A Continuation of A Curious Case – Notes From the Abyss Chapter 6

February 1, 2012

The next chapter of Notes From the Abyss is below! I hope you’re enjoying this so far. As always, if you are, please consider tossing me a donation through the button on the right. Don’t worry if you can’t, though – the writing’s all free no matter what. The e-book version, though, which should be coming soon (just doing some fine tuning and getting a cover done up) will be $1 through any ebook market I can control the pricing at (which is, well, all of them I’m pretty sure).

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to post ’em. I’m pretty sure the people I’ve worked with on G+ can verify that I take criticism well and it’s more important to me that the story is enjoyable than it’s “my” vision.

And after this we’ve only got five more chapters left! Then it’s back to short stories while I get Notes From the Abyss part 2 started and, perhaps, Out of Thyme – my steampunk spy drama.

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Six

After the meeting I paced around the bedroom while running my hands through my hair. The vase itself has no True Name, which is pretty impressive. It means that the vase would have been erased from history completely, as in never having existed at all as far as the structure of the universe is concerned. Something really, really important must be behind that kind of sorcery. Not to mention a whole lot of power – magic like that doesn’t come cheap. In order to erase a Name from history, from all of history, you need to Unweave its essence and presence from the time-stream without physically destroying the object itself. Once you’ve scrubbed the Name from the object, you then have to ‘convince’ the arcanological laws of the universe to not Unmake the object since the Name is gone. The easiest way to imagine how that works is if you think of the universe as a hallway, and every object and person in it as a door. This magician not only removed the nameplate from the door but convinced the Powers that operate the building, the big Powers of the universe that make arcanology work as well as physics and chemistry, that the room is still there and being used despite looking like an empty office. In all of recorded history that I’m aware of only one person ever pulled off a trick like that. The spell was from powerful Practitioner several generations ago, a Practitioner from my own family, who was working with several other magicians in a large ritual. She erased the name of the temple-ship that contained the settlers of my planet, Metris, and without that little trick they probably wouldn’t have escaped the Cataclysm. Especially with the magicians that had been on board, all of them blamed by someone for the start of the Cataclysm. Because of her work Metris is the center of arcanological technology and advanced mystical science today.

My family still has the records on that spell, which we keep at our ancestral estate on Metris. While I live in my office, I do so because there’s too many valuable documents and tools to the family stored at the estate and I don’t want to be the one that causes those things to disappear. Being a detective is the kind of business where you make the kind of enemies that would love to get their hands on anything of value, especially valuables you can’t replace. However, the only spell we have any record of that does anything like that with the True Name is the one my grandmother used generations ago. While there were other families that had learned the Arte of Naming before the Cataclysm, the Arte has only been preserved through us since Earth fell apart. Most of those who escaped the Cataclysm either eventually became part of the family or were ripped apart by their own hubris at some point. The vase, then, had either been worked on by my family or it predated the Cataclysm.

Before the Cataclysm on Earth, usually called The Time of Secrets, the families and mystical guilds that had discovered the True Ways sealed off their records, spells, and practices to ensure no one else could use them. This created an arms race of discoveries and magical advancement since the existing laws on Earth didn’t have any framework to deal with arcane knowledge and technology. The ensuing trade war provided reason enough for the war that ended the Time of Secrets, the war that people believe started the Cataclysm itself. At first it was just academic debates but as different mystical orders started controlling the members of national governments, full blown war broke out and weeded out every country, every minor order and every independent practitioner until it was clear that the battle was between the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons, and The Hermetic Order of the Northern Star. In the last great battle of the war, the Hermetic Order cracked the sky, tore the earth, started the Cataclysm. At least, that’s the story is told to everyone as they grow up. They learn why every Secret Order is registered, why every practice must be registered with the Silent Council, and why every planet has a branch of the Order Enforcement Agency (the same agency that licenses security and private eyes like myself) that monitors arcane study and practice on their planets. Secrecy is necessary but dangerous at the same time. The balance must be maintained.

That’s why, even hundreds of years later, anyone that’s part of the Northern Star is arrested by the OEA on sight.

I sat down on the bed and looked over at Mori. He nodded sagely to me and smiled softly, “We, the entire Council, Trust You. We Trust your Skill, your Arte, and your Reason.” I chuckled softly, “Reading my mind?” Mori shook his head gently, “We were only Observing your expressions and mannerisms.” I sighed softly. “In any case, I think I’ve figured out a place to start. We’ll have to go back to Metris, there’s a spell my family used a long time ago to erase the name from a temple-ship. It’s an ancient Seal, though, and required a lot of power when it was used and this is the only time I’ve seen anything else like it. We may be able to rebuild their methods though and, in doing so, figure out the resonance of the spell. Or at least where they would have had to execute the ritual. Something like that would have to have left a mark everywhere in space and time.”

Mori nodded “Then We should be leaving as soon as possible. Gathering the Materials you require to Identify the Cask when it is located will still take an additional two Days, however. Would You prefer for Us to have them routed to Metris when the Materials are gathered?”

I shook my head. “No, I have some poking around I need to do here still. To check the vault and such. Plain old detective work. The Arte, my skills, they help. But they don’t replace more traditional gumshoeing. Nothing’s as useful as knowing how to piece the story together.” Mori nodded again, understanding. “It is as You Say.”

