From RPGnet
Jump to: navigation, search

After the Meeting continued[edit]

Outsider Stuff (Mostly Negotiation)[edit]


Carl remains silent for a few seconds, frowning inwardly. Then he stirs.

“The knowledge exists,” he says, drawing the syllables out slowly. “At least it used to.”

He goes quiet again, before holding up one hand and counting on his fingers.

“The place of negotiation exists. I know where it is, both Inside and Outside. “The training the negotiators received is probably gone, but some legacy of that process remains. I know who and where. “ I can … the King of Life at least, has the ability to establish the level of understanding … or at least to help find the mediator. And,” he looks up with wide eyes, “I believe I know how the gap can be bridged.”

Carl stares at Jack for a moment. He looks startled, then grins.

“Jack, you may be the right man for this after all!

“Of course, negotiating with one Outsider doesn’t do anything about the rest. The plan doesn’t change; we must defend the world. But the prospect of information, even of … joint ventures … is appealing, isn’t it? Not an alternate course, but a supplemental one.


He sighs.


"As Mr. Pallucelli said, negotiating from a position of strength is better than being a clear inferior. I think that negotiating from a position of too much strength can degrade into coercion, but I scarcely think we need to worry about that in regards to the Outsiders. Property is much more secure when backed up not just by 'rights', but by an ability to defend these rights. As such, I'm all for continuing to defend the world.

"But yes, if we had a place to talk, coupled with an ability to communicate and some understanding of the other party, then I'd say we're in business. Information, joint ventures, trade, heck, even cultural exchanges ... well, maybe the last is going too far....

"What's your plan?"


Carl raises his eyebrows. “Cultural exchange? Really?” He smirks.

“All right. Cannot call it a plan yet, but we do have some pieces.

“One. There is a chamber in the South American sanctuary designed to facilitate communication between the King’s negotiator and the Outside. A safe spot, if you will, where the Outside can come in without running the risk of the Outsider breaking free and doing mischief. Fate’s Tower, in Spain, has a chamber with some of the same qualities but I don’t believe it is as well made.

“Two. Do you recall Erich von Drakheim? He was travelling with me when you and I first met. Erich’s family are descendants of the old negotiators. They have a lot of half-forgotten lore in their estate that may contain useful aides to the process.

“Three. I myself know how to reach through to the Outside in a fashion that allows for contact and exchange; the King of Life at least also has … “ he fumbles a bit, “is able to perceive … circles of common basis … and can choose and reach out to those Others which *have* enough commonality to make mutual negotiation possible. I’ve done this by myself – it was dangerous at the time, but I learned from it.

“Four. The King’s General has a gift – a tactical perception – which allows him to evaluate and place the right people in the right places on the field to maximize effect. This gift works in synergy with the King, and both the King’s and the General’s gifts are expanded when they work together. I may be reaching on this one, but it seems to me that that tactical gift has a useful place at the negotiating table as well as the battlefield. My own General is in China with the King of Fate, and he’s needed there … but we do have Henrik, who might be persuaded to accept the task.

“So we put these things together. My ability to reach and to filter is very risky by itself, but when performed in a place designed for safety, that risk is less. The Drakheim legacy may teach us some of the customs and protocols of the work. The King’s General gives us better understanding of the stakes and the players, which strengthens our position at the table.

“So. To make this possible we need to scour Drakheim, re-activate the closed Sanctuaries, bring a General together to train with the King, and anoint a negotiator to the task, backed by all the rest.

“I see beyond this too, Jack; I can conceive of this as precedent not only for contact with Outside, but as the basis for a larger sort of court – where the Kings and the Principles stand together to negotiate and establish boundaries of safety and influence for each other and for the world.

“Do you see?”


"This South American sanctuary sound far more appealing than the one in Spain. I've only met the King of Fate briefly during the 'meeting of the Kings', but of all of the shady characters I have encountered in my recent travels, he is the one I trust the least."

Jack laughs, "Of course I remember Erich von Drakheim ... he clunked Auda in the head with a big stick. Yeah, he's alright by me.

"How many people can be in one of these chambers at the same time? If we could put together a diverse group, we might have a better chance of successful communication. Perhaps there is no need if you and Henrik can identify the right person, but more people will give us a little room for error, perhaps."

He thinks for a moment.

"This sounds like a fine idea to me. However, it does sound like it will take some time and resources. I wonder if we'll ever be able to implement it."


”Everything we need to do takes time,” Carl sighs. “We’ll manage. And I like the notion that while the right hand trains for war, the left hand trains for, well, not peace exactly, but an alternative to fighting.

“I do think you may have misunderstood me in one particular, however. Granted that the General’s gift has been to optimize men on the battlefield – what I had in mind was not to use the General to find the right negotiator – but to use those unique insights to gauge the ebb and flow of interest and perceived value during negotiation. I do not know if it can be used in that way – but it behooves us to find out.”


"Ah. Okay. So it would make sense to cram together as many people into the room to attempt to understand what is happening, while the General helps with analysis.

"Also, we could try to start with a minor exchange and attempt to build mutual trust at low risk.

"One big problem we have, is that the right and left hand are comprised of the same people. We're really more of a one-armed man... Hmmm. I think I should have just abandoned that analogy..."

Redland pauses for a moment.

"Of course, this is still pure negotiation. I'd like to continue my efforts at communication, although I understand that this is something you (and others) have identified as either infeasible or undesirable, so it's more of a personal effort, as opposed to a team plan."


“I understand.” Carl nods. “And we also need to figure out what we want – and what we can possibly offer for it. But --

“You already have communication, don’t you? With the Pharaoh? Do you expect to get something clearer or more useful with another one?


"Sort of. We don't shoot the breeze all that often, but, yeah, we can communicate pretty easily in (what appears to be) English. It is my understanding, though, that he is unusual in this. I'd be happy enough to run communications through him, but I don't think anyone else I know would find that to be a desirable situation. Also, I hate to impose on people, even a guy who is actually dozens of guys at the same time. Anyhow, getting more viewpoints would be good. After all, the Dark Pharaoh could be the equivalent of a continental philosopher, while what I need to find is Outsider Bentham...

"One (of many) thing(s) I don't understand, is how the Outsiders communicate with each other. If I were to learn one version of Outsider-ese, could I then communicate with a whole stack of different people? I mean, I probably don't have it in me to learn Outsider French, Outsider Russian, etc., but if I could get enough value out learning one of these (if it's even remotely possible), it'd be better than having to have the Dark Pharaoh translate everything for me. Of course, one thing I could probably do, is to bargain with the Pharaoh, and see if he'd free up some time from one of his incarnations to teach me. Hmmmm. What would you think about that?"


“They don’t speak, Jack. Or more precisely, they don’t have to.”

Carl reaches into his pocket, pulls out a couple of coins, selects a shilling, ponders it a moment, closes his eyes and closes his fingers over it, seemingly thinking hard for about ten seconds.

Opening his eyes again, he offers the coin to Jack.

“Here,” he says. “Listen to it for a little while.”


The coin, an older one is still pocket-warm; George V’s familiar bearded profile staring sideways into eternity. You wait, relaxing and clearing your mind as Rebecca taught you.

Nothing comes out of the coin, not really; rather there is a sense of attention splitting, of being caught up in a memory. It is not sight, not hearing, more a sort of body-memory, knowledge without interpretation that simply settles into you without filtering through the senses. Not crisp, more like something vaguely recalled from long ago.

