Southern Libraries

That night, Locke dreamed to me while I was ruminating on the door. I asked him if we should open it. He said from everything that Hank has said, that no, we should leave it closed. Then he showed me Buenos Aires. It is a beautiful city, and you can see the Royalist architecture taking over everywhere. Locke handed me a coin from the fountain in the square in the Dream. When I woke up, I still had it. That’s some magic Natty needs to learn.

I head down to have an early breakfast, making sure there’s still a bit of food for folks in the house. Then head up to my brother’s room. I knock politely, and Crystal answers. I ask if my brother is within, and he sleepily pulls into view, almost dressed. The incense in the room is intense, and I stay just outside the doorway. I ask if he’s still going to school, and he says yes, but he’s almost done so he doesn’t have lot of classes left. I remind him of his responsibility to graduate and become an adult and take care of the house. He sort of blows me off, but not unkindly. I turn on Crystal and tell her to keep him safe or I’ll hunt her down. She is amused by my threat, but it doesn’t matter. I turn back and tell Gerald that we’re going to South America and to be careful of Professor Wiest. He thinks we should tell her everything, but I remind him that she’s not Prime, yet. He’s not so sure, but I tell him to be careful, and I’ll be back in a couple of days.

Everyone gathers up that morning. Remy says he didn’t accept help from the Utopians afterall, so Klyce is breathing a little easier. Nat has warned her family, and commissioned a caravan. Once everyone has their mana and supplies sorted out, we gather up to teleport down to Buenos Aires. The trip goes smoothly, thanks to the Dream and the coin, and Locke quickly hurries over to us and takes us to meet up with Hank and friends.

We exchane a few pleasantries, including admiring a new metal arm of Frank’s before getting down to business of the Black Mirror. Hank says it has been haunting his dreams for the past year. It is an artifact from before the war ended. If it was whole, it would allow absolute vision and knowledge of any target you choose. The gods found it and broke it into six pieces, hiding it away down here in what is now South America. They’ve been searching, but have only found one piece so far. It was in an anciet sun temple.

The boys take a look at it. It is highly enchanted, but, being broken, the enchantment is incomplete. Remy says it is heavy fae divination magic, which only makes sense. He asks if they can see where the other pieces are with it, but they say it only shows flashes of color. Blue, white, red, light blue, and then back to black. I take a look, channelling a bit of my magic into it, but only the same flashes. Dalish catches a non-reflective black at the end, before it goes back to being shiny. So, blue, white, red, light blue, black. Nat says I’m not using the right kind of magic, so she takes it, it starts to smoke a bit and coldly tingle. I try to get her to put it down, but she uses a bit of divination magic.

She kinda goes catatonic a moment, before snapping out of it. She said it was a good tingle and that it gave her visions of places. A beautiful jungle lagoon with waterfalls, a stark white salty desert plain with a conical mountain in the distance, a complex tangle of valleys and crevices leading up to a red clay plateau, the top of a mountain above a glacier, and then darkness.

Gerhard manages to get similiar, if much more hazy visions. Klyce asks if they’ve heard of places like that, but only the falls sound familiar. They give a name, but I didn’t catch it. If Nat saw it, she can just take us there, right? But then someone says we ought to research the places. Since we don’t have objects from the locations, it’s better to have all the information we can get, and travel there more carefully. Ugh! Research!

So, those of us with teleport, and the bookish folk head off to the a great library in the city, while Klyce and Philomena head off to enjoy the local cuisine. Locke tells us that the sun temple they went to was guarded by monsters, and his magic had not worked to fight them. Over the course of the afternoon, we manage to locate all the discernable places. The darkness will just have to wait. I wonder if it’s behind the door. But that’s probably just my obsession talking.

Just a Conversation… Or Seven

I spent the entire day worrying about everyone. Everyone going off to meet with the various political factions. New Primes, Old Primes, Wanna Be Primes, and Random Politicos alike. No political parties had contacted me. No, sirree. I’m just an object to study. Only Hardin contacted me, with some new research. I will not go back. I am not going back there. He’ll have to figure it out without me. But I do want to help, I want to know what he thinks he knows. I want to fix this mana problem for all my friends. Oh man, my friends. What if Wiest kills Natty outright? You know she’s not going to give the Professor what she wants. Oh, Natty!

