Belrun is so close to getting this damned flu strain to calm down in this one egg. She copies the change across to a few more eggs' worth, iterates, writes everything down, and Fetches the egg that is getting scary into her pot of simmering water before it makes a break for it. It's getting on toward dark and if she keeps working she's going to have to do it by candlelight, and she doesn't like that - it's already too easy to bump into things when she can see them. She calls it a day and closes up the lab for the night and heads out to walk over to the university cafeteria. It's a nice evening, and it's Flatbread Night, and she's in a generally good mood.
"We briefly touched on accessing distant nodes via Gates and on non-superweapon versions of channeling power between planes at large scale, both of which are things I have ever studied but neither of which has anything close to a proof of concept. Hmm. Let me think through the others..."
Belrun leans on him and waits.
"There are non-mortal extraplanar creatures that are not god-level. Some will cooperate with mortals and provide energy, but this does not really scale at all. Destroying some kinds of elemental spirit produces power but this is not really any more ethical than blood-magic and has massive additional inconveniences. One could technically use Abyssal demons as an energy source but I never figured out anything close to acceptable precautions for it, they are difficult to control and they eat people. It is possible to collect blood-power from natural deaths, but not really tractable to have mages standing by at all deathbeds, and it has the rate problem – if I had a Heartstone it would be a non-issue, since that power could be stored, but I do not. Animals technically produce blood-magic, but this drops off very steeply with approximate intelligence and make the numbers as well as actually combining and channeling the power much, much less tractable. Plants produce energy but at a very slow rate. I have tried converting ordinary fire into mage-energy but, while possible, the conversion rate is not at all favourable and setting the entire continent on fire for it is not actually better. I had a research angle on the interaction between Gates and moving water but it did not really pan out."
"How close do you have to be to get magic from someone dying and why?"
"Within mage-sight range, which varies by the mage but - well, it is somewhat like ordinary vision, you can see a mountain from a great distance but not read a book from across the room. I think most Adept mages could do it at a half mile if they knew exactly where to look, but knowing which natural deaths will occur when and where is also an issue. I suppose if all sick elderly people were gathered in a single massive hospital with mages stationed nearby and attendants who could notice when death was approaching and warn the mages, most of the energy could be captured, but - it would be a gradual stream of it rather than all at once, so this would still require solving the storage problem."
"Also it would be so unpopular even if your statistics about how many people in fact died there versus if they stayed at home were squeaky clean."
"I think this is actually a drawback of plan A, too, though - if you want any population left at all you'll have to get the numbers up well past ten million and have a filtration mechanism so you don't accidentally take out too many farmers or people who'll take care of kids or something; if you don't want any population left at all then your god starts out without a lot of game pieces to move around, for one, and you need operatives prepared to transport and murder little kids and noncombatants in Healers' robes as well as sickly grandmas and bandits, and in both situations you're going to wind up facing guerilla resistance and probably also a lot of upset from any neighbors you haven't already conquered."
"Yes. The plan was for the former but the latter is an option, and those are all downsides."
"Also, like, it doesn't look like gods usually control people who are super against the idea? I guess maybe the Tayledras are spending all their spare time composing tragic poetry about how much it sucks that they have been enslaved to perform an umpteen-generation public works project but I find I would be surprised if I discovered that was the case. I think a god born of the deaths of the friends and relatives of all your essential population will be very unpopular and this may be a drawback."
"Less so if they can be brought back, but - yes, and that part is not fully guaranteed and would not be instantaneous."
"I'm not actually sure how much it would help! Like, even if you only had to abduct ten million people and only held onto them for a week and didn't even hurt them this would make your project unpopular!"
"True. Honestly, all of the methods I consider at all workable for this would be very disruptive and thus unpopular in the short run, many of them worse. I...eventually judged that this was preferable to not attempting it at all, and having the world remain as it is forever - or, more likely, end up in a much worse state after the mage storms coming in a few centuries."
"...Did I not explain that yet? I apologize, it is clearly relevant. The Cataclysm caused serious damage to the magical linkage between the various planes, and - ripples, therein, which caused magical storms that lasted for decades afterward. Also, the structure of the magical planes is - I will have to get my notes to really explain it properly, but something like a higher-dimensional sphere? So ripples leaving a single point will eventually pass all of the way around, and back to the origin. It will be weaker than the original Cataclysm, but...the world is in a worse position also. Based on my calculations, I estimate this will happen in four to five hundred years."
"Oh - I was just parsing the whole thing as solely reacting to the status quo - What will, uh, actually happen?"
“Documentation of the early Storms is lacking for obvious reasons, but guessing from that as well as theoretical understanding: magic will mostly not be useable. Set-spells such as shielding will eventually be worn down and destroyed. Gifted people and especially mages will be incapacitated at regular intervals as the ripples pass. The points where ripples cross over and stack will result in Changecreatures and other effects of the type seen in the Pelagirs now. I assume spectacular disruption to weather. This will all worsen over a period of months, perhaps a year, and end in - I am not sure how bad it will get but the maximum is ‘as bad as the Cataclysm’.”
"Are you actually sure that's as bad as it can get? Like, if nothing else, if anybody else has anything dangerous lying around that can get set off -
- also, that doesn't sound like some the current gods have much reason to want; can your god fix it where they can't?"
"I suppose it could in theory be worse, but - nearly everything would have to go wrong. The storm itself will have lost force in transit; I expect it to still be very bad because the world is in worse shape for it. I do think the current gods are not incentivized to let the worst case happen, and may succeed at preventing it even though they failed to prevent the Cataclysm itself. They do have more warning, as I do. Though given what I have seen, They would consider it a benefit if, for example, the Eastern Empire was destroyed due to magic failing and technology levels fell everywhere and did not rise again. And it would give Them a great deal of leverage to enslave several more population groups and otherwise clamp down on the world. So, if I do not succeed at this project first, it might not be catastrophic in terms of destroying the world, or even all of civilization, but - I fear it would be next to impossible to succeed afterward."
"Oh yikes I didn't even think of 'what if literally everybody was like the Tayledras'."
"That would be one of the better case scenarios, in the short term! It would mean that said populations were alive."
"Would the gods even like it if everyone were dead? I guess they could make some new species and turn them loose if they didn't."
"I think they do have some preference that people not be dead - the Star-Eyed and Vkandis both worked what must have been very costly interventions to keep the relevant population groups alive, even if they extracted a very advantageous-to-them pact out of it. But note that these were quite small groups - tens of thousands, maybe. The Star-Eyed did not seem inclined to help the other ethnicities of Tantara, and...I have no idea what befell most of my former people in Predain, certainly no recognizable lineages were around when I next visited that geographic area."
"Where do the gods get their energy from?"
"Some kind of interplanar interaction, I think, on a much, much larger scale than what is possible if one is a mortal being localized to the material plane. But - similar in concept to what generates energy for one of the superweapon designs."