Dec 02, 2022 1:05 AM
+ Show First Post
Total: 193
Posts Per Page:

The Sentinel commander leads her into another box which seems to be a small chapel of some description. At least, there are a lot of embroidered wall hangings with various constellations and what are presumably historical scenes, and a couple of small tables with candles on; the middle of the room is taken up mostly by a bunch of small individual writing desks, and at one of the desks is a blue-scaled lady scowling at a pile of papers.

"I'm sure Evantia will be able to introduce you to the other Questors if necessary," says the commander.

The scaled lady looks up. "Oh! You must be new here. I'm Evantia Willstone, at least for the moment. Come have a seat and let me know what's going on?" She was very briefly irritated about being interrupted, but newcomers are always interesting, and she can't quite immediately place Myra from her clothes, which is especially interesting.


(Keth can in fact make a call!  There's helpful tooltips and explanations and the system's very robust even to unfamiliar written language, plus she keyed in their numbers already.)


"Hello, hello.  I'm a very distant traveler, from somewhere perhaps as unreachable as the stars themselves to most.  The Arbiter directed me in your general direction because I need to understand how the heck liao works, and likely how to use it myself - assuming I'm the same sort of human-ish as y'all are - if I'm to have much hope of actually succeeding in my scheme to unfuck the Black Plateau, which I want to do because the Black Plateau sucks and the options y'all have for not letting it suck people in seem to be almost equally sucky from my perspective.  Not that I give myself no odds even without that, but I'd put money on having some experience with liao helping me pull it off."


"The stars are not so unreachable as all that," replies Evantia. "Although more symbolically than physically, I suppose, until we finally work out what the Vard must have once known.

I would be very happy to help in any endeavour that could calm the Black Plateau! It is one of our greatest failings that all our ritual magic could not bind it. The scholars have been fruitlessly searching for another key like the great ritual of Day and Night that calmed it the first time, but the cabalists of Varushka... if you will pardon my vernacular, they really did a number on it.

What do you know of liao already, that I might not repeat your instruction? I am also burning with curiosity to ask you about your home and how you travelled here, but I can put it aside to work for the calming of the Plateau."

There is something slightly weird about this lady and it isn't just the scales; there's a flatness to her affect even when she seems highly invested in something, it doesn't seem to be insincerity, just - blunted emotion.


"When we're done with this, I will happily talk about rocketry.

"I know liao exists, and that humans, but not orcs, can use it to make emotion-related stuff happen.  I know there's true liao which is Liao But Moreso.  That's about it."


"Okay, so. This is liao." She dips a hand into a cloth pouch attached to her belt and pulls out a small glass vial containing a violently purple substance, and places the vial on the desk.

"It is refined from an extract of a plant called Vinum. The sap of Vinum gives dreamless sleep. The consumption of liao, instead, puts you in a kind of - waking sleep. You are placed in contact with your soul - with the seat of all fundamental human drives, which we call Virtues... or False Virtues - or Malign Spiritual Presences - if we dislike them.

From there, you can draw them forth. If you are untrained, liao will simply give you a strong feeling of connectedness to these underlying forces, and you will dream vividly next time you sleep.

With a little training, you can focus this connection to drive out presences that do not belong - ghosts, possessing spirits, unquiet dead of all kinds; to see such presences, and auras that lie upon things and people, and similar occurrences; to shape the dreams of those you share a dose with, and your own dreams; and to place a mark upon the soul, which takes the form of a couple of words that express something about that person - usually something you would like them to take with them into their next life.

With somewhat rarer training, it can be used to cut someone adrift from their connection to their soul - this is not done lightly, it is a crime punishable by death to do this to someone without a Writ of Excommunication from the Synod, but it does prevent them from bringing forth any auras of their own, and it can be used benignly to - re-seat the soul, after certain injuries to it - and can be used to reverse this effect.