Eventually, it’s time for me to head down to Xingtown for dinner with Hardin. I know the place, we’ve passed it a few times, but never stopped in. I head down and he’s there waiting. Smile on his face like everything is just fine. Like there aren’t three more world-ending events on the horizon. I’m already mad at him. Not a direct transcription, but it went something like this:

Good to see you! How’ve you been?

Died at least once since you last saw me.

This puts him off his game for a moment, and I sit down. He stumbles around for a bit, and then orders us a whole bunch of random food.

It’s been too long.

You still there?

Until recently. Until I got word about the deliberative. I wanted to discusss a new possible avenue of research. You’ve been to this Fae World?

Yeah, I had to die to get there though.

Well, I was thinking. If we use you and your connection to the fae as a conduit to bleed off the magical properties.

No! It’s not like that! I won’t be a fuel source! All my friends have been there, too.

Just a conduit. You’re connected to that place, maybe more than we know. Your magic is different than theirs. We can use that.

You sound like Garion!

Even just a ten foot square where mana isn’t required.

It would be catastrophic!

We would take precautions. We just need to create the spell, and then we wouldn’t need to use you as the link anymore.

How? How would this even work? I don’t know anything about magic like that.

That’s why I need your help, I’m not sure yet, but I have ideas.

You want to talk to my friends who know more about magic, not me. I can’t help you create spells.

I’d be happy to meet with your friends!

We’re going to South America, there are clues for our search for the Black Knight there.

That’s odd, isn’t he here? Anyway. Will you talk to your friends about my research?

Yes. We’ll get back to you.

We thanked each other for dinner then and went our seperate ways.

Back at home, all of us gathered up to discuss what happened in our various conversations and it immediately went downhill. Nat said that Wiest was already threatening her family and their mine. Klyce asks if everyone stuck to the plan of not committing to anything and telling them all we were busy right now. Remy said he signed up with the Utopians to get us mana, supplies, and sanction for our mission. Klyce went OFF on him. Then Dalish admitted that he left the Utopians and signed up with the Conservatives who were looking for a replacement for Rictus. Klyce went off again. And so did a few otheres. This is ridiculous, guys!!! Dalish insists that he wants to lead them to a more liberal stance. We try to convince him they just want a figurehead. Klyce is still pissed that Remy basically put the whole group in the Utopian’s debt. Remy said he hasn’t actually accepted their assistance/supplies, yet. But Klyce says it’s too late.

I pop in to tell them about Hardin’s research and his desire to collaborate with us all. No one pays me much mind. Maribeth says we were supposed to stay unknown until we had a plan, so we don’t become useless. Remy wants to enact change by being part of the processs. Klyce is annoyed that he gave them power over us. Gerhard Says Hadreas hates all the politics, and wants to go back to magic for magic’s sake. He could be an ally. Klyce said he had a productive conversation about the mana shortage, and demons and devils. They talked not just about the other realms, but about other countries and types of magic, as well. They also discussed short term plans to protect the miners, to buy time for such external research.

Returning to the topic of Professor, soon to be Prime, Wiest, Nat says there was just no talking her down. She showed up all bluster and fury, and Nat wasn’t going to point her in a direction. She has since warned her family and Stephen about the threat. Klyce asks if there are procedures for removing a Prime, but Dalish says the only way to do it is Certimum. Klyce wants to use our political capital to introduce an impeachment process. But that’s all for later. South America is calling.

I send to Hank to ask about where they are and if the wizard can Dream to me, because Nat doesn’t want him in her head. I hear him asking Locke if he can do that before the spell cuts out. So, I send to Locke, who asks when we are planning to arrive. I send again to say tomorrow afternoon. He replies that they’re in Argentina and he’ll dream me tonight to show me where. So, a few more drinks and it is time for bed.

Mr. Klein

My first full day in Atlantic City didn’t go terribly well. They had brought me to a small room in the basement, for my bedroom when I arrived. The next morning they took me to meet with Dr. Hardin Klein!

