Green Goddess

I don’t even know what’s happening anymore. My ears are buzzing as the guys talk about what to do with the body. I can’t look at any of them. There’s shouting for a moment about the body rising, but a few bursts of magic and it is down again. Dalish animates it, to keep the shadow from doing it again. I can’t look at any of them. What are we doing?

A couple of them start talking to the air, and Klyce materializes out of the mists. The others explain what has been happening, and we move on. The haze is thickening as we go down. Too much for a normal mana mine. It feels weird, like static in the air. The shadowman follows us, ranting. Easier to focus on his madness instead of my own.

He caught them scheming against the king, but he wasn’t fast enough. They enfeebled him and send him down to the mines. Him, Arnis Lysander. It took him months to regain his mind, but the mana degrades and warps. It erased his ability to cast spells. He lost track of time between escape attempts. They took bits of him every time, until his mind was gone. Then She came. She restored his mind and his magic. She promised to restore his body. If only he would break the Bones. He will gladly repay her, gladly kill a thousand people. One small family means nothing to him. He wants to finish this.

We arrive in a chamber, much like the one that led us to the gods the first time we were ever here. This one, however, has four of the mutant prisoners and one horribly distended, bloated, purple body. They posture at each other, and bring up Rictus one last time. He laughs about Rictus’ clone factory, and says that should we find Rictus’ own clone, only then would we have a chance of ever defeating him. He says that those clones won’t work for us, we’re blocked down here, from that magic. Too much mana, too much static down here.

The fight begins and Klyce, in scorpian body, starts attacking Nat. Klyce gets controlled too easily, I levitate him up to the ceiling until he calms down, edging my way into the room. When I let him down again, he starts attacking me, until Gerhardt dispells the mind control. Lysander put up a barrier to block our spells, so they group focuses on the mutants, while I work my way around the room. I got too close though, and everything turn to blackness.

There is darkness. And a green hill. And something Very Important. Nothing. Red smoke. “Revenge is my purview, witch!” Blackness.

I wake up in bed with Marybeth beside me and Nat curled up near our feet. Everything hurts! Remy knocks on the door, but we make him wait a moment. What happened, is he dead? I don’t know if he’s dead. What? It’s too much and we let Remy come in to change my bandages.

They tell me that I died. But then a glowing green figure with six arms rose in my place with a blinding flash. They say this figure called down lightning right through the earth, ripping the mine wide open. They say that when Lysander tried to get away, the figured ripped open a five hundred foot crevice through the mine to get at him and destroy him. They say it called such a horrible storm down. But then it was suddenly gone, and they found me, badly burned where it had been.

We gather up with all the others, and I tell them about the red smoke and what it said. Afraid for a moment that it was Lysander, but the others remind me he was black shadow, and Nat assures me he is gone. The others think maybe it was the Wandering Vengeance. Klyce admits that he sees red auras around people who hurt him when he fights, and tells us about how his father died. Maybe he opened the door in his anger to this god.

We take stock. Nat’s dad is still unconscious. The town seems safe, the prisoners are no longer running amok. There are, however, strange things still happening in the castle. We have to find Vlad Tepish and the other invader and stop them. First, though, we get all the townspeople safely back out of the castle and to their homes.

Hard Times and Assassination

Hardin Klein explains that his mission is to figure out how to use mana without having to dig it up and refine it. The cost of doing so is growing too great. He asked them to find someone like Xin Yue for him to study, and the picked me. I’m furious, but there’s nothing to be done about it. He’s not planning any of the ridiculous experiments his underlings had been doing.

I try to explain my magic to him, but since most of it suddenly appeared one day, I don’t think it will help any.

Some comes from the earth, like Xin Yue. Some comes from the old goddess, the Dawnmother. Some may come from the evil eye of the dead fae god, Balor, but I haven’t tested that yet. The rest… Well, a hag in the woods said it came from murder, but I didn’t kill anyone when I got my magic. Honestly. I think she was referring to the Old War.

