Literature / Mana Mutation Menace

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"Mr. Watley, we are going to do our very best to return you to your pre-mutation life, but I don't want you to get your hopes up. You are the first person under our care to regain sapience. Our previous successes are little more than docile pets. We are as knowledgeable about your condition as you are. We will learn, but we need your help to do so. Will you help us?"
Director Pluagi

Eric Watley has recovered from mana mutation but a question remains: is he still Eric Watley? He may look human, but a monster's madness lurks behind his eyes. With the upcoming Mana Mutation Summit, the whole world is watching to see if he is the cure they have been waiting for, or one more beast to be slaughtered. The future of Tariatla rests on his shoulders. Can he convince its leaders of his humanity, while at the same time, dodge his growing list of enemies?

The Trickster's Choice attracts much unwanted attention. Lunas of Latrot, the ordercraft prince, schemes to exploit the menace of Mana Mutation for his own purpose. Joining him are a legion of Eric's old foes, from Gruffle the troll and Nulso Xialin to the Gods of Death. All of them seek to do harm to Eric himself, his friends or his world. So much for being a humble mercenary.

Mana Mutation Menace is the sequel to Looming Shadow and the third book in the Journey to Chaos series. It follows the fallout of the conclusion of the previous book while continuing to build the Constructed World of Tariatla.