I set my hat down on a dresser and wandered out to the sitting room where the coffee table had been set up with sandwiches, coffee, tea, and small cakes. Little finger foods, all very prim and proper, and, most importantly to me, fresh. So fresh that they filled the room with the intoxicating smell of all the meals I’ve missed from talking to spirits all afternoon. I pulled my jacket off and reclined on one of the couches. I poured myself a cup of the coffee (black, sugar and cream just ruin the flavor of proper coffee) and tried one of the sandwiches while sipping the coffee. “So, the aura around the Cask, as you guys call it, is powerful. Knocks out minor arcane equipment. Has to be carried in a silver case if it’s in a vehicle. That means we’d be able to look for the auric imprint of a large silver case in the room.” I paused to swallow. “As well, the vase was there and then gone which probably means teleportation of some kind. Not only that but powerful enough to get around the wards in the vault itself. There would be residual thaums from that no matter what, reverberations that will exist in that room forever since space was warped so heavily.”

I paused, tapping my fingers against the cup as I thought out loud. “Then there’s knowledge of the vase itself. Not many know and, while I hate to say it this way, the easiest way to get that information would be either through the Gates themselves or through you guys…I can’t imagine the employees knowing much about it. Well, outside of Jennifer and Paul, neither of which are powerful enough to pull off this kind of caper. Tomorrow I’ll probably have all of you come together so I can run you each through a Truth Binding to see if anyone’s bound you before. After we check the chamber, anyway, so I know what kinds of questions to ask. I can’t do that with the family itself but I can follow their threads through any of their belongings. Which this house is stuffed with, thank the Powers for the excess of wealth. All of this could take several days as it is but it should give me enough data to start to hone in on something.” Through all of that, Mori nodded as if taking notes. “It will all be Prepared for You as You require. We have alerted the Council to what You request, the Binding in search of Manipulation. The Council has suggested that We advise you to Rest for now. You may not have noticed but Time has advanced significantly while We were in Council. It is well past the Eleventh hour in the Evening currently.”

I nodded, finishing another small sandwich. “Good idea, Mori. If you don’t mind, though, I’d like some privacy. I, uh, only wear my suit to bed at my office because of the cold.”

Mori nodded, their face never changing, “We shall Abdicate the room. Rest well, Jarvis.” With that, Mori vanished. No sound, no smoke, no lights. Just gone.

Wary of any intruding eyes, I looked around, rather paranoid of invasive Elemental eyes or traditional scrying spells, as I stripped down. I tossed my rumpled suit onto a chair and went to the private bathroom. I quickly filled the tub with hot water (as well as some swanky bath salts), sank down into the bath, and felt the tension seep out of my muscles. I exhaled slowly and closed my eyes then started to put my thoughts together, shuffling around everything I just discussed with Mori along with what I knew about the vase and the vault it was held in. Something I could do now, relaxed and in the water like this, was check the aura of the house and see if there were any tears from the teleportation. Not even a Sealed room could hide something that massive.

I focused my will and started to draw energy from the water and into myself. My heart started to beat faster and my blood started pumping hard as the water’s tremulous energy washed through me and obscured my own natural rhythms. Using it as cover I spread my attention outward into the room, straining the cover I hid behind to ensure no one was watching. I poured power into it and caused cups to dance, my suit to walk around the room, and even turned the entire thing invisible to ensure nothing, spirit or otherwise, was watching me directly. They were still monitoring the power in the room fluctuating, though, to be certain…that’s basic security…but to make sure no one actually looked in I set up a simple Seal that let people See me bathing but not what I was actually doing. I drew back into the bath, focused my mind again, and turned my attention from the third dimension and into the fourth, looking at just this room as it changed through time. Just as my vision cleared into thew new viewpoint I saw what I was looking for.

As I hung there, my mind observing the flow of time like scenes from a movie, I saw energy cut across one moment, a rupture of arcane energy that still was reverberating through to the moment I was living in. Space had been bent and contorted so much that it left a permanent scar in the room, a slight distress that caused parts of the carpet and one of the walls in the bedroom to be frozen from aging. I could only wonder at what the effects where to the vault where this originated, or even the location the vase had been in originally. The scarred places stood there locked forever in the moment of the teleportation, never changing after the arcane energy ripped those atoms out of the time stream. I focused just on the scar itself, the energy signature the magic had left behind, and looked at the residual energy around it ti examine the pattern of the spell that had caused it. I was right about the teleportation, in a way, but I was wrong about its intent.

To make sure, I refocused my consciousness again and sent it speeding through the pipes, mapping out the house by observing its structure in the spirit world through the hazy gauze of the waterways. The rest of the floor seemed to be simply arranged. It was all large suites, presumably for family and honored guests. This was the third floor, with the second composed almost entirely of smaller bedrooms and shared bathrooms, for servants and guests, and the first floor seemed to be a maze of libraries, dens, sitting rooms, and entertainment rooms surrounding a large central kitchen. On one side of the kitchen was the entrance hall, stretching up to the top floor that I had seen when I came in, on the other side was a service elevator that stopped at all three floors and went down to the basement. All in all a rather simple but majestic home, comfortable without being ostentatious. At least not ostentatious compared to the other mansions on Parsus that involved everything from perpetual fireworks to floating rooms with disjointed, Escher-inspired staircases.The basement itself had little water running through it, so I examined it more by shadow than by Sight, but I saw that it was vaults, safes, and storage with a large central stone room that, from what I could see, was the vault that the vase had been stored in. Rippling around it was the scar I had just examined in my own room, still reeking of power and loose thaums. I couldn’t examine it well but it settled the question I was considering. There was no control to the spell other than location and intent. It was wild, sloppy, and imprecise. And, on top of that, it overlayed itself, a scar upon a scar.

Someone had teleported in to the vault and then, in the very same moment, teleported out. Where they came from, or went to, was impossible to find. It wasn’t hidden, it wasn’t anywhere in the galaxy. It was outside of time and space itself.

The thief had found some way to take the vase Elsewhere.

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