Notes From the Abyss Chapter 7 – And Yet It Continues
February 3, 2012
Let’s just assume that I did my begging-slash-self promotion thing here. I’d rather just give a heartfelt thanks to everyone that’s reading and enjoying the series so far. You’re the real joy since I don’t write for me – I don’t need to know my own stories – I write for you, to make your world a little better, a little brighter, maybe a little different.
So my hat’s off to you, dear reader. I hope to continue to see you here.
One last thing…the pun? It’s intentional. In case you’re wondering.
The next morning I snapped awake when I heard the sounds of someone coming into the room. Instinctively, I rolled out of bed, snatched my dagger from the nightstand, and muttered the activation incantation for the Argent Lance just in time to be completely naked, standing with my hand out toward the door, as Jennifer came in with a clean suit and breakfast.
I, completely embarrassed, could do nothing other than lower my arm. Luckily, Jennifer being the professional she is, just smiled slightly and left the cart there – warm clothes and all. It wasn’t until she had closed the door again that I noticed I had been holding my breath. There’s nothing really proper about a Practitioner about to cast when they’re naked; the power inside excites the the blood and the mind, which leads to, among other things, instant arousal. Luckily, a cold shower took care of that before I slipped into my new clean and pressed suit. Breakfast was still warm when I dressed; hard boiled eggs, bacon, toast, and hot cereal. I ate greedily since I was starving between the shock of Jennifer coming in and the power I had exhausted the night before while using my Inner Sight. As my food settled and I relaxed with a cup of coffee I could feel that power start to ebb back into my mind and body. I am but a channel, though, for it is the coffee that makes me mighty.
Just as I finished, Mori and two of the Council spirits popped into the room in their creepy silent and instant way. “We have prepared the Vault for Your investigations, Jarvis. You may locate the Vault by taking the Lift from the Center Room.” I nodded and pursed my lips, “Alright, thanks. And you’re going to take notes and watch me and such? Ensure I don’t steal anything or let the thief know it’s safe? Security procedures, etcetera?” The three spirits nodded in unison.
I stood up and smiled, “Lead the way to this lift then. You know the house much better than I do.”
The spirits lead me through the winding passageways of the house without hesitation, slowing or speeding up as I did, maintaining a perfect leading pace. It was during this that I came to the conclusion that I’m not a big fan of how spirits always do exactly what you ask of them as perfectly as possible. The most jarring part, for me, is that they did it without emotion. Even spirits of emotion itself tend to have a cool, dispassionate emotional state of their own. The power does not, in fact, describe an elemental creature. Only their color.
The lift itself was an archaic mechanical lift using chain hoists and a crank. One of the spirits the Council oversaw was stationed at the bottom and the top of the tube to rotate hand cranks that raised and lowered the car. I looked around at the bird cage I was standing in, all metal filigree and wooden panels, and whistled slightly. “Old technology so you don’t have to worry about someone spell-riding?” The spirits paused and looked to Mori to respond. Mori nodded to them and said, “By Spell Riding We assume you are referring to Interlacing, hiding arcane expressions within an existing Enchantment.” I nodded and replied, “Right, that’s exactly what I meant.” Spirits also don’t make good conversationalists. Another thing to add to my list of reasons to dislike elementals.
The ride down the lift was a rickety, if short, journey. The spirit at the bottom had taken on more of a masculine build, all bulging muscle and standing five feet tall to operate the crank. It opened the doors to the lift with bright blue hands, probably a spirit of invention or intellect, something smart and crafty to watch the primary entrance of the vault. The vault itself was a massive pair of stone doors inlaid with runes of binding, protection, and defense. My Inner Sight couldn’t penetrate the doors at all, I couldn’t even feel anything past the doors, and there weren’t any handles, chains, or knobs. The Council spirits that had led me down floated in front of me and held their hands out flat, as if asking the door to give them something. Slowly, the doors started to creak and groan then swing open on invisible hinges. It took a minute or two for it to finish but inside was a solid stone room laced with enough magic to make the air inside hum, all housing perhaps a dozen pedestals with different artifacts on them and a single pedestal in the very center that was completely empty.