You recall a place that has no directions, no up or down or fore or aft, but simply is, a place of infinite clarity and vital motion, but no details; and in that place you are not alone. Nearby, in some indefinable way, are many others. They have no size, but they are huge, incomprehensible and complex in ways you do not understand, and they constantly change. You notice that some parts are more distinct than others, and you know without knowing how you know, that this was important, without recalling why. Most are so different that they cannot even be comprehended, but some – a few – have a few sharp-edged nodules of something comprehensible in the midst of luminous incoherence.

You recall one that stands out more than the rest, and you struggle vaguely to change yourself to attract its attention. It does not appear to notice, but nearby others do, unfolding their attentions and becoming brighter and more dangerous, the mere pressure of their regard terrifying in its power.

You recall pushing something outward at the chosen one, some sort of important truth; it unfolds to you, presents a bright buffeting truth of its own, shock of alien knowledge that fills you inside. You reply, and it does too, but the meaning is lost; only the wrenching, altering nature of immediate, unfiltered knowledge remains. That and the power of its regard.

You recall the other withdrawing from you, turning away into the crystal distance, and you fled, fled back to smallness and certainty and the waking world.


[This is neither here nor there, but I was wondering if something like the New Deal has happened in this timeline. Since there's a different president, I figured there may not have been the 'stitch in time' and whatnot.]

Redland doesn't seem as freaked out by what has happened as one might expect (it's been a long time since he saw his name drawn in the air, even if he doesn't recall most of it). He does seem a little taken aback, though, and he pauses to clear his thoughts.

"Yikes. Is that the best we can do? I guess I can see why you've been so negative about the prospects of negotiating. We'd have to be pretty desperate to try to bargain in that type of enviroment. Are you sure that you're opposed to bargaining through an intermediary we can (somewhat) comprehend? I would think that would be the way to go ... either that, or I ... we ... need to figure out some way to bridge the gap. Otherwise it seems like we'd be rolling the dice ... and weighted dice at that."


[ New Deal? Not that I'm aware; too early yet. President Curtis is very different from Hoover, and works very differently; he's more popular than Hoover was. Also, the Crash happened later, and hit harder in the USA; the Dustbowl, however, hasn't hit yet, so we ain't seen the worst of things.... I'll be interested to see what happens this November, which is when Roosevelt was elected in the real world timeline. That's where the New Deal Coalition started as I recall. ]

"Is that the best? Depends upon what you think you just witnessed. I have no idea how much of what I tried to put in there you were able to experience. What did you see?"

<assuming you explain in some brief fashion what you got out of that.>

Carl sighs. "Well then. No, I suppose that's not the best we can do. That was my own memory, of course; the first time I tried to interact with them. And the only time so far.

"What you didn't get, I suppose, is what we talked about." He shrugs. "Talked, yes. In a way. And I learned a lot." he leans forward.

"The environment -- it makes a lot more sense when one is there. Things are malleable in ways we're not used to -- but I, at least, was able to see that; to search the nearby Ones for One that could understand me, with which there was enough in common for useful contact. Others, well, they're so different that they simply don't care. About us, about the world, any of it. It's the ones we can se, can reach, that are both the most threat to us -- and the most reachable.

"So I found one. I, um, twisted things, until we were similar enough to contact. And then I called to it. Sent it a Word, which it perceived. It turned too; sent a part of itself over toward me, a part that was chosen to be harmonious with what I was. You see, they're a lot more accustomed to this sort of thing than we are.

"Well, it looked at my Word, then at me -- and it sent me a question, which was, more or less, "What are YOU doing here by yourself? Where is your negotiator?" There were a lot more pieces to it, which I understood only poorly, but that was the gist. It was reluctant to talk with me. I might even say disturbed at the notion. It left soon after that.

"Another thing you need to understand -- is that the things you share are true. Truths. In that vocabulary, you can withhold information, but you literally cannot lie.

"But I learned from it. And we have the means to learn more, and machinery, if you will, to help make the communication easier. I haven't given up.

"This is what I had in mind, when I asked you if you wanted to be a negotiator."


[Ah. Okay. I vaguely recalled that the timeline was 'accelerated' in the game, but that may just be with the Germans.]

"So you say that they are more accustomed to this than we are. I wonder why that would be. It seems like that we might be able to infer some important information from that, though nothing's coming to me at the moment.

"It does mean that interacting with them will be, in some sense, more difficult. Whoever we deal with will possess a large, relative advantage. If this person wants to have repeat dealings, that wouldn't be a big problem, but if the Outsider we're dealing with is a 'fly by night', then we could give something up and come away with nothing.

"On the other hand, if we can learn more, well, why not? Perhaps we can get to a point where dealing becomes a bit less risky."


[ The Germany timeline is accelerated. The rest of the world, so far as I can make out, is just .. different. ]

Carl nods.

“There are other ways of interacting with them, of course. Some of them you’ve seen, or heard of; the more typical goetic methods. Others are more convenient for us, in some ways, in that they put all the strangeness behind symbolic imagery. I suppose the Dark Pharaoh is one such, though we have ways of taking things to Those Outside also. I favor the means I showed you because, there, the strangeness is obvious; otherwise it is easy to forget that what you are interacting with – and the place in which you are interacting – are artificial facades. Masks, if you will. And that you cannot tell anything of the Other’s true wishes and values from the mask.”


"The 'masks' work both ways, though, right? It is possible that it'd be better to be in an environment where both parties can 'lie' to each other on an equal basis than that we are in a 'truth-telling' environment where the other side has much more experience at withholding and ... misrepresenting."


“Hmm.” Carl ponders this. “Perhaps. I guess I shouldn’t let my preference for the truth cause me to reject lying out of hand. It all comes down to being in a position of strength, doesn’t it? Knowing what you have, as well as what you want, makes all the difference.”


"I think it depends on the Outsider we deal with. If he (I just feel weird calling them 'it') is a fair dealer, we'd be best served to be completely straightforward and deal with him fairly and honestly. However, you've indicated before that the Outsiders are more like making a wish with a djinn or making a deal with the Devil, with the offending party always seeking to not just turn things to their advantage, but to twist things to your disadvantage. If this is an accurate assessment, we'd be fools to behave 'honorably'."


“That’s what I was taught, and it’s certainly the way the Pharaoh tends to work. There are even those who say that the One whose mask is the Dark Pharaoh *is* Satan – or at least that Satan is an interpretation of him – but I doubt that one can treat all the Outsiders the same. They’re just too different – from us and from each other – to really know. Given the immense power they have, and the weakness and ignorance of our position, it has seemed prudent to assume the worst.” He cocks an eyebrow at Jack.


"Hey. That comment seemed pointed." Redland laughs. "Just as you have a default position of telling the truth, I guess I have a default position of trusting everyone."

He pauses for a second.

"I will concede that it is, perhaps, not the plan of wisdom and certainly leaves me open to abuse."

He pauses again.

"I suppose I've always had to learn things the hard way."

Jack shakes his head, as if in negation.

"Anyhow, insofar as negotiation is concerned, I guess the task is to locate a useful, trustworthy Outsider and talk to him your way and/or locate a useful Outsider and talk to him. Either way, we'd be well served to learn more about motivations and communication."


"I agree." Carl nods, musing. "The, ah, 'One God' plan had that advantage; the Unity was, in a sense, *our* Outsider, who could be expected to have the world's best interests at heart."

Principles (and Alliteration)[edit]


"Oh. Right. You'd mentioned earlier that all of the Principles were associated with Outsiders, not just Compassion. I don't recall anything of this sort when speaking with Ms. Laura. How does that work exactly (or roughly)?"


