The Penultimate – Notes From the Abyss Chapter 10
February 10, 2012
Second to last post! Wow. I’m going to be posting something else soon, probably the edited version of Fake Cigarettes and Cold Coffee. I am working on two fantasy pieces right now, though, for inclusion in a competition (hopefully). One is about a group of Appalachian kids who exterminate fantasy creatures and clear out mines and other assorted dungeons, the other is a brand new fantasy world with a story centered on a woman who works as a psychopomp in her world.
At least until Monday, though, the story post focus is on Notes. Be sure to let me know if you see any problems with it, as always. Oh! And if you think you know someone who might be interested in reading, please don’t hesitate to thell them about the blog. It’d mean the world to me. It might mean a steady income for me, too, in the future, which is even more important than the world to be quite honest.
I woke up groggy the next morning and spent most of the day eating anything I could get my hands on and trying to get my wits about me. I didn’t use the True Speech that often, or really do anything that often with the Power. It wracked the body and taxed the spirit to connect to the great font of power in the Outside World, to the places where the True Names are written down on the flows of power in and out of our universe crash against each other.
Jennifer spent the night rebuilding the sequence of events the day of the theft, piecing together how Ryan had become involved. She walked me through it and double checked with what I knew of the spell and what had been done by the thief when it happened. She was sharp and she was great at processing data but she wasn’t half the Practitioner I was and relied on my experience to fill in the gaps where she’d assumed sorcery the night before. By the end of the day we had determined a few things; Ryan’s death had been no accident, was far from a natural death, and had been used by the thief to build enough thaums to teleport into and out of the Vault without disturbing the greater flow spacetime. As the evening went on we read through records that my family had kept of their magical studies through the generations and tried pulled out everything we could that explained how much arcane energy can be harvested from a dying person’s Golden Road. It was a practice that was not only illegal on every world but would corrupt the mind and body of anyone who tried to tear that much arcane power out of the connection between our world and the Outside World.
Dangerous, stupid, inefficient, yet powerful…it was starting to seem like there was a theme for this case.
After Jennifer had gone to bed after a while, all the reading about the same subject for two nights in a row exhausted her. I stayed up in the library looking through the database of records for the spell that had stolen the Name from that temple-ship generations ago. When it was done, my ancestors had required one hundred and eight participants in the ritual to generate the power they needed and they had to pull a lot of that power from the growing Cataclysm they were flying away from. The sheer amount of arcane power needed for the spell was mind boggling and there was no way that could have come from the death of just one person. I read through the accounts over and over again looking for any hint as to what could have given the enchanter who silenced the Name of the vase originally the power to do so. After the events of that day, not only finding out about Ryan’s stolen power but also the attack I felt more and more that if we didn’t find the vase soon we were all going to regret it.
I spent hours pouring over the same data, spinning it through this logic matrix or that sorting system without a result. Then I found a minor footnote at the end of a description of theon the temple-ship itself, a note on the spell they had cast so long ago – it was a modified version to be safer than one before it. The one used on the vase originally. The spell that hid its Name from history had stolen the very power of the Earth to do so. It had delivered a mortal wound to Gaia itself, the soul of the planet, in order to erase a single Name. The Name itself, as well, wasn’t gone – it had been placed in Elsewhere, a land created with the remains of the Earth’s soul. A place made real outside of space and time by the massive sacrifice of the planet itself. My ancestors had tried to stop the sorcery that created Elsewhere and sealed the Cask but were too late. They were the only Practitioners that knew those Secrets, though, and bore the blame originally. They were chased by the United Nations into space and, before the UN had collapsed, were declared war criminals for a crime they had never committed.
Family secret indeed. I wonder if every sorcerous family has that kind of pedigree.
Now, though, I knew what happened to the Name. The question was how could someone move themselves and the vase into and out of Elsewhere? Especially on the thaums of a single dead person. The Golden Road has a lot of power in it but not that much. The thief hadn’t used any of the thaums in the room itself, all of the other artifacts were untouched and still charged. There was no indication of the power being drawn from anywhere I know if in the energy signatures I saw.
Knowing there had to be another source for all that power I kept reading. I flipped through a few books on arcanological theory and experimentation that my family had continued compiling afterward, in order to hone and perfect the spell so we could discover who cast the original spell that erased a Name from the world and caused the Cataclysm. To discover, perhaps, how to rebuild Earth, return the world to its proper place, and make right wrongs that had cursed humanity since that tragic mistake.
It wasn’t until I reached my grandmother’s research that I found what I was looking for. While exploring the galaxy on the temple-ship Nova she had found a power source that could be used to harness enough thaums to erase a Name, recreate a Name, or move objects in and out of Elsewhere. It even had enough power to create a new Elsewhere, to replace the fractured soul of Gaia that had built Elsewhere the first time. Enough power to turn back the destruction of the Cataclysm. She, herself, and pulled from Elsewhere a single flower. A flower that still sat, untouched by time, in those very pages.
It was plucked, she said, from the edge of the black hole that the Milky Way spins around. Only on the edge of chaos and destruction was there enough power to tear a hole in time and space to find a way to Elsewhere. Only at the Sagittarius A-star would a Practitioner have access to the energy needed to do something this massive.