I stepped in gingerly, looking to Mori with every movement, and looked at the other artifacts first. While they were there and protected still, the fact that they hadn’t been taken says something both about the vase and about the thief. I scanned each item slowly, both using my Inner Sight and my naked eyes. They were stuffed full of various kinds of enchantments, even history dating back to Earth, and were all extremely valuable. Some were stuffed with enough raw power to set someone up for generations of fine living. Each of the pedestals had enchantments woven into them to lock the room and destroy everything inside, spiritual and physical, that wasn’t the pedestals or the artifacts. Underneath it all, though, was a deep scar. The same scar I had seen from my room but much closer now, more raw, like a naked wound still oozing blood and throbbing in pain. The world, that which is real and unreal, is not well here. It’s torn, injured, fresh…it was frightening to just stand there in such a blatant misuse of arcanology.
I ran my fingers along the wall and traced the runes carved into the stone. Without looking at them from the right angle you wouldn’t even be able to see that they were there, spelling out sentences of incantations in small print and unpainted to hide their placement. At eye-level, though, and in random circles surrounding the central pedestal, there were disjointed cuts like the stone had cracked even though it was still whole and untouched. Runic letters didn’t line up properly and yet the enchantment still seemed to function as it was intended. This was major mystical damage, the kind that comes from massive arcane feedback.
I headed back to the central pedestal, the empty pedestal where the vase used to sit, and I walked around it slowly to examine the effects of the scar on it. The floor was scarred, no longer the soft white color of the stone of the rest of the room but a deep burgundy as if blood at seeped into the stone and stained it. Shards of power, misshapen thaums and residual waves of arcane enrgy, still crackled and came off of the spot itself. It was remnants of the spell that was used to steal the vase still rippling back and forth through time. I knelt down and placed my hand on the edge of the discoloration and closed my eyes so I could focus on my Inner Sight. I searched through the arcanological signatures, feeling out the confines of the spell that had caused it. The color, the flickering energy, all seemed to span out both forward and backward in time. This ground had been damaged by time being halted all together and something being removed without anything coming in to replace it. This was left over thaums, like the nuclear radiation from atoms breaking down that old Earth had used before the True Ways were illuminated. The residual thaums themselves were a shadow cast by the spell, burned into the wall by this arcane radiation that was seeping out of the scar left in the universe.
Through the scar, though, I could see what happened – the magician had teleported in from Elsewhere, grabbed the vase and teleported out in the same ‘moment’. In order to do that, they’d have to have pre-cast the spell to get them out of the room and the time between the two was all they had to work with as far as theft goes. Given the energy levels of the scar, the spells were a minute apart, if not less. Since the spell was going to go off almost as soon as the thief arrived, they had known exactly where to be and what to do. All that was left behind was the scar itself and an empty pedestal meaning they weren’t here long and didn’t draw any thaums from the room to power the spell to go in or out. The spell itself reeked of precision but inefficiency; huge amounts of power were used to accomplish this with very little regard to what it wasted. This magician wasn’t an amateur but certainly wasn’t a master and they were dabbling in something beyond the capabilities of most magicians whether living or dead.
Though I guess ‘living’ and ‘dead’ were relative terms when we’re talking about someone that thinks that the constraints of time and space are flexible.
The pedestal itself had also been changed by the spell. While it didn’t have random bursts of thaums coming out of it, the same power definitely did a number on it. So much so that it was completely innert – the gold was dead, the silver was dead, the stone was dead. Everything was unable to even be seen by my Inner Sight. The enchantments that were there had been completely blown out and had somehow taken the very metaphysical moorings that allowed the pedestal to even interact with the arcane world.
I looked back to Mori and shook my head slowly, “This…this is something else. I think we should get back to my house as soon as possible. I’ve got a lot of research to do.” Mori nodded slowly and looked back to the inert pedestal, “Even We are in Fear of Who or What could accomplish this kind of Enchantment. It is beyond Our Understanding.”