“Young miss, I am sorry that we have been reunited under such awkward circumstances.  I have been here, paying penance for my sins. The Primes have chosen to punish me by keeping me confined here, but in truth this is where I belong.  I must do whatever I can to make up for what I and my team did.

“All this war, murdering innocents by the thousands… All for mana.  If I can prove my theories are correct, and find a way to access mana without refining or moving it, then all this territory grabbing will be unnecessary.  We’ll have all the power we need, already in our grasp.

“Will you help me, Tristia?  Will you help me save this country from itself?”

I’m ashamed to admit, I kind of lost it then. I stared at him for a long time. Emotions raging through my brain and across my face. Fear, anger, relief, hope among the top ones vying for control. It took longer than I liked to find my voice. Everything was still spinning, but I had to try.

“You… Wha…?” I tried again. “You want me to help you? After everything that happened?” I know it wasn’t his fault, but it was his lab! I press on. “T..tell me what you’ve been doing down here. I want to stop the war, stop the genocide of Fae and Natives. We agree on that. Did you help make those Machines?  Was that you? Now you want something safer? Because people died?” I couldn’t stop. It probably wasn’t him, that’s not what he said. “What are you doing here? Why am I here? Why did they take my friends away?” I stop, I’m shaking again, like a child. Close my eyes and shut down for a moment, breathing. “What do you want from me?” I barely manage to whisper. 

“Yes, I know what happened.  The machine, it was designed based on some other mage’s work, a man named Garion.  I wasn’t involved in that, though that project seemed miraculous.  Recovering mana from summoned creations, that was rather ingenious, I still don’t know why that project was recently shuttered.  But no, my research is a different animal.  I don’t know what’s happened to you and your friends, but I want to help.  I know I have sins to atone for, that’s why I’m asking for your help, so that I have a better chance.  I am sorry for all that I’ve done, wittingly or not.”

“I don’t know why you’ve been sent here, Tristia.  Please understand that I did not request you to be sent here, not specifically.” He seems genuinely sorry, but I can’t believe it.

“Those machines were awful! Those creatures being murdered inside them were Sentient Beings! By the Hundreds if not Thousands. Summoned from their homes and slaughtered for their Mana. Garion was a horrible monster who tried to do the same thing to me!” I’m yelling now, furious, and he’s the only person to yell at. I shouldn’t yell at people, it’s not proper. It wasn’t his fault, but I was still scared.

Breathing. Calm. 

“They stopped using them because they all exploded at once, killing hundreds of soldiers who were near them.” I looked at him to see how he’s receiving all of this. “They sent me here because I don’t drink Mana like everyone else does. Like Xin Yue.” 

Calm, I have to stay calm. Angering him will not help my chances, but I wanted him to understand. 

“What are you working on, Mr. Klein? How do you want to use Mana? How can I help?” 

So, he told me, and I tried to listen with an open mind.

In The Eye of a God

The top of the tower is terrible. We all feel sick as we emerge through the door. Turning back momentarily from the horrible sight, we see Dalish, trapped inside a newly reformed prismatic wall. He didn’t move fast enough. But we don’t have time for that. The eye of Balor is before us and one of the mages turns towards us moaning, with his own eyes gouged out.

Turning to face the eye, people start picking off the mages when Nat says that they are protecting it while they try to contain it. I hear His voice in my head.

Submit Daughter, and destroy these mages.

So, I pick off one of the mages, too, but then I realize it was His will, not my own. I close my eyes and cover my ears. I hate it up here. The beating is so horribly loud.

The mages are all gone, when I look up again, and hear His voice.

Rebellious child… and He tells me to kill my friends. I try to cast thunderwave, because we are all still gathered up around Hank, but Gerhardt counterspells me. Then I shrug off his will again. I Really Hate it up here.

Gerhardt gets put to sleep after that. I manage to get a call lightning spell going. Maribeth gets turned to stone. Francis gets paralyzed. Shelly gets turned to stone.

His voice returns, ordering me again to attack my friends. So I call lightning down on the largest group together. He disintigrates Wan Kei. And Klyce manages to crack through the eye. I call lightning down on Klyce and Remy before I manage to shake His will again.