Carl chuckles. "Roughly, then. It's different in every case, but the overall pattern seems to be consistent.

"The Principles, in each case, are associated with an Outsider which is, in one way or another, tied to our world in some way.

Laura is not yet a Principle, mind you -- she's a candidate for the position. The making of a Principle involves a process

which connects the candidate to the Outsider, so that the Principle becomes, in a sense, a gateway between Us and It. She

then has the right and the ability to bring her Children -- that is, a group of people associated with that Outsider -- into a

stable hybrid position within the world. This gives them -- and It -- a rightful place within the Worldsoul, and confers benefits

to all parties - including the world. It also confers a responsibility to strive with and for the world for the world's benefit, in

payment to the landlord, you might say.


"Compassion. The Outsider is the Island Lady -- her Principle was Connie Talmadge, her Children the Five Families.

"Salvation. The Outsider is the Grandfather -- its Principle is Medea, its Children the Fae.

"Resurrection. The Outsider is, well, the Egyptians call it the Devourer -- its Principle is Alexandria Stanton, its Children a group of tribes in Egypt.

"Illumination. The Outsider is unnamed, associated with the Caretakers of the Tibetan Sanctuary, who are its Children. The Principle is a delightful young lady named Amanda whom you've not met I think.

"Aspiration. This would be Laura's position, and again, I cannot name the Outsider involved, save to say that it has, in this world, a huge influence over what we would call "Fate", or incident causality.

"... and we have no good notion right now about the Principle of Consecration."


"So, in terms of Laura, since she's the only one I (really) know, and since I feel some responsibility for her, what needs to be done? I'm interested from a couple of different angles:

"In regards to communicating with Outsiders, it sounds like she will have to do something like this, right? I think you'd indicated earlier that this Outsider will have already had some connection to the Worldsoul, so it won't be the same as a 'true' Outsider. However, it sounds like she'll be making a fairly complex deal with this particular Outsider. Is there anything that I/we could learn from this?

"Is there anything I can do to help her out? It sounds like we're going to be there for a short while. I know there was something to do with a Priest, Paladin, and Agent of Change (or something along those lines). Are they necessary for contacting the Outsider?"


“Ah,” Carl says. “Yes, all right.” He shifts a bit, stretching.

“Forgive me, Jack. Since we don’t know a lot about Aspiration, what I’m about to tell you is gleaned from folklore, not from experience. More poetry than fact, you see? If we knew more about this particular case, we’d be a lot better off.

“So, folklore first, then what we can deduce from the other things we know.” He stretches again.

“Six figures in each case of the Six,” he begins, counting off on his fingers. “The Principle, the Place, the Power, the Paladin, the Priest, and the Instrument of Change.

“The Principle is, of course, the lady in question. She becomes the source of unity, and the mechanism of the rebirth of her People, yet she is never wholly one of them, or like them in all ways; she stands apart. In each case so far, she was not born among her people, but grew up apart; her candidacy stems from things that have happened to her to make her as she must be, rather than purely an accident of birth. In some cases, a birth tie is a part of it; in others it is not; but in every case, by the time she becomes a candidate, a significant life-altering tie has been forged between the lady and the Children.

“The Place. In each case there is a site – a sacred site, if you will – that has powerful meaning to the Children. The Place is, apparently, an important part of the Principle’s elevation, in that the final transformation takes place there. For Compassion, it is Sando Island; for Salvation, the Niaoga Plain. For Resurrection, the Well of Souls at Abydos. And for Aspiration, as I’m told, it is in or near a ‘City of bright towers by the water.’ I believe that to be New York, but I really can’t say for certain.

“The Power. This is the Outsider I spoke of. In each case, the Power has entered the world and affected the lives of the Children. The hand of the Principle is required to fully integrate the Children into the world; and in so doing, she secures the Power’s place as well. The details are different in each case; I can talk about that later if you like.

“Next we have the three gentlemen, the Priest, the Paladin and the Instrument. The Principle’s Court, if you will.

“The Priest is a friend, a confessor, a helping hand, part of her life before the change. Not always a lover, but always one who shares affection and trust with the candidate. The Priest’s role is subtle but vital; he comforts the candidate, reminds her that she *has* a choice, keeps her mind and heart clear – and helps her to come to terms with the giving up of her old life, should she choose to become the Principle.

“The Paladin is her protector, a knight in shining armor who stands by her side and keeps her safe, before during and after the change. He also has a position rather like the King’s General, in that he often directs the affairs of the Children in her name, afterwards. Principle and Paladin may love one another, hate one another, or anywhere in between – but she is safe in his hands and under his protection.

“The Instrument of Change is the most important and enigmatic of the men. He is torn apart and remade, in a series of ‘temperings’, becoming a living conduit for the Power; he *makes* the Principle, and in some cases, dies as a result. He is also the only one of the Court that has any contact with the Power Itself; and he is the only one who has any ability to control or direct the Power’s hand. If there’s a deal-maker in the Court, it is he, not the Principle. The Instrument’s path is a traumatic one, very hard, and even if he survives, he always stands outside the community he helps to create.

“So to your questions. I’m not sure that the Principle makes the deals. It has not been that way in the past. Her job is to become founding mother and guide to a people, and living conduit for that people’s communal soul. Once the Principle is created, I suppose the Power can be contacted through her, as she is Its embodiment. But beforehand? You’re more likely to succeed through the Instrument of Change. Or by going directly.

“Remember, too, that the Powers are very different. Not all of them can be bargained with. Some don’t talk at all.

“Compassion’s Island Lady is the garrulous one. She spoke through her family constantly, even before the Principle was chosen. Salvation’s Grandfather never spoke at all, and the Fae – the Nightfolk – even the Elders shy away from It. Medea doesn’t talk to it: when she exercises her station, it’s like a revolving door: the Power manifests, and Medea is gone, for those few moments. Afterwards, she returns – but has no memory of contact. Illumination’s Power is a mindless, insensate horror; Resurrection’s Devourer is a ravening beast. Alexandria – Elise – ah, Resurrection’s experience is much like Medea’s, except that the Devourer is always deep within her, waiting, and she can feel it.

“What Power lies behind Aspiration? Or Consecration? I don’t know. The names, as I said, come from folklore, and we don’t know how they were chosen. Some wags in my little group have noted, with some truth, that the Principles are named after the thing the Power (or Its Children) lacks, or needs, but the translations of the Names are imprecise. Certainly Illumination and Resurrection’s Powers seemed opposites of what the Principle brought into being. Compassion’s Power utterly lacks compassion, though Her Children do not.”

Carl thinks for a moment, going back over things.

“So. How does it begin? Usually with the Instrument of Change. He is tempered three times, changing him – and it is usually he who brings the court together, offers the choice to the candidates. Oh, I forgot to mention: There are always multiple candidates, multiple courts – but only one Instrument of Change. He decides which candidate will become Principle.”


Jack seems visibly frustrated.

"It's always irritating to find out how little I know about how things work, and, of course, when I do learn something I just go and foget it all later.

"Ah well. This is interesting information. It does lead me to believe that we need to be in New York, not Russia. I guess there's no help for it, though."

He sinks back into his seat.

"Previously, I'd presumed that Donal was probably the 'Priest', but perhaps he's the Promulgator of Permutation. From what little we know of him, he may very well be undergoing his 'tempering' right now.