Other uses require one to be Dedicated - this is a ceremony that anyone who is Dedicated can perform, which aligns your soul with a particular Virtue. Dedication can happen spontaneously with sufficiently great deeds in pursuit of a Virtue, but this is usually considered a Miracle and something that would be a sign of the Paragon; however, this is how dedications initially arise.

Once Dedicated, the connection may also be used to evoke auras - on a place, we call it Consecration; on a person, we call it Anointing; on an object, we call it Hallowing.

All of these things can be done by one who is truly connected to their soul without liao - that is the path of the Paragon, which we all seek to emulate and one day attain, be it this lifetime or several lifetimes hence.

Would you like me to explain True Liao, or take questions on what I have said so far?"


"...right, liao's magical psychedelics, okay.

"Do the...words, do anything?  Once they're marked on your soul?

"And how do you tell if you're Dedicated?  Though something tells me that I'm probably given to a somewhat analogous effect by proxy, at the moment...Anyway, yes, true liao, how does that work?"


Evantia looks Rather Unimpressed at that summary of liao, but doesn't deign to correct it.

"Greater scholars than I argue incessantly about the value and effects of a Testimony. What is known is that the words can sometimes be retrieved in a past life vision, and people value them highly and see them as a mark of honour or a very great stain, although they are not difficult to remove unless placed with a greater strength - which requires a greater number of priests to place them, and thus to remove them.

Insight - the ceremony that lets you see auras and suchlike - also returns any Dedication that is present. If you like, I can perform it on you now.

True liao is further refined from liao, and there is a measure of serendipity involved - despite all our efforts, the Empire only manages to refine a few doses each season. It places you in connection, not just with your soul's ability to tap into the primal drives of humanity, but the lives that have been previously lived by it.

In that state, you can do everything you could with liao, but much more so - auras are permanent, marks cannot be removed save by another dose of true liao, every spiritual malice can be washed away. Or, you can - with the aid of another priest who knows the arts of dedication, and a careful ceremony we have devised for the purpose - descend into a vision of a previous life experienced by your soul, take that other priest with you into the vision, and relive one of your soul's memories.

This is an incredibly dangerous power - it is the only thing we know of which can do serious, potentially irreversible damage to your soul. The following priest must not disturb anything, and you must not deviate too strongly from the memory - especially in a deliberate fashion, such as attempting to tell people that you are from the future - or it will collapse, and potentially shatter your soul in the process. Our procedures are proof against this when followed, but we have allowed some foreigners to partake who did not follow them, with devastating results.

While liao is not itself magical," she emphasises that word to express her distaste at Myra's summation of liao's effects, "it can also be used to bolster magics that interact with the soul - I expect that is where you will find your remedy to the Plateau, if you do find one. For instance, it can be used to replace mana in the ritual Whispers Through the Black Gate, which allows communication with the recently dead - although this itself is also highly dangerous, as sometimes you will instead pull through an entity you were not anticipating."



"'Magic' is, by my definition, 'stuff that behaves according to a set of rules that aren't the standard physics of a place, generally mediated by human action'.  Liao's definitely that, even if it's not spellcraft.

"I would indeed like to see if I've a Dedication."


Evantia nods, uncorks the bottle, pours about half onto each wrist like perfume, rubs them together, and holds them in front of her face to inhale the scent.

When she looks back at Myra her eyes are noticeably dilated. "Look into my eyes," she instructs, in even more of a monotone than before. "Hold my gaze as I..."

She breaks off suddenly and grabs a notebook and pen, and starts scribbling notes furiously.

"...sorry, your soul is very interesting. I suppose I should have anticipated that," she says, her eyes returning to normal.


...She is surprisingly adept at doing the looking into Evantia's eyes part of this exercise, though perhaps not only because she's also looking intently and taking notes with the twitch of her fingers on haptic keyboards, judging by the intake of breath as the ceremony starts.