Poor Mr. Klein spent hours asking me questions and I spent hours explaining that I had no clue how I did it. I showed him what I could do, and talked about how I made the elements do what I wanted. I told him all about the Dawnmother and my prayers to her. I even explained Balor and the horrible, awesome power as we destroyed his eye. This went on for months.

Then, one morning, I woke up and something was wrong. Mr Klein hadn’t seen me for several days, and I had no memory of that time. He looked into my head and noticed my memory had been modified. I begged him to fix it and he did, though it took some doing.

Rictus had taken me away from the facility. He made me do things. But it wasn’t me! I didn’t have control! I can see in my memory, watching my body kill people. It’s foggy, but I think there were six of them over those days. Then he wiped my memory!

I think I had a bit of a screaming fit after I realized what happened. Some of it in Sendings to Dalish, some to my other friends. I’m not sure I was coherent at all, but they all agreed it was horrible. Klyce, as usual, was the most reasonable of the group.

He suggested I tell people about what was happening. Put pressure on Rictus to get him to stop wiping my mind at least. I wouldn’t be able to stop being his instrument of death, but at maybe he would stop messing with my head.

Mr. Klein looked terrified at the idea of going against Rictus. Aleria replied to my plea saying that Primes are above the law, and short of a Certimum, there’s nothing to be done. I asked Dalish to ask Rictus if he would meet with me, and if not, would he at least stop wiping my mind, I’d do what he wanted. Dalish passed the message along, then told me Rictus said it was better if I didn’t know what my body was being used for! That just made it ten times worse!

Next, Klyce suggested I try and gather political power to put pressure on Rictus. I asked Dalish if his party could do anything, and he apparently caused a scene at a meeting. One of the members did come talk to me, though. He said that I needed to get more political allies, and change the law which put Primes out of legal danger. He also talked to people on my behalf so I wasn’t stuck inside the facility all day every day. I got to go into the city on weekends.

It happened again. I lost a few days again. Mr. Klein wouldn’t help this time. He didn’t seem to understand what I was asking. I think Rictus might have broken his mind a little bit, too. I sent to Remy, asking if his party could help. They want to limit magical use and abuse. He got a representative to come talk to me. He insisted I join their party if I wanted their support, it would help with lobbying the other parties if I was a member and not just an independant. So, I agreed and the following weekend, I signed up with the Magical Regulation League.

But nothing happened. No one could figure out who it was I had killed even. I was still stuck trying to explain my magic to Mr. Klein. He continued to grow more and more despondant as it lead him nowhere. I didn’t lose any more days, though, before it was time for our Harvest Festival shore leave. I was so grateful when the day finally arrived.

Captive… Again

Once we’re all gathered back up with Chirina, we decide we had better let her in on the whole mess. We start with the assassins and their contact and our plan to meet him at the bar. Remy tells her about his magic hat, because she can actually speak Italian, but she’s not particularly interested in getting mixed up with DiRudio’s business. Eventually, we give up hedging and just tell her about our magic. This goes as well as could be expected. She doesn’t run out and call the police, but she sure is scared of us now. I ask the Dawnmother to help out her uncle a little bit, and manage to heal some of his bedsores, but he is too far gone for much else.

We head out to the bar to wait for the contact that night, but no one shows. We say with Chirina and take watches that night, getting a good rest despite the cramped chambers. A nurse stops by in the morning to check on Uncle, and Remy and I go get groceries for breakfast. One more day at the bar, and one more day of nada.

Third times the (ill) charm? Day three, about a dozen men with red armbands approach the bar while we wait and head inside. Next thing I know, Gerhardt is being chased outside by several of them, who are beating him up. Dalish is calling for the constables, and Chirina is rushing inside. I try to get them off Gerhardt, but give up and head for the officers myself. They eventually get to the bar and start arresting people, including Gerhardt. Dalish and I follow them all as witnesses, but make up stories about not knowing what happened and they release us. Gerhardt is held for trial, they tell us.