"Would it be fair to say that if we wanted to get the ball rolling on the whole 'Aspiration' situation, we'd be best served by traveling with Laura to New York? It seems that if she were there, all of the important elements would be in position. We'd have Laura, the Principle, New York, the Place, Donal, the Changer, is likely to be there, according to our information, and, it sounds like from what you've told me, that this is where the Children and the Power would be linked up.

"We are, of course, lacking the Priest and the Paladin, but they don't seem critical to the first stages. Heck, I can temporarily stand in for the Priest... I've been telling her all along that she doesn't need to do this whole Principle thing. And I assume that you'd be more useful than any Paladin we could round up at protecting her. From what I understand, once we get all of the other elements together, Laura and the Changer will be better equipped than anyone at locating the Priest and Paladin. As a quick aside, are the Priest, Paladin, and Changer always male?

"I've put out some feelers with the Fae (apparently it's alliteration day) to locate Donal. My efforts have not come to any fruition, but if we devoted more resources, we might be able to speed things along.

"If we could locate and confirm the identity of the Changer, and if I could glom on to him or her, it could prove a boon in learning how to negotiate with an Outsider.

"I also feel an obligation to help her, and although I don't recall speaking to her since Greece, I'd imagine she'd appreciate any assistance available."

He thinks for a moment.

"Hmmm. If the Outsider lacks its titled attribute, does that mean Aspiration's Outsider will be lazy and lethargic?"


After a brief pause, and before Carl can speak, Redland continues, "Oh, before I forget again, I had a question that's kind of off-topic. Why is it that (some of) the Outsiders are so keen on 'eating' people? I believe you'd mentioned that people have less of a tie to the Worldsoul than animals (or something along those lines). Why wouldn't the Outsiders prefer to eat goats?"


Carl chuckles. “Perhaps,” he laughs. “Or the Children may be.” His smile fades a bit. “Actually, though it’s amusing, there may be something to it. But the translations are so ambiguous that it’s not always certain what qualities the Principle actually represents, except in hindsight. Aspiration may be drive or ambition, but it also might mean hope, or even hopefulness. The target group may not be lethargic, they might be doom-ridden. Or the Power might be one that crushes hope, or stills ambition. If any of this means anything at all.

“Hmm, what I can say is that both the candidates I have met for Aspiration shared certain traits, first among them a sort of practical brightness to their outlook.

“What has caught my attention, however, is that the way the Powers interact with the world through the medium of the Principle is quite different than they do – or did – previously.” He peters off, pondering this, for a few seconds before looking up with a shake of his head.

“Sorry. Woolgathering. Yes, Donal does seem a likely one for the Instrument, especially in view of the attention he’s getting. And yes, so far all the Court have been men. “ He drifts off again, frowning to himself.

Carl looks up. “Hmm? Oh, that’s easy.

“I can’t really speak to the ‘eating’ part, but I don’t believe I ever said people have less tie to the Worldsoul. Rather, people are headblind – they are less aware of, and less sensitive to, the Worldsoul, and to the ponic realm in general, than most other Earthly animals. This is despite, and possibly because of, the fact that we are stronger and more vital than other Earthly life. Our blindness, combined with our power, makes the Unity a fractious, turmoiled place, filled with ripples and eddies all crashing back and forth, invisible events that mean a very great deal to the world even though most of us don’t see them.

“To those Powers that take nourishment or entertainment from such things, people are the succulent fruit – sweet and spicy. Goats, by comparison, are very bland.

“Do you see?”


[Rosey had asked me to ask that question about 'humans vs. animals' a couple of days ago, and I wanted to get it in before I forgot. It sounded like something Redland would ask anyway! Our local network was down at the office today, so I'm dialing in from home, which is nice, because I'm just not that busy at work at the moment.]

"Ah. Okay. I guess I'd taken 'blindness' to mean 'less attached', and I was probably influenced by that idea that man (to some extent) alters nature to suit himself, while animals alter themselves to suit nature. So, would that mean they have almost no interest in goats, or (grisly as it is to contemplate), could we form some sort of human to goat ratio?"


“I suppose so. Depends upon the entity in question. Does it think? Has it any concept of animal husbandry? Or is it just a hungry predator? We’d need, of course, to figure out how much a goat was worth, hmm?

“The real problem is that there is very little, ah, consistency between Outsiders. Each one’s different, they have different perceptions, different abilities, different wants and needs; there seems to be no government, and the only indication of any kind of society comes from my visit to the crystal place, which I tried to show to you. When you negotiate with an Outsider, you’re dealing only with It – not with any of the others, all of whom are sniffing the air and smelling something they want.

“That’s both the strength and the weakness of the Pentheus plan, as I see it. They’re not depending on negotiated treaties – they’re training a pack of wild animals to come to the dish and ignore the rest of the yard. Which works great until some fox or other realizes there’s less competition on the other side of that fence. Or until Something comes along that isn’t interested in feeding, but in doing something else.”


"Yeah, I was kind of thinking in terms of Pentheus's plan. That is, why would we need to give them people in the 'reservations'? If they'd be happy with 5 goats, 2 cows, and a koala in place of 1 person, we could probably make that happen, perhaps even indefinitely. Heck, I don't really know much about either ponics or Outsider values, so maybe a spider is just as good as a kangaroo...

"Not that I'd be overly happy causing the death of a ton of animals (or arachnids), but if it comes down to humans or goats..."


“I suspect,” says Carl slowly, “that that would work all right if all the Outsiders simply wanted to feed, and all we needed to provide was the equivalent of raw calories. But I also suspect a hundredweight of prime rib still wins out over a ton of unsalted boiled cream of wheat, all in all. And we already know that some of the incursions are from entities that a piece of the Worldsoul pie, not just sustenance; or they want to breed here, or nudge the Circles of the Dance into chaotic activitiy – like your friend the Pharaoh, sometimes.

“But if there were a way to do that, without it bleeding back into the Unity somehow – yes, it would be attractive.”


"Yeah, like a lot of thoughts I have, probably unworkable, but something to keep in mind, I suppose."

He thinks for a moment.

"Er, circling back to the Principles, when you say that the 'Powers' interact differently, do they tend to act in accordance with the Principle's 'name'? That is, the Devourer stops 'eating' stuff and starts returning things from the dead (or somesuch)?

"In regards to the Instrument (it just seems wrong that it isn't a 'P' name), you say that he is the one that is unique and not the Principle? Would that mean that the Instrument is tied to the 'Place' and the 'Principle'? For example, we can make a reasonable guess that Donal is the Instrument, because he, apparently, has some important connection to New York (the presumed place) as well as with Laura. If we happened to find another candidate for Aspiration, and that person had a tie to Donal, would that virtually confirm it?"


“I don’t know, Carl says simply. ‘These things aren’t cookbooks. What we have are descriptions of how it came about before. It appears that the various candidates are chosen, by the World or by the Power, to suite some sort of template – but there is a fair amount of leeway to that choice. The Principle candidates have a lot more in common with one another than with the Instrument, but the similarities don’t imply a connection. Personally, I suspect the Principle candidates are chosen by the World, the Instrument by the Power – but I’ve not tried to confirm that.

“Let’s see. For Compassion, the Principles and the Instrument were all of the Lady’s bloodline, but otherwise they had little in common. Constance, who was chosen, knew nothing about any of it, or about the Lady, until only weeks before her elevation.

“For Salvation, the Principles and the Instrument were all alike in that they were incurably afflicted with the Nightsider condition. The small size of that society was enough to bring them all together so the choice could be made. And it *must* be made. I’ve never heard of a case where the Instrument had only one candidate from which to choose.