"...I've lived an interesting life, for sure," she says in response, with an undercurrent of subdued mirth.  "It's only natural you'd be somewhat distracted by the resulting - mm, allure, of knowledge or other things."


"There is definitely a strange allure of knowledge in here," replies Evantia. "Your dedication - I've never seen anything remotely like it. It's something akin to Wisdom, but - not.

And. Did you know you have, ah, a fellow traveller, in there? I hesitate to call it a 'possession', because it's clearly not a ghost. Perhaps something closer to a Labyrinth spirit, although, thank the Virtues, I've never been close enough to one to compare it. It's also aligned to something - it's not quite Loyalty, it's not quite Prosperity, it's almost some kind of combination of the two?

You're currently being affected by it like an Anointing, too, and it's tied to some kind of thing which - lets that come back more easily?

Actually, it reminds me of nothing more than the Commonwealth's philosophy of the Common Good. But somehow more personal...

And. Someone has written an entire novel on there. Or, several someones. There's one that looks like someone wrote it with True Liao, and, I can't believe I'm saying this, it - tastes of spiders?

That one's fairly short, it's just "Meddlesome Wizard", with a rather less powerful "God-Botherer" under it. Then you have - I'm not sure I got all these down properly. Perhaps I should write it up more neatly, and then I can just show you my notes. There's, a lot."

Evantia is still taking notes as things occur to her, but trying to make slightly apologetic eye contact in between.


"...Huh, Wisdom but sideways?  My brain wants to immediately compare to the wisdom-intelligence distinction some people make..."

On the subject of the possession: "Mmhmm, that I knew.  The entity who's connected to me through that presence - by my own free will - is my best answer to the Black Plateau, fighting its invocation of Hatred with a counterinvocation of, broadly, Compassion."

When she hears the slightly strangled 'tastes like spiders', she can't help but laugh out a "fucking -- Lolth!  She would, too!  If I hadn't already terminally ejected her from the power she usurped to write that on me I would march right back there and show her some proper meddlesome to go with the wizard - she picked that fight with me, and was apparently a very sore loser when my scratch team won it!  Hah!  I thought that was just petty posturing, when she said we'd forever be marked by this deed!  Ohh, goodness, excuse me, I had to be - vvvv... - some form of voluble about that, or else I'd get caught up in actually remembering kicking the torturesome bitch out of her spidery domain, never to attain access to the stolen power she greedily drank of again, and the sheer force and chaos of that fight - and I'd hardly wish to have a flashback here and now!  ...The Black Plateau is really quite uncomfortably reminiscent of the aura of her off-brand Demonweb Pits, come to think of it.  Ech.  Well.  Yet another reason to dismantle the entire Druj - 'eagerly supporting the sorts of ideoforms that previously threatened-slash-abused my wife'."


"Yes... that was in there too." Evantia lays out a fresh sheet of paper on the desk and begins to transcribe in a much more precise hand than her scribbled notes. "And the Druj are big on spiders, too, although I think the Navarr have also had some success with Arhallogen, so if you could refrain from absolutely dismantling that Eternal until we've decided we're not using them..."


"I'm not going to go all 'destroy all spiders', no; it's sharing her personality that's objectionable."


"I doubt you'll like much about its personality either - delights in novel poisons, loves violent competition, crushing the weak, testing the strong... however, Eternals that are relatively easy to deal with, so long as you do so from a position of strength, are valuable resources. Spring Eternal, though, so they are at least fairly - unemotional about it? It's never personal, it's just a matter of survival - and what it takes to do that, when everything is attempting to eat you.

Anyway, here are the rest of the notes."

Written out in a neat hand:

'Dedication - Wisdom (subtly different emphasis)

Possession - Large spiritual entity, not obviously ex-mortal, aligned Prosperity/Loyalty/Common Good (subject suggests 'Compassion')

Anointing - as Possession, normal strength

Curse - Anointing - easier to renew? mildly permanent, but not as a full Anointing?


