Chapter Seven of Notes From the Abyss!
June 4, 2012
Hah! Haven’t seen this one in a while, have you? Well, here it is. I didn’t do a whole chapter of exposition. Yet. That’ll be the next chapter. It was fun to go back into Jarvis’ shoes, though, especially since I’ve been working in a lot of different things lately. I’m also cooking up a few ideas for a new urban fantasy story called A Worn Cloak and it will be the new (modern, Orange County based) story for Roland Argyle. I’ll let you guys wonder what the gimmick is for my urban fantasy idea this time around.
Also, today is my 26th birthday! Yay me!
Without further ado…
By the time I woke, Hunter had moved the Blackfang twice. It was several hours after the second movement that I stumbled out of my quarters and sank into a chair in the dining area that looked out of the wolf’s left eye. Jennifer and Hunter were watching the forest outside when I first got into the room. When I sat down, though, they were polite enough to somehow find a stiff cup of black sludge coffee for me and a plate of what appeared to be bacon, eggs, and toast made of meat. I’m sure if I looked at a whole slab of the bread-steaks I’d be able to tell what they were but I was famished from what I assume was twenty hours in my bunk. The coffee, at least, was exactly what I expected. After three rounds of breakfast, I was finally cognizant of the world again. Enough to see what had kept my crewmates so quiet during my scarfing.
The jungle outside was completely illuminated, even through the darkened glass of the ship’s windows. There was a lightning storm unlike any I’d ever seen. The sky was full of lacing webs of electrical discharge, whole nets of blue energy wrapping around bulbous black clouds so low that they covered the taller trees. Which sometimes resulted in explosions of wood and vines once the electrical net found it. We could hear the closest explosions despite the shield protecting the ship dampening anything that approaches the ship at speed (which includes all sound waves, unlike what a lot of those old science fiction stories thought). I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened of a natural event, or so glad that there was a thaumaturgical sync connected to the place I was standing. The sheer levels of power arcing outside, at least what I guessed at was the level of power outside, was astounding.
I shuddered softly as a great bolt shook the ship, striking it right on the nose. “How long has this been going on?” There wasn’t a single bolt of lightning but rather a constant roar of the air cracking and sizzling with electrical discharge.
Jennifer bit her lower lip slightly and looked to Hunter. “I don’t know, ten hours now? It started while it was raining, off in the distance, but the rain stopped eight or so hours ago. Or it’s being instantly evaporated by the lightning storm. Hunter, now that I think about it, this is raw thaums. If we’re here absorbing free arcane energy to repower the ship, will this help?”
Hunter’s fingers tapped on the arm of the chair he was sitting in as he looked toward the ceiling, lost in thought. “You know, I think it might. I’ll go check the reserves.”
“It would wold be magnificent to be out there.” She was hugging herself but her face betrayed no trace of fear or anxiety, rather there was an edge of fierce curiosity. A kind of hunger that was very nearly jarring.
“You are aware that if your mind is at all tuned to absorb ambient thaums for spellcasting that it’ll be damaged by being out in that kind of storm, right? My mind would be blown out of me like the tops of those trees. That’s raw, elemental power. Huge, roiling, boiling, arcing bundles of raw elemental power. Only a wood could stand out there and not be afraid.” I finished my cup of the delicious black sludge and poured myself another.
“A wood? And I’m aware of that, I do work in an arcanotech enabled estate, if you recall. Still, it’s amazing to watch. You might even say it’s electric.”
I groaned and rolled my eyes. “That was awful, Jen. Anyway, wood’s slang among certain occultist groups for inert people. People who can’t channel thaums, can’t do spellcasting. It’s some quirk of their genetics. Whole families can be wooden, or just one person. Or sometimes the opposite – an entire wooden family with one well known arcanist. A story from my family’s history tells of an old cousin that angered one of the first arcanists and had his soul shattered. After that all of his children, and him, were wooden.” I sat back down and relaxed slowly into the chair.
“That…that’s awful.” Jennifer blanched and turned back to the electrical storm. “Naturally inert people sounds like it would be bad enough, since they can’t use Operator spells. They’d have to have an artificial Agent or have some kind of assistant all the time. Doing that to someone intentionally…that sounds awful.”
I shrugged and frowned. “Sometimes there are people dangerous enough to warrant it. Speaking of rogues and ne’er-do-wells. Mori! Apparate and let’s have a chat.”
Light seemed to coalesce between the chairs and Mori appeared, seated on a table rather casually. “Good morning, Jarvis Mac Callister. It is Our opinion that You have recovered quite well from the Thaumaturgical Storm outside and the over-extension of your Will in our last conversation.”
I chuckled and sighed softly. “Yeah, it was pretty hairy, I guess. Anyway, I was wondering if you could tell me more about the vase.”
Mori narrowed its eyes at me. “The situation was covered in hair, Jarvis? We won’t ever understand how You perceive the world. We can tell you much about the Cask, including the history and capability of both the Cask itself and the Power locked within.”
I nodded and looked to Jennifer. “Anything you’re curious about before I get all technical?”
She shrugged and placed a finger to her mouth. “Mmmm…I’m curious how the Gates family got the vase, where it came from and such.”
Mori nodded slowly and looked at her. “That question is a simple one, Magistrix Jennifer Cranston.”
I looked at Jennifer and quirked an eyebrow. “Magistrix?”
She grinned playfully at me. “It’s my official title.”
Mori continued, as if we hadn’t spoken. “The Gates family was given the Cask long ago as penance for the actions of the Family on Earth. Were it not for the assistance of a long-gone patriarch of the Gates family, the Weapon within the Cask would not exist and the Cataclysm would have never happened.”
I inhaled sharply, “Well then, Mori, you should go ahead and start at the beginning of the whole story. With that kind of lead in, I need all the data I can get before we tackle both the vase and the thief that could take it.”