Mana Mutation Menace provides examples of these tropes

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Tiza is implied to have whispered a love confession in Nolien's ear just before he is about to be mana mutated.
  • The Bartender: At Full Mug you will find Rab who is both the owner and operator. He'll listen to whatever problem you're having while brewing up some of his taverncraft and give advice as necessary. You don't even need to be in his tavern for the first one; if he sees you on the street it's the same deal. In this story, he listened to Eric's girl trouble (failed attempt at a Relationship Upgrade), Culmus' girl trouble (complicated Uptown Girl situation) and Basilard's girl trouble (his clan is rejecting his adopted daughter and she is rejecting them as well, including Basilard himself) but only had sage advice for the latter.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: There's a big event at Roalt Castle called the "Mana Mutation Summit". It will be attended by heads of state from all over the world and preventing an infiltration is one of the reasons that the castle's queen is stressed on before it begins. She makes numerous magical and mundane security measures but unfortunately for her, the infiltrator is not one for subtlety.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Annala is such a bookworm that she can use the metaphors from many and diverse cultures correctly. She understands the cultural underpinnings for them and uses them in the proper context.
  • Bound and Gagged: Dosh Heleti uses cuffs and a ball gag to restrain Tiza during the Mana Mutation Summit which she escapes from and uses to restrain him in turn.
  • Cosmopolitan Council: The Mana Mutation Summit features world leaders from hundreds of countries, "the sum total of the world". Being a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, these are not ethnics but species: humans, orcs, mermaids, dragons, Talking Animals, etc. The fact that the only elf is only present as an observer is a plot point.
  • Cross Counter: The duel between Tiza and Hailey ends with both of them slugging the other at the same time and then falling over. This shows that, despite their differences they are evenly matched.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Eric has to infiltrate Kasile's castle like some spy to save her from a mindcontrol necklace placed on her by Prince Lunas. Later, during the Mana Mutation Summit, an enforcer taunts her on how often she needs her knights (Eric, Siron, and Culmus) to bail her out of trouble.
    • Tiza is captured during the Mana Mutation Summit but turns the tables on her captor before help can arrive.
    • Annala is collared and teleported out of Roalt by Nulso.
  • Damsel out of Distress:
    • Kasile, with great effort and hardship, succeeds in slaying the enforcer's golem dragon on her own; no heroic knight necessary.
    • Tiza escapes her captor and then subdues him before Nolien can arrive to save her.
    • Nolien's hostage escapes from his grasp using clever thinking and a mana bolt, and reaches the safety of her partner's arms with little more than a scratch.
    • Annala tries to escape Nulso but is overpowered by him.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A reconstruction; the result of Tiza and Hailey's brawl only means that they can't consider the other to be weak anymore. It's in the talk after the fight where they discover how much they have in common (as well as their shared concern for Nolien) that leads to the friendship.
  • Defeat Means Respect: Initially, Tiza and Hailey thought poorly of each other; Tiza that Hailey was an Upper-Class Twit and Hailey that Tiza was Dumb Muscle. They came to blows when their enmity reached a boiling point and it ended with a Cross Counter. They didn't become friends (immediately) but they had to acknowledge the other's ability.
  • Deal with the Devil: Nolien is well aware that accepting Order's help to save himself and his Love Interest, and thus putting himself in Order's debt, will lead to great anguish in the future, but his Moment of Weakness leads him to do it.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: When Gruffle attracts the ire of dozens of protestors at the Mana Mutation Summit he knows they can't defeat him; his power as a necromancer is too great. But there are dozens and dozens of them and all of them are firing mana bolts. "Behold the power of the people!"
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Kasile rips off a necklace given to her by Lunas and dashes it on the ground. It was a semi-sentient mind-controlling necklace and really didn't want to come off. It zapped Eric when he tried to undo the clasp.
  • Freakiness Shame: Kallen dislikes transforming into her true form, a chimera, because she is ashamed of it. When she does a partial transformation to help Eric come to terms with his own mutation, he is fascinated by it instead of horrified.
  • Geeky Turn-On:
    • When Annala is enchanted to seduce her fellow nerd her tactics are the minutes of the Mana Mutation Summit and a discussion of them from various religious, social and political perspectives. Eric is quickly won over.
    • The Dnnac Ledo public library has a "private reading room" that is implied to be reserved for bookworms who get aroused by their studies.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Kallen thinks that Tiza has become a Proper Lady after spending a couple weeks with the Noble Heleti Family. Eric thinks that's impossible. Thus, she wagers ten Ataidar gold coins that Tiza will wear a dress to second Mana Mutation Summit. She arrives in Skirt over Slacks. Kallen's response? "A small dress is still a dress; five gold".
  • Gorgeous Garment Generation: Annala is dungeon diving in the Organic Research Repository when this happens to her. She steps on a floor tile that transforms her light armor into a wedding gown complete with evening gloves and a veil. Her boyfriend happened to be with her at the time and so it flustered her. Then his reaction to it (or rather, his lack of reaction) leads her to saying something she immediately regretted.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In the first book, Tasio's goal was for Eric to Grow A Spine. By now, Eric has become so confident that he sasses Tasio when The Trickster is trying to enlist his help for a new goal.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The public library in Dnnac Ledo is massive. One cannot see the tops of the shelves nor the end of the rows; they extend beyond the horizon; the library is Bigger on the Inside. It contains every book the immortal Walking the Earth elves could get their hands on after thousands of years, more that they themselves have written and it doesn't end with paper books either. It has artifact exhibits, virtual reality booths and jars of informative scents. The only reason Eric doesn't pitch a tent is because he doesn't have it with him at the moment.
  • Hypnotize the Princess: Lunas puts Kasile under his control in two steps: 1.) use his innate Charm Person ability along with More Than Mind Control to convince her to remove her anti-mind control circlet and put on his mind control necklace. It's designed to persuade her against ever removing it and resist anyone attempting to remove it for her. In this way he can effectively rule Ataidar without marrying her (which he still plans to do as soon as possible). Eric has to use a series of Armor Piercing Questions to make her realize the truth and then she removes it herself.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The people of Dnnac Ledo have gone to great lengths to keep the location of their village a secret. 99% of them also insist that any mana mutation problem threatening "the temps" has nothing to do with them. Inviting the Mana Mutation Summt delegates to reconvene there is so tempting that none of them can resist, and instead, they agree to drop whatever greviance they have to go there.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Eric has become a monster that hunts other monsters. He still thinks of himself as human and even after accepting that he really is a grendel he is still sympathetic to humans so he thinks nothing of killing them. Kallen would insist that he does not fit this trope because he is not a monster but a demon.
