”
“Really?” Eric asked, intrigued. “What are they?”
“There’s neutral; people and things that do not fit in any
of the categories. Most people you meet outside this facility will be neither
threats, obstacles, food, family,
friends. People like these
scientists here are neutral.”
“Do you mean that if I’m hungry, I can’t eat the nearest
living or non-living thing?”
The guards readied their weapons. Kallen held up a finger
for one more minute, and Talbot told them to stand down.
If you did that, it would make me angry. It
would make Annala angry. It would make Basilard angry. It would also make the
Royal Guard angry, which would increase your personal threats and decrease your
food. Do you want that to happen?”
“Good. Do you remember the conditions under which you
would attack someone before you mana mutated?”
Eric closed his eyes and then his body went slack. Again,
Talbot’s unit readied their weapons because it resembled the berserker stance
of other monsters. Again, Kallen pleaded for time and again, Talbot told them
to stand down.
Eric opened his eyes and said, “I remember it was only if
they attacked me first or a family or a friend. I don’t remember attacking or
coming to the defense of any….neutral.”
Kallen leaned back, satisfied that the worst was over. “As
long as you stay true to your memories, you’ll stay out of trouble.”
“Okay, so can I go now?”
“What’s the first thing you want to do when you arrive in
“I want to visit my little sister, Mia, and assure her
that I’m all right.”
Kallen looked over her shoulder at Talbot. “Satisfied?”
“It’s not my call,” Talbot replied. “The board of
directors will decide whether or not to lock him up again. You know what my
recommendation will be.”
More winds gathered and lifted the Wind Vault off the
ground. Eric was escorted to the Director room within this cage. He was chatty
and friendly, but they couldn’t take a chance on him. Lurking underneath it all
was the mind of a monster. They had heard his voice, seen it in his eyes, and
watched him attempt to eat someone. It was too dangerous to treat him like a
sapient. Despite all appearances, he was a threat to them.
At an unremarkable door, Talbot flashed a badge to release
its lock. Inside, the guards again took up positions around Eric/Grendel.
Kallen stood next to him for assurance. The chief of security punched in a
sequence at a crystal console and the conference call began.
Ten holographic screens sprang up in front of the party; although
separate, they melded into a single frame. Each one represented a different
creature: a human, an orc, a dwarf, various beastfolk like a mermaid, a cat
demon, bird-meta-human, etc. There were no elves present. Regardless of what
they called themselves, they all expressed shock at what they saw.
“Mr. Watley is human again?!” the dwarf demanded. “When
did this happen?”
“Today,” Kallen replied, snatching initiative from Talbot.
“Less than an hour ago, in fact. The first thing he did was reconnect with his
teammates in the Dragon’s Lair.”
“That’s fantastic news!” the human shouted. “Then why is
he in a Wind Vault?”
human again,” Talbot said, beating
Kallen to the punch. “His appearance is superficial. Behind his eyes, there’s a
monster. It tried to kill and eat two of our scientists.”
“He’s not savage anymore,” Kallen insisted. “He’s just…using
a different set of logic. I have a theory that his monster instincts are guided
and interpreted by his human memories.”
“Like a radio badmouthing Queen Kasile,” Talbot said. “It’s
now in pieces. Again,
he tried to eat the scientists listening to it
despite not considering them threats.”
“He apologized after I explained the situation to him,”
Kallen added. “He’s just confused. I can help him understand.”
“What if he helps
to understand?” the mermaid
Kallen narrowed her eyes. “What are you implying?”
“It’s our job to detect hostiles in this facility and direct
Security Chief Talbot and his corps to neutralize them before they harm anyone.”
“In other words, he hunts threats just like Eric does.”
,” the orc director said. “We understand how
important this is to you. Your enthusiasm is what makes you effective as a
field agent. However, this is not the field. This is the Containment Wing. You
must bow to Talbot’s experience and expertise. Do you understand?”
Kallen sighed. “Yes, sir.”
“Security Chief Talbot, what is your recommendation?” the cat-meta-human
“Ma’am, it is my expert opinion that Eric Watley, A.K.A.
Behind the holograms, a dreaded figure appeared. It was an
elf-like man with pointed ears and long, golden-brown hair. His outfit looked
like it came out of
Mid-Winter Night’s Dream
. Hovering above the steel
and stone, he glowed dimly with divinity. Then, wearing a malicious smile and
sinister eyes, he waggled his pointer finger at Talbot.
The Trickster drew this finger across his throat.
“Security Chief Talbot, is something wrong?”
The same finger that Tasio used to threaten moved to his
lips in warning.
“No, ma’am. He should be allowed to roam the facility,
un-fettered but with an escort, while we learn about his miraculous recovery.
Until we ascertain the truth of what happened—”