The Next Leg Of The Journey – Notes From the Abyss Chapter 4
January 27, 2012
The manuscript for the whole thing is getting ready for the finishing touch so I’ll have a purchase link soon, I hope. In the mean time, if you’re enjoying this please consider tossing us a bone with the donate link on the right.
I’m working on some short stories today, including an edit of Fake Cigarettes and Cold Coffee, while doing some out-loud thinking on Twitter. If you’re interested, come find me (the link’s in our About page, the one about our Purposes and Methods).
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During our walk I found out that the spirits that Mori is a part of (and I mean that literally – they’re individual personalities that all attach to one, giant intelligence that resides within the Gates household itself) have been watching over the vase since it was originally created way back on Earth. They’ve seen the entire field of Arcanology from the very beginning when it was discovered in the late 2400’s CE. Since then they assist the Gates family and ensure that the house in general is protected. They’ve been instrumental in ensuring the Gates fortune, mostly to protect the vase – it’s their entire purpose for sentience and the reason why the spirits hurled Mori through space to get to my office. That’s something that most elemental spirits can’t accomplish with help, let alone by themselves.
The trip from the Standing Stones was a fast one, but one that always left me feeling queasy. The Galactic Arc is huge, spanning thirteen solar systems all along the galactic arm that Earth had been in, though no one lived in the Sol system anymore. Because of this the architects of our modern conveniences originally used Temple-Ships, huge flying magical devices, to navigate space. After a while, though, some of the arcane engineers from the Golden Dawn developed a method of teleporting objects and people through carefully tuned arrays of Standing Stones, similar to Earth’s Stonehenge. They reach through space and create a bubble of non-space that you leap through fom one side to the other. It’s ancient, powerful magic and it always turns you inside out for a second as gravity flips around.
But I’m still a man of composure and I do not vomit as soon as I arrive in the other set of Stones. That hasn’t been a problem in at least six months. I staggered out of the Standing Stones array on Parsus, still nauseous despite my iron constitution, and walked through the station house to the bar. As I collapsed against it, I dropped my hat and almost dropped my lunch. I pulled myself onto a chair then ordered a scotch and soda from the bartender. Yes, I am aware of the irony of ordering scotch when Scotland no longer exists and hasn’t in hundreds of years.
She shrugged and pulled out a clean glass from some rack hidden beneath the counter and asked with a smirk, “Macallan fine?” I nodded dumbly as she poured the whiskey then the soda water into the glass and slid it in front of me. I fished in my pocket and pulled out a small gold statue, then placed it on the bar. Out here, now that Earth is gone and the planets have separated culturally, the only currency that’s recognized is power. Specifically, arcane energy and it’s measured in thaums. I store mine in a miniature gold Sword in the Stone. Always had a soft spot for those King Arthur stories.
A halo of power hung around the hilt of the tiny sword as a balance was extracted by spells woven into the fabric of the bar itself. It hung there, though, waiting for collection, as the bartender opened a tab. The thaums themselves wouldn’t be extracted until the bartender released the spell and the bar absorbed the energy extracted from my statue. I sipped the drink slowly, letting it settle in my stomach and leaned back against the small backrest of the bar stool.
“Welcome to Parsus, Metrisite. This your first time here?” I nodded, “Yeah. I don’t get out much.” She handed me a slip of paper with a protection spell on it. “Use this, it’ll help protect you from the sunlight. The sun’s much harder on you green-skins than it is on the locals.” I nodded slowly. “I’d heard that the yellow sun here’s a different beast. Adaptation’s a bitch.” She nodded to my suit, “Looks like you’re protected mostly anyway. It’s winter around here, though you’ll want to be careful if you go too far south. Did you bring a hat?” I picked up my beat-up fedora and placed it on the bar, “A well dressed man goes nowhere without proper head attire. You do food here?” She nodded and fetched a menu as I finished my drink. After glancing at the menu for a few seconds I said, “Salmon, rice, and another one of these if you don’t mind.” She nodded with a smile and poured another drink for me.
Between mouthfuls of fish, rice, and whiskey, I asked her about Parsus. She explained how the planet was mostly covered in large estates due to the unique properties of the local star and the moons around the planet. The way moons defused light around the planet caused day lasted for four hours and was obscenely hot, night lasted for eight hours in the summer and thirteen in the winter, while twilight lasted for four hours on either side. Here the skin tones were closer to Earth’s original skin tones, though everyone was paler than their ancestors. Most of Parsus’ cultural activity happened at night or twilight with almost no one out during the day. The bartender herself was nearly translucent, both her skin and hair a silvery shade of white. A few more questions from me and she told me where to find the Gates estate. It wasn’t too far from the Standing Stones it seemed – fifty kilos west, not far at all for someone on their guest list. Especially since, like most families on Parsus, there was a car waiting outside that could take me there.
I left her with a good tip but I made sure the thaums were filtered before I released them. I didn’t want her to trace it back to me, no matter how cute she was. I slid my hat on my head, pocketed my golden Venus, and told her goodbye while heading for the door.
Mori faded into view in front of me as I walked out of the Standing Stones station. He flew toward one of the waiting black sedans that was hovering just barely over the ground and giving off the soft hum of trapped arcane power. The car door opened automatically for Mori and he gestured for me to get in. “This is Our vehicle, we can take this to Our home to show you the place where the Cask was contained.” I climbed in the back and settled in as the car gently lifted and set off across the rolling hills of pale flowers toward the Gates compound. “Mori, I never asked but why are you helping me? Did you come on behalf of the family? I wasn’t told about you in the original dossier.” Mori set down on the hand-carved wooden brace built into the backs of the seats in front me and sighed softly as it leaned back against the seat behind him. “So many questions to answer at once. We are not here on behalf of the Family by their direction, but on behalf of Ourselves, the spirits of the Family, to ensure that our Cousin is not released. Within the Cask is a weapon, a creature of hate and pain. It is Verixonick, The Red Talon. It was sealed long ago, before the Cataclysm, when magic was still fresh on Earth, when the last Great War had just ended. When the sky was still on fire. Verixonick was used once and it felled a star when it was invoked from the bridge of the USS Armstrong. It is why elemental weapons on Temple-Ships are so heavily controlled now. It is the Great Scourge.”
I sank into the seat and nodded. “I can see why this vase is so important then. Lets hope we can find it before someone decides to break the freshness seal.”