Now what? It doesn’t feel so awful up here anymore, but it looks like everything is about to explode. Gerhardt and I want to banish it to explode somewhere else. But others want to circle up and stop the explosion.

I start to pray to the Dawnmother for guidance, but His power draws me in again. It feels so good, not horrible like the machine. I walk forward and put my hand to it. The power fills me! Fills me to overflowing. And I can see beyond everything. I can see an infinity of power.

I wake up in my tent. Remy is just coming in to check on me. He explains that they did try to circle up, but there was too much power to contain. They did manage to contain the damage to a five mile radius, but only because Maribeth made a deal with some dark patron to save all of us.

I go see her, but she only cries. I don’t ask her any questions. I check on everyone else. Gerhard is studying his potions. Klyce and Dalish are working on magic. Remy, when not checking on me, is checking on everyone else, including our old troop Sergeant. It takes me a while to find Nat.

She’s off to the edge of camp, blindfolded and practicing with her daggers. She tells me what happened, too. And I try to explain what happened to me. I ask if I could share her tea, to try to see what I saw again. She agrees, and I ask what would happen if we brewed it with mana. Since that place was so full of it, maybe it would help me go back there. She thinks that’s a great idea, so we plan to do that soon. She also tells me that she can maybe talk to the gods now. And maybe even force them to answer, like a more powerful version of prayer, backed by her magic. We’re not sure if that’s a good thing, or if it will get her smited, but she’s going to try it out sometime.

I also visit the crater that used to be New Calay. (I guess it’s spelled New Calais, actually, but now that it’s gone, I don’t think it really matters.) It is Silent. So silent. Everything in the crater is dead. I fly down into it, after passing all the dead soldiers that were turned to stone and dust in the explosion. I sit for a while, in the silence. It is peaceful after all the noise and the beating. Restful.

We get a summons from Durance and report to his tent on day four after the explosion. The army has started moving again, having buried what dead it could, they’ve been packing up camp. The Lt is glad to see we are all coping alright. We lost 3,000 men in the explosion, and a port city for decades to come. Our report of the events has been relayed up the chain, and we all have new orders. The machines all exploded, taking out hundreds of men, and so production will be halted and more regular means of mana production will be resumed.

Dalish is ordered to head back to New Gnosis to work with Rictus. Natty to the Carribean to work with the Navy. Gerhardt to the Black Hills in the Dakotas. Klyce to the Mexican Territories. Remy is headed to California, and Maribeth to the Northwest Territories. I am to head to a research facility outside New Gnosis to help with magical… research. We’ll be shipping out in two days time.

Nonononononononono! We can’t! We can’t split up! I won’t! Please, can we go to Argentina now? I don’t want to be an experiment! Guys! What are we going to do??

I don’t say any of this until we leave his tent. Remy doesn’t want to split up either. As usual, Klyce is the voice of reason. We have to. We have to do this, serve our term, honorably. Or they will torture and kill our loved ones. Send them to the mines, execute them, draft them. Whatever. We have to do as we are told, until we can do something else.

We also have to stay in touch. We work better together. Everyone needs Sending in their spellbooks. We’ll have to get materials before we leave or that. Nat has to work on her mindpalace to strengthen the range. We each give her something of our own, or of our person, to take with her. Hoping that like scrying, it will strengthen our connection.

Klyce agrees, my assignment sounds the most dangerous for my person. He encourages me to reach out to Xin Yue and her brother’s group if I need immediate rescue. Dalish will be nearby, as well. I am still terrified, but I know that any one of them will come if I call.

Maribeth goes off to get scribing supplies. Remy and Klyce go talk to Triplehorn one last time. And Nat and I go off to drink some mana tea.

It is an interesting experience. Not as crazy as last time she pulled us all into that crazy mindpalace against our will. But it seems like a portion of that power is still inside me. Some untapped potential, just laying in wait. I know some spells I didn’t know before, that I didn’t want to know. But I also can feel some of that power already.

The last night before we go our separate ways. We all sit together. We eat one last meal. Drink one last toast. And promise to keep in touch, and to come if we are needed. I do not sleep well that night, and in the morning, it is time to go.