Back at Chirina’s, we meet up with Remy who says they’d come in, knowing he was American and trying to get him to go with them. When he refused, a fight broke out, and they had guns, so it got a bit messy. Chirina goes outside to keep watch for any more of the men. She says they’re agitators for Sardinia, wanting Rome to give in to the Kingdom. Dalish says he has to check on Gerhardt the next day, so we make plans to head north after that. Hit the hot springs then head for DuRudio.

Dalish heads out early to check on Gerhardt. When he returns, it’s only with a message. Gerhardt was taken away by carriage in the night and is now being held in a nice room. While we discuss what this could mean, another message comes in. He’s an hour north of Rome by carriage, at an estate. I send back to him, asking for details of the route or the estate, and he manages to let me know a few landmarks to find him.

With Chirina’s help, we manage to get out of the city and up near the estate in question. Heyhey goes on a scouting run and sees a Lot of guards in the place, and on the walls, but the front gate is wide open. Inviting us into the trap. I let Gerhardt know we’re here, and he says his snake is scouting the building, and he has no windows in his room. Nat sends in her invisible eye to take a look around and finds two rooms she can’t get into. Gerhardt’s snake leads her to the smaller one where he is staying.

Remy and I sneak a bit closer, discussing whether he should go talk to the guards, or I should try to magic my way in. I’ve got a new spell and if the snake can get in and out, maybe it’s just protected against divination. He eventually agrees that I should try. I concentrate and try stepping through the air to the area Nat described to me. And end up outside the door, with a guard to either side.

I shout for Gerhardt to open the door and fight off the guards, mostly by dodging them. Gerhardt manages to get the door open, but one of the guards kicks him back inside, and then follows him in. More guards come rushing up and it becomes too much. I get grabbed up, gagged, bound, and tossed inside.

I ask Gerhardt what happened once he unties me, and he says that he met a guy in the prison who was also looking for the stolen plans. The guy said he’d give us a three day head start, but then Gerhardt was brought here. It doesn’t make any sense. I let Remy know that I got caught and they’ll have to make a new plan. The room is a private sanctum, so there’s no magicking us out.

Summer Distractions and Treason

Fathers Kevin and Carmine pray with me and seem to enjoy my help around the church. Nat says we need the gods to put this war to rest, so I’m going to do everything I can to get the Dawnmother’s help. I spend hours and hours praying to her. I attended every service, every day for three months straight.

I don’t hear her, not like when she was right there in front of us in the time bubble, but I can feel her. I can feel her presence around me, watching me. I find I can channel this feeling into magic. It’s not like the other spells I cast, it helps people. I can help someone with a small task by asking for her Guidance. I can stop Remy from bleeding out when he knocks himself unconscious with his experiments. I can even do a tiny bit of healing like Dalish, but at much lower a cost. If I take my time, I can even help multiple people.

The Fathers say they have never seen the like before. I can feel the strain, too. The Dawnmother seems to be pushing against something to watch me, to help me. It isn’t easy, but I believe she is trying to help. If she is trying, maybe the others can help, too. Nat will have to help us figure out how to contact them, though.

It takes me a month of evenings, working with Xin Yue to get my bond back. She helps me through a purification ritual to reconnect with the earth and renew my bond. When I am finished, my hair has also grown back, long as ever, to signify the pact is complete. I know I can harness thunder and lightning through my bond with the earth, but I’ve always leaned away from these forces. They are so much more destructive than the air. With this renewal, however, I feel the pulse of the earth stronger, now.

I feel the storm coming. It’s never a good idea to stand against the storm. So, I’ve leaned into it. I’ve learned new ways to harness the earth magic. To imbue my strikes with thunder, to call lightning from the clouds. I’ve even figured out how to move longer distances than the noisy Thunderous Step, and send my words on the wind to go further.