True Strength: Meddlesome Wizard (tastes of spiders)

High strength: God-Botherer (tastes of spiders)

Moderate strength:

Silver's Savior | Shadow-Friend (some - connection? duality? possibly just same strength)

System's Architect (sense of a colour, blue? metallic?)

Runic Artisan (sense of some specific important rune)

Meta Magician

wife (feels distant, and ?angry)

Wanderer through Bar(d)s (highly nonstandard, feels almost like a summary?)

Apt Storyteller

Star Traveller (impression of heat, fast lights with persistence of vision)

Inveterate Knowledge-Thief (labyrinth designs, smells of long-stored paper?)

Watching You

(something is here, but it is somehow censored)

Magical Girl

Telling Herself'


"Well.  At least it's not personal.  Lolth was as pettily cruel as only those who understand and share the human-patterned psyche can be.

"Mmmh, let's see what we have here...

"God-botherer.  Heh.  I sure did bother Lolth.

"Oh that's definitely intertwined, it's two perspectives of the same climactic event...

"...I'd say I'm surprised to find this here," she taps System's Architect, "except that I know from whence it came, and I think I can chalk all of this up to a specific working I did at one point, much to do with -" she slides her pointing finger down to 'wife' - "this one; if anything's the cornerstone of why there's half a novel on my soul, it's gotta be that.  We do not want to be cut off from eachother, you see, even when we're apart.

"Therefore, the correct and proportionate solution, given that Lolth still existed, was to simply do this in an irrevocable way, tying ourselves to eachother so that death would not us part.

"Wanderer through Bar-ds?  Someone has a sense of humor.  Alas that if I elaborated as to why that's funny, I'd likely sound absurd myself.  Suffice to say it has to do with Apt Storyteller.

"Anyway, yes, the...aura, here, isn't really as always-on as it's going right now?  Most of the time I'm not pushing back against an aura of Hatred, nor in need of healing, so I hardly need, nor do I want, her to expend the effort.  It's better used elsewhere, for those who do need that."


"So... you share the possession... with other people?" asks Evantia, feeling out the words as she goes along. This is clearly a novel phenomenon to her and she's simultaneously extremely interested, and rather worried about the implications.


"Honestly, I kind of have no idea?  I know that there's one specific...

"Well, the closest thing you have for modeling them would be an Eternal?  But that's not quite right, there's...more humanity in it than that implies.

"Anyway, one specific entity that this represents a shard of the attention and power thereof.

"Or maybe something I made in her image, really; I've always been good at taking magic apart and putting it back together in new and interesting ways, though I don't think that's what happened - I'd put so much more weight on the first possibility; I'm mentioning the latter only for completeness's sake.

"Anyway...I don't share this with other people.  This is my mantle, there are many like it but this one is mine - excuse me, that's a reference to something you are ill-positioned to understand.

"Anyway, I don't share this with other souls, though I can...hmm.

"My internal experience of this is that it's something like a warm blanket on a cold night, without the implications of being wrapped up and sessile that that invokes.  And I can wrap myself in it tightly for more warmth when the cold bites, or flare it out and share it, or...a variety of such things.

"But there's only the one blanket, and it's mine and no-one else's, even if I'm sharing it right now.

"There's a lot of other blankets, though, spread around, held by others who need the warmth, carried by people trusted to find places that need them, stuff like that.  Not here, I should note, I'm the first person with such to have been within miles, but there are indubitably others somewhere.

"But, to extend the blanket metaphor, they've all been warmed against a fire that's not definitively infinite, and I don't want to take more heat than I need, in the moment.  Or perhaps they're sort of all the same blanket, stretched through a portal, and I don't want to hog it, and I'm not definitively sure if there's an edge somewhere.  Or...Well, what has you so concerned?  Because I'm concerned that you're concerned, and don't want to worry you unduly?"

Total: 193
Posts Per Page: