Notes From the Abyss – Part Two Drafts
March 26, 2012
Oh, this is so late it’s embarrassing. Here it is, though! I’m going to be working on this or Out of Thyme for Wednesday probably.
I got caught up in reading Girl Genius again, so…yeah.
Hope you like this!
Jennifer read through the various notes tacked up on the wall of the spaceport’s office while she haggled with the operations manager. I watched outside as various temple-ships lowered themselves from space in an intricate and astounding dance that can only be described as coordinated parking. This was the fourth spaceport that Jennifer and I had been to so far on Metris while looking for a pilot that was crazy enough leave the standard shipping lanes and go on a research voyage. At least, that’s what we were telling them. The first two through us out on my name alone. The third didn’t have anyone available who wasn’t already booked for standard transorbital flights. Here, though, I watched one particular ship glide gently into one of the grassy landing zones with grace and poise that belied its size. It flew colors that weren’t on the shipping schedules and it was smaller than a freight temple so it probably wasn’t looking to pick up a load that wasn’t already being shipped out. Agile, well piloted, and built of reliable materials. Where most temple-ships were steel and wood or canvas, this one was carved from marble with a great wolf’s face on its forward bow. It was audacious. It was beautiful. It was perfect. According to the landing board, its charter belonged to the pilot as well so there would be no nasty surprises from investors or the ‘actual’ owners. Just have to convince the man in charge, one Hunter Zaubershwart according to the paperwork.
“Jennifer, I think the Blackfang is the one we want to look into. It just landed.”
She turned to the window and followed my finger, looking right at the wolf-headed temple. The spaceport manager looked along with her and sighed loudly, “That’ll be Hunter Zaubershwart, right? Yeah, he’ll probably do this. Let me get the paperwork together, go ahead and introduce yourself. He rarely leaves his ship in port, so you’ll have to go to him.”
“You go on ahead, Jarvis. I’ll get everything settled here on our accounts and everything, as well as finding porters to get our equipment onto the ship once you’ve negotiated a rate.” Jennifer turned back to the spaceport manager and started haggling over something quietly. So I shrugged and sauntered out onto the field of temple-ships, each lined up carefully in boxes of white and black stones.
While most temple-ships are crewed with humans or constructs of some kind, really powerful practitioners are able to invoke support spirits of various kinds. The Gates family, who Jennifer works for, keep a stable of house spirits that reflect a single, central intelligence. If the spirits pouring out of the Blackfang were any indication, Hunter was a powerful sorcerer and had the time and energy to deal with at least a dozen independent spirits. Everything from a handful of independent elemental spirits that were checking inscriptions on the side of the ship to what appeared to be a flying cloak that was giving orders to porters, mechanics, and the ship’s spirits. Figuring that was the captain’s eyes and voice, as it were, I walked over to the ship and called up to it.
“You! Spirit! Ghost. Creature. Flying cloak monster. My name’s Jarvis Mac Callister, I’m looking to talk to Hunter Zaubershwart about a job.” The thing turned and looked at me and nodded then lowered to the ground. A shuddering, wispy voice filled my head and told me that Hunter would consider the offer that was in my mind. I wish I could replicate the words the spirit used but they weren’t wholly language, weren’t wholly feeling, and seemed to be more memory than experience. After it had looked at me, though, it dove back into the temple-ship.
I’m going to pause in my recollections here for just a minute to explain the Temple-Ship architecture and why they’re temples and not merely vehicles. When the True Ways were first discovered, transportation systems that used older technology was slowly replaced with mystic systems attached to the old chassis. This is why our cars still look like old internal combustion cars even though the engine and tires are gone, replaced with a navigation and levitation spell welded onto the bottom of the frame. There was no way to simply rebuild the space shuttles, though, since the rockets weren’t necessary. Instead, the first spacefarers built new ways to get off the ground and into orbit. They designed spells to move large objects into orbit and hang them there, to seal in breathable air, to create food and water, and to create gravity. These spells took reams of parchment or large walls of symbols scribed in intricate combinations in order to function. They became temples to themselves, require careful ritual and constant tending in order to function properly. Soon after the True Ways were discovered, mystic mechanics were in high demand for personal space-flight maintenance. While the first few temple-ships were designed like the old space shuttles or science fiction’s idea of a space ship, most now are designed more like flying buildings. Or, occasionally, even more bizarre creations. Hunter’s temple-ship, The Blackfang, was designed like a crouching wolf, jaws open and howling forward as if in challenge, and was carved entirely from some kind of black marble. The outsides of the ship were covered in scrolling symbols for several spells to define its gravitation fields, its air supply and rebreathing systems, describe how damage was shielded against, and where weapon systems were. Within the ship would be even more spells scrawled on the walls, all emanating from the wolf’s jaws – the ship’s bridge. There would be a representation of the universe of some kind, a map or globe or hanging lamps, and at the heart of that would be a model of the ship itself. The Captain of the ship pilots and navigates using the sympathetic connection between the two and has access to Circles that describe the various systems all over the ship from life support to communications.
The ship itself was quite beautiful and I had lost myself in it for a time. I didn’t anticipate someone coming up behind me. It wasn’t until he put his hand on my shoulder and turned me around, bringing me face to face with a six and a half foot tall, half-wolf half-man creature who was either smiling or showing his fangs. “Hi there, Jarvis. I’m Hunter Z. This is my ship, seems like you need a lift to the center of the galaxy?”