  • I Have Your Wife: Order twists Nolien's arm into accepting his deal by showing his Love Interest getting kidnapped.
  • Leonine Contract: Nulso Xialin implies that he had little choice in becoming an ordercrafter, "Order cares not if the contract is Leonine" but Eric retorts that everyone has a choice and he threw his away. For context, Nulso is trying to steal something that could prevent the worst condition of his contract and Eric was hired to protect it.
  • Loss of Identity: Mana mutation scrambled Eric's mind and even after recovering from it he feels like a different person. Kallen consoles him by saying that everyone's identity changes as they grow older, and that his mutation did less to change him fundamentally than he thinks.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Nolien has enough stength of will to reject a Deal with the Devil when it is only his life on the line, but when his Love Interest is thrown into the mix then his resolve crumbles.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Annala refuses to consider a relationship with Eric because she is immortal and he is not. "I could blink you'll be a rotting corpse". This very thing happened to her aunt, Triste. Despite all kinds of magical aid to prolong his life, Mori just heeled over one day and it drove her insane. Eric solves this problem by asking Annala's deity, who happens to fancy himself Eric's "bestest friend", to make him immortal like her. He does and Relationship Upgrade ensues.
  • Mind Screw: Why would a goddess encourage blasphemy against herself so long as the blasphemer does so with a sincere passion? note .
  • Moment of Weakness: Fatally injured, trapped in an Orderly Subjugation Field, and forced to watch a live feed of his Love Interest being kidnapped by his evil brother, all conspire to force Nolien's hand into accepting a Deal with the Devil. For context, he had just previously rejected another deal when it was only his life on the line.
  • More Than Mind Control: Prince Lunas Latrot proves the adage "the best ordercrafters don't need ordercraft". He can use charisma and personal insight to control others just as well.
  • Motive Rant: Nulso Xialin, currently possessed by Order, explains why he is invading a village and enslaving its populace while he does so. Ordercrafter are empowered by Law and Stability, so they are supernaturally compelled by their own magic to justify such actions.
  • Noodle Incident: Ginger Hasina is banned from the Mana Mutation Summit because of something she did at the last one.
  • Noodle Implements: When discussing Tiza and Nolien's future wedding, Wiol advises Eric to bring a "a hang glider, forty hardcover books and a great deal of salt" to make sure the ceremony goes smoothly.
    What do any of those things have to do with a wedding?
  • Nominal Importance: Averted on two occasions:
    • Kasile posts two guards outside her castle to prevent Eric from entering at night. Neither one is named and yet they do their job with minimal effort.
    • Two of Nunnal's labratory assistants are named and yet they have as much importance as the ones who remain unnamed.
  • Power Perversion Potential: After a villain collars her with a supernatural device that makes her unable to refuse orders, Annala asks Eric if he's turning into one of those "abusive and controlling boyfriends". He emphatically says "no" and makes sure it cannot happen by ordering her to refuse his orders.
  • Property of Love: To mitigate the effects of a supernatural Slave Collar while researching a permanent solution, Ataidar's Royal Ordercraft Security and Compliance team invokes this trope. Annala would much rather be Eric's (her boyfriend) slave than Nulso's (a creepy older man who happens to be her mother's archenemy). Because Order's respect for free will extends to choosing whom to surrender to it, the ROSCT perform a ritual that switches her ownership from Nulso to Eric. Order allows it because Nulso forced the collar on her. Following this, they say that the "owner" in this couple still not does legally "own" the other and so Power Perversion Potential is still illegal.
  • Pummel Duel: Tiza and Hailey's duel starts with contests of technique but ultimately becomes a slug fest. Neither bothers ducking or dodging but only punching the other as hard and fast as possible.
  • Put Your Gun Down And Step Away: Here's an inverted version of the trope; Nolien, the hero in this situation, uses the "Bonnie" of an Outlaw Couple as leverage on her partner to take off his Mage Killer armor. All three of them know that Nolien doesn't want to kill her, but it's not a chance her partner is willing to take. While Nolien is focused on him, his hostage escapes from his grasp.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Security Chief Talbot recognizes that Eric doesn't like being locked up but refuses to authorize his release because he has demonstrated himself to be unstable and dangerous. When Eric demonstrates greater self-control, and the scientists working with him make a five point argument in his favor, he allows Eric to leave.
    • Lunas invokes this trope at the Mana Mutation Summit by speaking of Medical Mana Mutation's poor success rate and the numerous legitimate programs and objectives the other world leaders could be using Medical Mana Mutation funding for instead. Annala demonstrates that he's full of shit at the same meeting.
  • Resist the Beast:
    • Eric has trouble going full-Grendel because he inevitably losses control over himself to his inner monster. When realizes that there is no inner monster, he no longer has any trouble.
    • In a possible future, Nolien is implied to have done this before committing a tragedy.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Nulso Xialin is still after Annala because he blames her mother and Honorary Aunt for a tragedy in his past.
  • Skirt over Slacks: When going to the reconvened Mana Mutation Summit, Tiza wears a knee-length dress over formal slacks to avoid wearing a full gown.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Meza and his Elven Preservation Society (i.e. the Human Haters) hold the current generation of humans responsible for the Conversion War. They held the last generation responsible and they will hold the future generation responsible. That's what happens when you go to war with a Societyof Immortals.
  • Superhuman Trafficking: Tariatla has a brisk trade in the enslavement of elves, who, in this verse, are basically humans infused with chaotic energy. They're immortal and possess a Healing Factor and so they are used for perpetual labor and dangerous operations, as well as "eternal virgins". A large part of the plot is breaking this trade worldwide.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Immediately after his mutation, Eric believes that he now has a monster lurking in his mind that seeks to wrench control from him and go on a rampage. He later realizes that there is no grendel side; he was only imagining it in order to distance himself from the mutation.
  • Super Toughness: Eric is now a grendel, not a human, and so his body is much tougher. He is able to withstand much greater concusive force and extreme cold than he could before.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Eric prepares for the Mana Mutation Summit in Mana Mutation Menace, he's surprised to find that Tiza has dressed up as well. Before he can say a word, she makes a justification about how it was the outfit she was wearing when she suffered monsanity, and she's definitely not wearing it because Nolien told her that she looks good in it.
  • Thicker Than Water: When a sapient becomes a monster, they will forget everything about their life as a sapient because their mind has been scrambled by the mutation. However, they will still recognize at least one person and be docile around that person. This person is typically a family member with whom they were extremely close. The Mana Mutation Summit features the bond between siblings, parent-child and uncle-nephew as well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kasile gives Nolien a royal dressing down for knowingly setting off Dnnac Ledo's anti-ordercraft alarms, thus endangering the Medical Mana Mutation negotiations and potentially starting a war.
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