The others spend the summer researching and creating new spells. Gerhardt works on some potions, as well. Remy trains and spends time with Aranea. I don’t know what he’s going to do, she’s going to kill him if he can’t find a better way. We help out here and there with small investigations. Pyrus gets elected as the new Prime. Everything settles back into a normal routine as the beginning of the next presumptive school year draws closer.

Then Klyce comes to us one day, two weeks out from school. Philomena didn’t come home when she was supposed to. Her boat didn’t arrive. We try sending spells and scrying spells, but nothing connects. Everyone dives into action. Dalish and Maribeth go dig up information on the boat and the company that owns it. Remy asks his family about anything they might know about vacation spots in Italy. Klyce keeps going down to the dock. Several days later, the ship arrives, without Philomena and her family.

The captain tells Klyce that he waited several days, but they never showed up. Captain Barnes tells him the name of the town they departed from near Rome. Klyce asks about his schedule and getting passage on the return trip to Italy. It’s going to be a little while for him to unload his cargo and get new.

Klyce reports back and Remy goes back to the Maiden’s Folly to talk to the captain about chartering the entire ship, sans cargo, for a return trip as soon as possible. Barnes says he can leave in two days, and it’ll cost 1500. Remy asks about a discount if we can help the ship go faster. I help with that negotiation, and we agree to pay in full up front, and get 50 back for each day we take off the week-long trip. Gerhardt goes to his party and gets Tongues in exchange for future service, as none of us speak Italian. Dalish reads up on Italy and lets us know that magic is not welcome there.

Dalish then goes to tell Rictus that we plan to go to Italy to rescue Philomena and her parents. He forbids us going as we are government officials under his control. We all sit down for a big discussion. Klyce is going, but he doesn’t expect any of us to risk Rictus’ wrath. I point out to everyone that disobeying Prime Rictus in this manner could get us all arrested and executed. I don’t care, but some of them have family to think of. Maribeth says she can’t risk it, she has to take care of her mother. The rest of us will go, consequences be damned. But we convince Dalish that he needs to stay with Maribeth, keep her safe, and maybe keep Rictus off our scent for a few days.

Philomena sends Klyce a message. Her parents have been captured. She’s going to rescue them, and isn’t sure she’ll make it back. He replies to her, letting her know we leave for Italy in two days, and should arrive in Ostia within nine. He asks her to send her location if she can, and to meet us if she is able. Klyce then asks Maribeth and Dalish to try official channels to get her parents back while we set sail. He doesn’t want either of them to lie to Rictus, just try not to mention it for a while. Aleria wishes Nat a good fishing trip when she tries to go leave a note.

Two days into our voyage, Dalish appears on the ship, spellbook in one hand, and pajamas on. I send a message to Maribeth that Rictus is in our house, and just teleported Dalish to us. I don’t get much of a response other than shrieking panic. This is not what we had hoped for, but at least Rictus didn’t come himself and whisk us all back home.

Official Mage Detective Squad

Maribeth doesn’t get up the next morning, so I head down to breakfast without her. We’re all intent on getting back to our studies, hoping Philomena doesn’t get pissed off and send us all chasing down murderous fae again for a little while, at least. When a messanger comes in, we all groan softly into our eggs. He hands us all letterss from the Prime Council. stating that there will be a Deliberative in three weeks, and all adult mages, and ourselves, are encouraged to attend. Oh boy, what did we do now? Just stopped a murderous cult and all, surely they’ll want to punish us for that, too.

However, this does give us an excuse to study for three weeks, uninterupted… hopefully. Remy sets off to retrieve Maribeth’s sickle from the police, but when he returns, she has come down to lunch with it in hand. Dalish begins deciphering the spell book he stole, sorting out the spells and noting a lot of research on free-willed undead. Gerhardt, Dalish, and I all work on our alchemy lessons. Turns out potion making is trickier than it looks. In my spare time, I do manage to help Nat get started learning Braille. Remy spends his time working on his blade spell, and Maribeth spends an unnerving amount of time with her sickle.

