It took a long while before he was anywhere near ready to sit up. Hamelin focused on breathing, feeling the changes to his body to get a sense of his new strength.
He had used his years of experience to concoct the most powerful mutagen he could handle at his current strength. Normally, a withermancer would rely on pre-existing mutagens, gifted by the Lord of Pestilence to the vexen, and simply customize the effect based on a narrow selection of variables. Without that base, Hamelin had gone through a strenuous process, which would have been impossible without the gift’s ability to accelerate growth.
Having amalgamated his very own mutagen, Hamelin gained at least two advantages. First of, he could perfectly customize it to his new body and its strength, and second, it was his power alone. Relying on the mutagens from the Lord of Pestilence also made you a subject to his power; the implications of which had made Hamelin face defeat in his previous life.
The mutagen would fundamentally reinforce of Hamelin’s body, as well as form the basis of a unique primary strain of disease; a disease which Hamelin, as a withermancer, would be able to control, and possibly enhance into multiple sub-strains. From here on out, each stage of withermancy would demand the creation of a new mutagen, and would result in a new primary strain of disease, from which new subsequent sub-strains could be created.
As an acolyte, Hamelin now had control of his very own primary strain, which he could further develop into multiple sub-strains, as long as he could keep them in check. The initial primary strain was important, because it also formed the foundation of the withermancer.
A weak strain would mean a weak withermancer with little potential. Using his vast knowledge, Hamelin had therefore gambled his life to imbue himself with the most powerful foundation that anyone had ever attempted.
Grinning, Hamelin felt how his blood vessels had been enlarged the mutagen, which allowed for more blood to flow, and thus more oxygen to fuel his movements and growth. Once he had recovered, he was sure he could face of against a fully grown adult human.
Finally having the strength to sit up, Hamilin looked down his body, which was covered in inky-black goo. The process of mutation forced out all other impurities within his body, practically renewing it. His hair had grown longer, the lock of white hair now covering his right eye, and his skin shone in the pale light of the moons.
Stretching out his hand, he released a bit of the disease, trying to sense its potency. Nothing immediately happened, not to the visible eye, at least. Using the senses of a withermancer, Hamelin observed how the disease operated, finding it highly unusual. Normally, the initial primary strain would have a high lethal focus, but that did not seem to be the case for him.
The plants around him did not appear to be much affected by the disease, but Hamelin soon became aware of a nearby mouse, which had crept too close. The disease settled on the little animal, and suddenly, Hamelin found himself becoming aware of the mouse on a different level than simple sight or smell. He felt its breath, felt its small claws cramp up, felt its heart beat faster and faster until it… exploded.
Tilting his head, Hamelin observed the remains of the creature, crouching down for a better look. Its small heart had beat so fast that the organ had exploded in such a violent burst that it had formed a crater in its chest.
Strange, he thought to himself, picking at the remains with a nearby stick, It doesn’t feel like a disease meant to kill its host. Rather, it was like it was trying to… manipulate it?
This was something Hamelin had never even heard about, much less seen before. The strange mental link between himself and the mouse was also a peculiarity he had not encountered before; that alone, cemented his belief that the disease was not a lethal weapon.
But how to use it, then?
For now, he would have to experiment. An unusual strain like this was not a failure, far from it; it might rather become a powerful weapon, if he figured out how to use it. It being unknown was only a significant advantage if he ever got the opportunity to pay back the Lord of Pestilence.
Hamelin grinned, thinking about the prospect of sowing vengeance upon his former patron. Without the abominable curse of the Lord of Pestilence, there was no way he would have died such an unseemly death, and he could also have prevented the death of the golden-eyed girl.
Thinking that he had failed in repaying his debt of gratitude to Lady Silvein soured his mood, despite having just broken through to a new stage. In his anger, he growled and struck out at a nearby tree.
Without any conscious manipulation, his hands should have stayed human, but instead they turned into vexen claws, cutting deep marks into the tree. Surprised, Hamelin looked at the transformed limb. It turned back the moment he willed it, into the pinkish hand of a five-year-old.
The change was no longer forced through the painful break-down of his body, and the rejuvenation of the gift, but almost seemed like a natural extension of his body. It was as if his repeated transformation had ingrained itself into his bones and muscles, and then, in his mutagenic transformation, had changed into a natural extension of his body, like growing hair or nails.
This alerted him to the changes the gift had undergone. Looking down his chest, he saw the tear-drop marking on his chest had grown, along with new markings appearing around it. Several straight lines, tracing the edge of a new circle around the teardrop, had appeared.
Uncertain as to what this change meant, Hamelin nonetheless decided it was a good thing. The night had been productive; now it was time to eat.