The three weeks fly by in our rush to learn all the things before they send us off to fight a war none of us are sure is justified. Nevertheless, the Petals are even more beautiful than the last time we visited, despite the explosion last semester, the air is simply teeming with mana. We head right for the the Tower of Justice for the Deliberative.

The Primes sit at the head of the room, on … well, thrones, if I’m honest. So much for getting rid of royalty. Hadrius, Whist, Aleria, Namera, Gerrald, Jor, Rictus, and Etherion all preside high over this gathering of around 150 mages. We are directed to sit in the front row of the bowl-shaped auditorium.

Hadrius begins the gathering, asking Whist to report on the “War of Extermination.” We all exchange glances at this terminology, although none of us are truly surprised. Whist reports that the conflict goes well, with minimal non-mage losses. He states that most tribes have chosen relocation out by the Rockies. A total of 500,000 natives will be relocated at recent count. Much land has been freed up for the prospecting of mana, and the incoming mana is forecasted to quadruple in the next five years. He predicts that the war will wrap up in the next year, so there is no need for further conscription.

Hadrius accepts this report and calls for a motion to clarify the status of students with unfinished schooling. He believes that educational requirements should not be waived, for reasons of societal and mage safety. He proposes that students be recognized as adults, but still be required to complete their studies as time allows. This motion passes, and we all whisper welcomes to adulthood to each other.

Rictus speaks next, asking the group of us to approach. He notes that our group, just now confirmed as adults, have been taking on investigations throughout the city, and that our talents outstrip that of many graduates. He mentions us involving ourselves in classified matters, and our recent clearing of all charges in those matters. He extolls our taking of direct action to safegard the city, and motions that we be recognized and rewarded for our actions. His glare around the room squashes any objections before they can even begin, and he declares the motion has passed. He then moves that we be given official authority to deal with such matters.

The room erupts in objections, similar to ones we have voiced among ourselves. We are just kids. These threats shouldn’t be our responsibility. And there are calls for more information about these classified threats. Rictus, however, stands strong, and refuses to speak about it. I stop listening for awhile, until Remy steps forward.

He says we were children, but the things we have done and the things we have faced have forced us all to grow. Then he goes on a bit about responsibility, ending with his acceptance of the responsibility. Several others nod in agreement. Ugh! Guys! This is our chance to get out of it, but no, everyone wants to be responsible and adult. I just want to be a kid again. Not that that’s really possible, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

The vote passes, barely. Rictus tells us that we will be given offices and a case tomorrow. We sit down again and listen as mages complain about mana supplies and the state of things. The Primes insist that the end of the war will solve these probems. They beg just a little more patience. At some point I hear Rictus say that some day, man could be transcended, and I do Not look up at him.

After the meeting breaks up, the man who showed us to our seats, Brook, takes us down to the 7th floor to a cramped corner office in the Bureau of Investigations. We have desks and empty filing cabinets, and Dalish immediately starts creating paperwork to fill them. Brook tells us that we’ll also be getting accommodations in the next day or so. We let Dalish write for a little while, but then go back to the school to gather our things and sleep one last time there. The rest also fill up their phials with mana, just in case.

When we return to our office, Brook gives us the address to our new accommodations, and each a key. He says there is no compensation for our work, but we will have acess to 500 motes of mana a month. An expense report is required detailing how it is spent. Dalish says he’ll take care of it. We are also given a case file of a strang phenomena in Brooklyn. There is an impermeable, half mile radius dome that showed up over a month ago. In the last few days, something about it has changed. Our immediate attention has been requested. Before we head out, the New Gnosis Chronicle arrives, and we are front page news. Our story, along with our full names. We are declared Heroes of the City. Kings of New Gnosis!

We decide to head to our place to drop of our things before heading out on mission. It is a beautiful skyscraper, with twists as it rising far into the air. There are floating pools and balconies. It’s the most lavish thing I have ever seen. We go inside, but our address is in the basement. What should we expect, right? But the number of addresses in the basement is crazy! When we put our key in one of the basement doors, we step right into a mansion! Some one says something about a guy named Mordenkeinen and that we can design the whole thing exactly how we want. How cool is that! And there are ghostly servants, and all the food we could ever eat! This is the best place ever! We all jabber about everything we want to include for a while. Bedrooms, Library, Labratory, Workout Space, a Lounge. So many cool things we could do with this.

Eventually, we remember we have a job to do, and head out to check out this dome. We see nothing until we’re right up on it. Sure enough, it’s a huge dome, cutting right through buildings and streets, right in the middle of the city. It’s dark gray and glassy, and it looks like the inside is chock full of … things. As we glance around, we notice occasional people walking toward it, but then getting distracted and turning away. Magic is great.

As we walk along the edge, we meet a man with cannon. A huge, bus-sized cannon. He tells us that te dome is over his mana refinery, and he’s the Chief Artificer there, name of Brandon Truxon. He’s been trying to crack his way in and has noticed a white flash every thirty seconds or so for the last two days. He thinks the insides are messing with time because things inside the barrier seemed to grow at a fantastic rate after it went up. He says he’s been measuring the energy coming off it, and at the flashes, there is a low ebb. He thinks that if something traveled fast enough, it could get through at those times. He looks over us all, and says he could shoot us through, if we’re here to fix things. What? Whoa… hang on a minute… um… we just got here. He shoots an empty capsule at the barrier to prove his point, and it disappears. We can’t see it on the other side.

We quickly leave him behind to go have a look all the way around the dome for someone, anyone else who might have information. Around a ways, we find a woman painting the dome on a canvas. She talks about the variations and the standard occilations on a sine wave? I don’t know, but her grandmother is inside, along with hundreds of other people. So she’ll keep studying until she figures it out.

There’s a white-robed newt of a man on the other side, reading a book. He is very rude and refuses to tell us anything, so we end up right back with Brandon. We leave Nat on the outside, in case anything happens, maybe she’ll know, and climb into another capsule. Brandon rigs up some seats and harnesses for us, and soon we explode.

There is nothingness. And then an old woman, holding a wand and a book, who turns to look at us. “Find me.” Then blackness.

We wake, lying face-down in mossy dirt. It’s like a jungle took over the city. The barrier is behind us, and we can see the silhouette of the cannon outside. Everything looks old. A little way away there is large creature wearing a constable uniform. He’s near on eight feet tall, with green skin. And he speaks English. He asks who we are and where we come from. No one is supposed to be able to get in, he tells us. He wants us to come down to the precinct to wait for the chief. Having no idea what else to do, we go. His name is Officer Cross, and that’s the only question he’ll answer.

As we walk, we see other people, some that look like us, but thinner, and with pointy ears. When we get back to the station, there’s a short, stocky women in a cell. Cross tells us to wait, and he’ll go find the chief. There are no other officers here, so we try talking to the woman. She calls us goblins, but then becomes terrified when we say we came through the bubble. The whole building is rundown, and Dalish says everything radiats fae magic. Remy looks around for papers or books, but everything is locked up tight.

We hear gunfire outside and Remy goes to look. He calls Gerhardt to come outside and help, and then runs off. Dalish and Gerhardt go to the fallen man, to drag him inside. Cross catches them and grows angry at them for not staying put. He locks us all in the cell and goes charging off after Remy. There is a huge booming noise and an opening appears in the back wall of the jail. The woman kicks herself a bigger hole and takes off, but the rest of us just wait. Cross eventually bring Remy and another guy back to the jail, they both look a bit worse for wear. Cross heads out to look for the Chief again, and more explosions rock around us as we wait.

A bell chimes the noon hour. The ground begins to rumble. The building begins to crumble. We fall, and are crushed. Then Nothingness. The old woman is there again. “You’ll have to do better than that.”

We wake, face-down in mossy dirt.