“For Resurrection, the candidates and the Instrument had nothing in common at all, until the time came, except that one of the candidates had worked with the Instrument before his elevation, in the Farquellian organization.” Carl smiles. “We tend to collect such folk.

“And for Illumination, I’ve never found any connection between the Instrument and the others. He was an orphan boy with few ties anywhere.

“So you see….?” Carl shrugs.


"Well, that's too bad. The links sounds a little more tenuouis than I was supposing. I like it when things work out neatly, and a good, old-fashioned formula certainly helps in that regard.

"I guess that stumps me a bit. However, if I were to want to get the ball rolling on the whole 'Aspiration' situation, would you say that the next step would be to locate Donal, or would you recommend something else? I've been doing what I can to locate him, but it is not as though I've tapped all of my resources. There are always more bargains to be made."


“Don’t be too disheartened. This one might be the one where there really is just such a connection; we simply cannot depend on it.

“Donal is an interesting enigma. If he really is the Instrument, then it would be good to know where he is, and even if he’s not, he’s involved with all this somehow, up to his eyeballs. As for finding him – let’s not run up debts we don’t need to pay just yet. We can do some research at the Sanctuary too – there may be clues there we can use. In the end, if he is the Instrument of Change, he’ll be looking for Laura himself.”


“As for what I meant, when I said the Powers act differently through the Principles… it’s difficult to say concisely. Let me try to give you an example or two, and you tell me what you think.

“Hmm… have you heard of Azathoth? A very powerful Outsider, characterized accurately enough as a vast roiling mass of force, without mind or intellect, that is yet so powerful that Its mere existence imposes a form of law – as in laws of nature – upon the things near it. There are scores of other entities that circle close to It like moths to a flame; I have no idea what they get out of the arrangement, but they are there. The Earthly books written on the subject, by half-mad occultists who have looked Outside a time or two, call Azathoth “The Daemon Sultan” or similar titles, and see It as a ruler with a court, but that appears to be a terrible bit of anthropomorphification. Is that the right word?” He smiles.

“The Sultan is one of the Outsiders that has been called to Earth by sorcerers now and again. When that happens, the result is devastating; Its power is so overwhelming that It sears our reality and our landscape wherever It sits – and it has a habit of flinging out great tendrils of Itself to grab and consume anyone who might be nearby. Snacks, I suppose.

“Yet this is the Power associated with the Principle of Illumination. Amanda does not witness the Sultan; she opens a door within herself, and for a brief time that Power streams through to do the things she desires. It’s not destructive, or mindless, or random; but while it happens, Amanda herself is gone.

“The Children of Illumination are onetime priest-soldiers of the Fight, from incalculably long ago, who have been … rendered down … into immortal shades, memories of themselves that work at the Sanctuary. Amanda has the power to give them back their lives and bodies, which she will do when the time comes. She hasn’t done so yet, because then they will be mortal once more, but the time comes soon.”

Carl thinks.

“Of course, Compassion, the Island Lady, was very little different before and after the Principle rose. Hmm.”


"Hey, wait. If there is only one Instrument, that means, for Compassion, we already know who (and presumably where) this person is. Why haven't we moved on this? Do we think that the Power has broken her compact with the Worldsoul or is there some other reason?

"Also, it seems like (back when we were more interested in this) we seek out the Principle first, when I would think that it would be more efficient to go after the Instrument, initially. Is there a reason for that?"

Redland goes to grab them some more tea.

"I would very much like to locate Donal, but I guess there's only so much that can be done. It does appear that New York is at the center of a lot of different threads...

"Anthropomorphism is easy to slip into, at least for me. Although I consider myself a rational fellow, I sometimes find animism appealing. Now, if we wanted to understand, to some extent, how this Azathoth operates, would we need to contact the Instrument of Illumination? Is he still alive?"


“No.” quietly. “The Instrument for Illumination is dead. So is the one for Compassion. Salvation also. Resurrection is – may be – still alive, at least I haven’t heard otherwise, but he wanders far afield. Could probably find him though.

“We tended to find the Principle candidates first, I think, because they were more visible. All of the Instruments, thus far, have been loners who tended to prefer their own company, at least at the end.

“Why? What are you thinking?”


"Well, a couple of things. Let's see. You had said that the Instrument is the one who makes the deal with the Power. If I were to want to get some first hand knowledge of (what I presume to be) a fairly serious deal being made with an Outsider, one of the Instruments of Change would seem to be the person to talk to. The fact that most of them are dead is ... disturbing.

"In terms of Compassion, this seems a bit dicey. You had mentioned that there is only one Instrument of Change (and many candidates). If the Instrument of Change for Compassion is dead, are we up a creek? Are we just abandoning Compassion at this point?

"In terms of Consecration, insofar as we are still trying to make this work, it seems that searching for a Principle is, to some extent, a poor use of time. Given that there are multiple potential Principles, I would think the best way to go would be to expend your resources locating the Instrument. Without him, you're really no further along than when you started, since you may not even have the appropriate Principle. If you locate the Instrument, it seems like he pretty much gives you the rest of the 'pieces'."


“I see.” Carl nods. “All right. Hmm.

“The Instrument for Compassion was destroyed in the transformation that invested the Principle. He knew it beforehand – he wanted to die, I think. And I‘m not sure the notion of ‘abandoning’ the Principle applies, since she was indeed invested. What’s left are her Children, remade under Her hand; and those, indeed, we can work with. In fact we have been, in small ways.

“The Instrument for Salvation died in battle, some months after Medea’s rise, fighting some of the chosen servants of the Tower in Spain. Again, his choice; he was a hero, Jack.

“Illumination’s Instrument…” Carl pauses, “was shot in a bar, in Germany. Stupid, senseless, unnecessary. Granted, he was a strange and ill-favored boy, but even so.

“That leaves the other three. Resurrection is out there, having performed his duty; the other two, presumably, have not yet performed theirs.

“What would you ask them, Jack? If they were here, now, today?”


"Ah, when I say Compassion, I should be clear. Are we abandoning locating a new Principle and a new Instrument of Change and trying to make another deal with the Lady? Can we even make another deal, given that the Instrument of Change is dead? Would we even want to make a new deal, since the Lady, apparently, reneged on her old deal?

"As to what I would ask them, I would want to know, in as much detail as possible, the process they went through to make the deal with the Power. The deal these fellows have made are likely to be both more complex and more specific than those of random cultist practitioners. It may be, due to the fact that the Powers are already less Outside than usual, that the lessons learned through the negotiation between the Power and the Instrument would not be useful, but..."


Carl closes his eyes, then speaks in tentative singsong.

“The instrument of Change for Compassion … is of a line that is almost extinct. He is found by the Paladin … I think, yes … after a long and deadly quest. He refuses his path until he meets the Principle-to-be, and her Priest begs him to take up the mantle for the good of all.”

He opens his eyes.

“And the sign of the Instrument’s tempering is the disappearance of the magical barriers that surround the Island’s sacred center.

“I don’t know that we can search for a new one. He has to arise, and so does she, and her court. Connie is gone; her husband too – he was her Priest. And the barriers on the Island are gone, or were when we were there. Have they returned, now that the lloigor have taken the Lady back into her cell?”

He blinks.


"Er, was that how it was done last time? Or is that some sort of, uh, prophecy of what's to be? Regardless, I guess it sounds like we won't be able to get everything up and running again in a useful amount of time. Could we just make our own deal with the Lady without all of the usual shenanigans, or is that a nonstarter?"


Carl sighs. "Yes -- that was how it was done. This time, and last. These things are rituals, you see, of their sort.

"At this point, given everything, I think going directly to Herself would probably be the most direct thing to do.

"In fact, it's time we stopped reacting as inferiors and started acting like a court."


"Particularly in regards to The Lady, who appears to have gone 'off-book'. If we're to salvage anything out of the situation (if it's possible), a more direct approach may be required."

Redland flips through his notebook for a few moments.

"Hmmmm. I think I want to circle back to something, but I want to hold off to make sure I'm not cutting off this thread too quickly."


“I’m not sure what you’d like to circle back to, but if there’s something, by all means. As you said, we have the time.

Hooked on Ponics[edit]


Jack stares blankly for several moments. Something flickers across his face briefly... panic?, confusion? All the while his hands continue to idly flip through the notebook. When he speaks, it's almost as though he's failed to process what you've just been talking about (though, perhaps, this is just due to how late it is in the evening).


He gathers himself and flips through his notebook more purposefully.

"Um, right. I had a couple of (probably unimportant) questions. First, earlier, when we were talking about the necrophage, you mentioned something about a group awareness generated by the cells. I was wondering if this phenomena is what caused me to feel connected to the Fae community when I was 'infected'."


“Not unimportant. Everything you know helps you; there’s an awful lot to know, so never feel bad about asking.

“In this case, I think you’re probably correct, though we haven’t done research on it. This is an example of one of those synergistic effects I spoke of earlier. During communion the phage enters the companion’s body, and although on a cellular level there’s predation, on the level of the ponic and vitalic structures, there’s a lot of sharing. In effect, for a brief period, the companion “borrows” membership in the Fae circle, and in some cases, I understand, even some personal memories. That sort of intimacy isn’t universal – it requires an amount of trust and giving between the partners.

“The effects of this were a lot more distinct before the coming of the Dark Queen, when the Nightfolk were generally cut off from the Worldsoul. Then, the sharing during communion was the only time they connected with the world, and it made a big difference.”


"Hmmm. I don't recall if I've heard the term 'Dark Queen' used before. That is a reference to Medea, I assume?

"In terms of the sense of community, is it important that everyone in Los Angeles was, er, related, to Medea, or would, say, Mr. Usher feel that same sense?"


Blink. “I don’t know. The Fae and the Elders have not mixed at all; until Mr. Usher came out of hiding, it was not an issue. That is one reason this proposed alliance between them is such a remarkable thing.”


"Ah. I think I understand.

"On a slightly different subject, what sort of 'intelligence' do 'ponics' (or is it 'Rands'?) exhibit when they get together in large numbers?"


“Hmm. I wish I had my notebook on the subject here; it’s in my office in Chalon, I fear.

“Pons are funny creatures. Do you know what a photon is? Yes? Rather like a little particle of light? I tend to think of the magical energy we use in spells as being a fluid made similarly of infinitesimal particles. In my early research I used the variable ‘p’ to represent the fluid charge – the particles thus became “p-ons,” or just “pons.” Pons, ponic, you see how it went. Then I needed a measurement of ‘useful charge’, in much the same way that electrical potential is measured in ‘volts’, or current in ‘amperes.’ I chose one ‘Rand’, named after my first research patron, to be the minimum amount of ponic flux required to initiate a self-contained reaction, or cast a simple spell. Does that help with the terminology? Pons are particles, ponic flux the fluid, ponics the subject matter, and Rands a unit of measure.”

Carl sits back a bit, stretches, and takes a deep breath, settles into lecture mode.

“So. Some of the things I learned about pons early on.” He ticks points off on the fingers of one hand. “They prefer to move rather than stay still. They move very fast, and they move in straight lines, unless something influences them. That last point is important.

“Pons are sticky, in a sense; they pick up and carry information from their environment. When pons meet, they don’t collide so much as pass through one another – but they share what they carry, so that each pon leaves with information previously carried by the other, as well as its own. There are losses of course. Things get blurry as you might expect.

“One way ponic behavior differs from electric, is that while electrons repel one another, pons tend to attract one another. Rather, pons are attracted to what I call ‘ponic events.’ A ponic event is anything that can be noticed by pons. It is convenient to speak of pons as though they had senses, rather than field attractions – we’ll talk about that later perhaps. Pons themselves are ponic events; powerful energetic reactions are also, certain materials, and even living things.

“At any given time, then, a pon has very weak perception of ponic events in its close vicinity. In practice the perception is weak, its range very short, and in most cases the pon’s own urge to MOVE, in a straight line, is stronger than the attraction of the event, unless the event is very large.

“Pons moving together, however, tend to bind together. They are mutually attracted to one another, as an event; and in addition to sharing information, they behave as though they also share perception. A stream of pons has a much greater inertia, tendency to travel straight – but it also has more sensitivity to local events, and can perceive them at much greater distances. Such a stream, of course, is an event in itself as I said – it tends to attract new pons from the surrounding area.

“You might think that this was a recipe for disaster, as all the pons were drawn inexorably into a single great event, but there are counter-forces, as you see everywhere in nature. Beyond a certain point, as the charge gets higher, the ponic flux begins to behave less predictably, not more. It seems to become willful, if you like; the charge flies apart, or differentiates itself into structures that degrade, and the like. I believe this is due to two things – one, the interaction of the ponic with the vitalic and logos elements in its surrounds, and two, the aggregate responding to patterns in the information carried by the stream itself – but whatever the source, the effect is marked; orderly behavior according to the rules of tropism breaks down at higher charge levels, and the resultant energies exhibit complex and very elaborate behaviors, interacting with the local environment in random ways. These so-called ‘random effects’ can be induced at lower levels too, but they’re more of a nuisance than a danger most times.

“Should I go on? Or does that answer your question? “


"What creates a 'pon' in the first place? Or is that the wrong question, given conservation of matter? But, for instance, if pons want to move (very fast) in a straight line, and are only altered from this course by 'ponic events' (which sound somewhat uncommon), wouldn't they all just go flying off into space?

"Also, if we have a good way to contain pons in a localized space, what would happen if we kept cramming more and more of them together (possibly while continuing to feed them new 'information')?

"Is there a limit to how much information one 'pon' can carry? Do we know how it is determined which information is carried and which is lost? When they get together, does one pon carry information 'A' and another pon information 'B' and they can then trade this information back and forth without retaining or losing other information?"

Redland pauses for a moment.

"Er. Sorry, I guess I should stop there."


Carl laughs. “No, no! It’s good that you’re getting into the spirit of the thing. These are good questions.

“The first one – what creates the energy in the first place – I don’t really know. As an experimental science, all this is in utter infancy. I can tell you, though, that ponic energy seems to be generated, or accumulated, in and from living things. Doesn’t answer your question, I know, sorry. And as for what keeps them all from flying off into space, I’m not sure of that either. The world is surrounded by an ambient field of ponic energy, which at present averages a little more than a rand in strength; that ambient itself, and the ponic structure of the world beneath it, seems to be enough of a generalized “event” that it keeps ponic bolts from flying out into space unless they’re powerful and directed that way.

“That is important because, though the interaction between ponics and the physical world is normally weak, everything that exists on the world, including us, is interpenetrated with ponic stuff. We have ponic structures that are part of us, the same way we have circulatory systems and bones – they’re part of our architecture, interdependent with the rest of us. They help make us what we are.

“I don’t know what limit there is to the amount of information ponic fluids can carry. Not sure how you’d measure that in any case. It’s clear, though, that that information comes in two types – call them impressions and signatures. An impression can be anything – a memory, such as the one I showed you – a spell command – whatever. That sort of information can be imposed on the stream and sent out; it can be easily erased, or added to, or altered by skilled people; the information degrades through time and, ah, friction I suppose you might say. On that level, my instrumentation is quite crude – any of the Avowed can tell you more accurate details than I, through their active scans.

“The second sort of information, the signature, is buried more deeply and seems to be more intrinsic to the substance. A signature tells you where the flux is from – who or what sourced it, for example. Every one of us has a unique ponic signature, yet all of our signatures have much in common for they all share the basic signature of the ambient – the signature of the Worldsoul. Outsiders and alien things from other worlds, that have their own ponic auras, radiate flux with different fundamental signatures. Not like ours. Perception of that difference, on an unconscious level, seems to trigger a deep-seated reaction in most folks, some more sensitive than others. We call it the Allergy, and in a sensitive person, it can drive you mad.

“It’s easy, as I said, to wipe or change impressions in power, or add to them. It’s very hard to change signatures without utterly scrambling the contents of a stream. When streams cross, impressions are traded, as I said before. Though there are losses – like heat, like entropy, everything has losses – when two pons meet, something of the impressions from each with be carried away by both. Such a meeting will not normally affect their signatures however; each may carry away an impression of the signature of the other, but that impression is not a signature itself – just a memory.

“On the other hand, when a very powerful stream encounters a smaller less potent one, the weaker one may be utterly overcome by the stronger, swept along with it, becoming part of it. In such a case, usually, the smaller stream doesn’t go on its original way – it’s been subsumed by the larger stream.

“Does that help?”


"Yeah. That mostly makes sense, I think. It's interesting that a field averaging a single rand in strength can 'deflect' the pons. Does that mean that, to some extent, the 'ponic strength' of the event isn't necessarily significant in redirecting the forward progress of other pons (or more specifically in determining the attraction of a 'ponic event')?

"Assuming that the pons are reflected in some way similar to that of light striking a mirror (presumably from both the earth and the sky), I guess that answers, to some extent, the question of where the pons come from. That is, while it doesn't get at their original genesis, so long as they are not destroyed in some fashion, their continual presence is simply a matter of reusing the same pons over and over.

"Now, when I use one of my two tricks (telepathy or making a ring light up), am I using pons from myself or am I drawing them from the environment around me?

"I haven't noticed this Allergy, at least not that I can recall with the Outside elements I've met, namely, the Fae and the Dark Pharaoh. Perhaps Mr. Usher was more problematic, but I don't remember. Does this indicate that I have a weak connection to the Worldsoul or is it more random (or explained by something else) than that? Also, Avowed are Soldiers, right, with some sort of connection to the earth. Do they then have a correspondingly stronger reaction/Allergy to the Outside? Is that why Rebecca is so hostile towards them?"


“Events don’t have to be ponic at all, so long as they can affect pons. For example, great whirling masses of iron and steel are – or generate – ponic events, because the pons that intersect the metal are affected by that contact. We didn’t talk about ponic philic and phobic materials, did we? Maybe later.” Carl smiles.

“As for why one person has a strong Allergy, another a weak one, I don’t really know. I’ve chosen to look most closely at the very basic forces; once you get into complicated systems, like people, things get very murky.” He shrugs, raising an eyebrow. “Soldiers can be very sensitive – but in Rebecca’s case I think it’s training and history more than anything else.

“As for your metal ring, that’s an excellent example. Silver is a philic material – pons travel more easily within silver than through the air for some reason, so a weak charge travels round and round in the ring. You charge the ring with your own pons – but once they’re in there, that little circular flow is an ongoing event! It attracts more flux from nearby – the new energy joins the old – and the charge builds up until eventually the will to ‘go’ exceeds the allure of the rung and pop! You get the flash, and your energy flees off elsewhere.”


"Okay. This all makes some sense. I guess I sort of knew a lot of this already, just in a more, er, vague or ad hoc fashion, so I hadn't really put everything together, and I hadn't really understood the relationship between various elements.

"So, the more complex 'machines' you build are then a combination of philic (say, silver) and phobic (say, iron) materials. This allows conductivity within the machine, with the silver material, while keeping the pons constrained in a specific area, with the iron material. Is that sort of how that works?"


"In principle, yes," Carl nods, pleased. "In practice, we don't use straight-up phobics very often because they don't just constrain the flux, they also scramble it; that can cause a lot of random effects. There is a technique I use to alter the structure of the metals to make them more useful in the machines; treated philics and phobics can be applied as conductors and insulators in simple circuits, rather tlike electric ones -- though of course the laws and rules are quite different. More complex components, analogous to valves and bridges, can be built up from the simple ones, or made using alloyed metals and other tricks.

"Much of the field gear you've seen -- the grenades, the ponic 'ray gun', the charger -- are straightforward adaptations of your simple ring trick. There's a ring, it charges, it discharges -- and that discharge is used to feed a larger ring, et cetera. Cascading rings can gather quite a large charge very quickly."


"Now, with something like the ray gun, I believe there are warnings against carrying iron or silver while using one, is that right? Is this simply because it makes it more difficult to 'focus' the pons into the gun to be discharged (either through a general difficulty of manipulation when carrying a phobic or because the pons want to move in multiple directions when carrying a philic)? Or is there something else going on here (such as some sort of localized disturbance that interferes with the actual operation of the gun)?

"Also, I think I recall something about how telepathy can be disrupted somewhat easily. I assume this is because it is a ponically based ability, and the pons want to move in straight lines, so if you stick a ponic event in-between the sender and receiver, the pons get confused and move off in a different direction... or something like that?

"One other question. When, say, the Brotherhood is trying to contact an Outsider, do they use pons as well?"


Carl sighs, nodding. “Everyone uses pons, Jack. Or, to use the more common vernacular, ‘Power.’ One’s available ponic energy is often called one’s ‘Power’ by the sorcerers and such. It’s the stuff that’s used to cast spells and perform most summoning rituals. So yes, most likely, the Brotherhood uses Power.

“Iron and silver both interact with Power, as we’ve discussed before. In particular, when in a highly charged field, such as somewhere a ponic grenade has gone off or lots of spells are being thrown, the metal gets very hot – and sometimes will cause random effects to occur. That’s why we recommend you not carry such things into the field – and if possible, remove silver fillings if you have them. It’s because you can get hurt – not because it will affect the weapon.

“As for mental contact, yes, you’re right. If you establish a link with someone, not only are you vulnerable because you’re deaf and blind to the outside world while the link is active, but there is a sort of ponic thread between you and the other fellow. That thread can be blocked, it can be disrupted, it can even be eavesdropped upon – or it can be used to determine the direction of the other participant. In theory, a skilled adept might even be able to push something up the thread to ‘get at’ the participants, but none of us has yet tried to develop such a skill.

“Food for thought, eh?”


"So, when the Brotherhood sacrifices a whole stack of people, what they're doing, essentially, is creating a major ponic event, sort of like chucking a bomb. The pons erupt from the event like shrapnel, disrupt the earth's barrier so that an Outsider can come in, and some of them push out into space where they are picked up by the appropriate Outsider who they were trying to contact, who gets the information from the pons and manifests to contemplate some sort of bargain.

"Pentheus, recognizing that this is a crude method, does something similar, but instead of creating a bomb, which requires a lot of sacrifice, they create a radio, and they focus a 'beam' of pons that shoots straight out into space. They still need a sacrifice, because that is something that is an important part of the 'message' to be sent to the Outsider (or maybe it's important to allow the Outsider to manifest). Is that sort of the upshot?"


“Oh my! I doubt that’s the whole story. For one thing, just killing people doesn’t make a summoning, otherwise you’d have tentacles pushing out over all the battlefields there ever were. At the very least, there are elaborate ritual spells that serve to open the way – powered, admittedly, by the energy of sacrifice, but ponic energy by itself doesn’t do the job. In any life sacrifice, the vitalic yield is probably more important than the ponic, but the ponic carries the message.

“Let’s see. Think of vitalic force as the fuel for the effect, and the ponic force carrying the information – like circuitry, if you will – that determines how that energy will be used. Ritual sorcery imposes the information on the ponic flux through repetitive sound, gesture, and material correspondences. An Avowed soldier can do more, more simply, by directly imposing commands on his Power and sending it out. In both cases, though, the effect needs fuel to be performed. There’s enough vital essence in everything that most magic seems to “just work” – but it’s no surprise that magic involving sacrifice is more powerful.

“In your example, presumably, part of the message concerns the opening of the door to Outside, and part concerns where – or rather, which Outsider – that door opens to.” He shrugs.


"Okay. So the sacrifice is more about generating vitality than a ponic event. Is that the only way to generate it (in large amounts)?

"Also, it sounds like we don't really have much to fear from 'sorcerors', other than, of course, the fact that they can summon 'demons'. Other than that, there power sounds slow and feeble relative to the people we have on our side."


“One for one, I’d tend to agree – a well trained soldier is faster and more versatile than your typical sorcerer. Of course, we don’t have all that many well trained soldiers – and some of the spells used by sorcerers are extremely dangerous to everyone, so it doesn’t do to downplay their power or their threat. Spells may take longer to cast, or cost more to the caster than what the soldiers can do, but they work, and they can be just as powerful as anything the soldiers have. By analogy – put two people in a room full of materials. One man may be able to fashion a knife very quickly, and swiftly go out to hurt people, one at a time. It takes a lot longer for the other fellow to make a bomb – but when it goes off, the bomb has the potential to do much more damage, all at once.

“Indeed, the main limitation on spells is that they have to be learned from somewhere, from a teacher or a book – their mechanisms aren’t very obvious – while the soldier can train himself up to almost any effect he can concretely visualize, given enough practice. That training takes longer than learning the spell might, if the spell were available.

“Which is one reason we teach spells to the soldiers when we can, and when they’re useful. See?”

“Yes, there are alternatives to ritual sacrifice, or at least to killing. Vitalics can be extracted from the blood, and used directly to power workings. It’s not as effective, it takes longer to prepare, but it can be done. Alternately, a soldier or sorcerer can cast a spell using excised Power – that is, he can power his working with his own structure, short of death – permanently cutting away some of his ponic and vitalic self, that he will not normally ever regain. That yields very potent results.

“Nonetheless, there is more to the issue of sacrifice than simply the amount and kind of fuel available; there is a connection between the life force and the will that I don’t have any mechanical means to measure or describe. It is safe to say with certainty, however, that the most potent effects remain those generated not only by human sacrifice, but by conscious, knowing, willing sacrifice – where the victim gives up his own life, devoted to the working and the cause for which it is done.”


"When the sorceror uses human sacrifice, then, he's just basically being lazy (or, I suppose efficient, if he is 'evil'). That is, any effect he could generate by sacrificing people, he could achieve by acquiring a sufficient amount of blood.

"And if you catch a sorceror unprepared, he's just another guy, right (unlike the Soldier, who is still very dangerous)? It sounds like his 'bomb' is not very portable, since his effects require a lot of preparation. Or do I misunderstand this, and the sorceror is perfectly capable of creating something like the 'ray-gun', that, once created, can be used swiftly? Or alternatively, he has 'spells' that are quick to perform and he can just chuck a ball of pons at you and wipe you out in an instant (or would he chuck vitality)?"


"There is no single answer to that one. Sorcerors know what they know -- there is no single school or curriculum." Carl seems amused at the thought. The ones who summon may not -- probably do not -- know that they can avoid the murder, nor might they care. And yes, there are quick spells and slow spells, and some of each are very dangerous -- but one never can be certain what the sorceror actually knows, do you see? Some -- many -- may require all the apparatus and rigamarole, while others will surprise you.

"That's the catch, isn't it? As well as the catch with the Mythos as a whole. There is so much, and so much variation, that every situation is different. Makes it tough to know what to prepare for!

"All one can do is be prepared oneself -- and look for the signs of familiar things where they occur."

Carl shrugs.


Jack checks his watch to see how late they've been talking. While he has it out, he glances at it curiously.

"This item from the Dark Pharaoh ... Does it work the same way as everything else, or do the Outsiders use a different technique ... Is it even possible to have a different technique?"


"Both, I should say. Asking if everyone uses the same technique is rather like asking if all chemical reactions are the same, since, after all, they all use atoms. Hmm?" He shrugs. "I don't really mean to be flippant. And, not having examined the watch -- or the Pharaoh -- in any detail I really don't know. But I suspect that, down at the bottom of things, the same basic energies and rules apply. It's just that those basics combine in countless very complex ways -- and we haven't done more than scratch the surface here."


"Ah. Okay. I wasn't sure, given that, from what you've told me, Outsiders are so strange that they operate under different physical laws."


“Yes they do – but so far at least, *almost* everything I’ve had a chance to see used the same basic stuff.” He laughs once. “Of course, that isn’t to say there isn’t more out there. I’ve seen examples even here on Earth of effects that didn’t use any measurable amounts of the three forces directly. But if we must make assumptions, and we assume that if something is to work *here*, then it interacts with us using the forces that are the building-blocks *here*, well, that seems something that will be right most of the time.” He shrugs.

A New Topic[edit]


Redland seems to be shifting gears (is that phrase anachronistic?) fairly rapidly.

"Now, you'd mentioned earlier that you were concerned about a grouping of leys in the Hungary/Yugoslavia region. Given that the plan is to depart for Odessa from Rome, this would seem to be reasonably along our route. Might we be able to swing by the area on our way? We could see what the Brotherhood is up to, I could have a chat with them, and then we could continue to Russia to deliver the painting. Does that seem reasonable?"


[ no, I think it applies quite nicely in the period. J ]

Carl halts a moment, tilting his head, considering the change of topic.

“Perhaps,” he says. “Let me think about that a moment.” He moves cups and saucers to one side, using the table surface as an impromptu map.

“We’re in Rome. We depart by ship, travel south around the boot, east past Greece to the Bosporus, north through the Black Sea to Odessa. Quick, comfortable, and reasonably straightforward.

“If we want to detour to look at the ley nexus, we’d divert north into the Adriatic, land on the Yugoslavian coast, and make our way inland a hundred miles or so. Of course we don’t know what’s there now, and we can’t be certain of finding the Brotherhood. They may be nowhere nearby.

“Alternately, if we were to look instead at the Portal conjunction I told you about, it’s much further inland, east and south, not really on our way at all. Better to take the train to Belgrade, in that case, and travel down the Danube to the Black Sea after we’re done.

“If we were to ignore the leys and simply try to find the Brotherhood, I should start by asking Mister Becker if he knows where they can be reached. Failing that, my best guess for a starting point would be Hauptmann’s old estate near Cluj, in Romania. Again, way inland, easier to reach by rail.

“All of which is a roundabout way of saying that, while they’re all in the same area, they’re very different missions and I’m not sure we ought to try to combine them. Particularly if we are safeguarding the ikons; those ought to stay well out of harm’s way.”


Jack smiles, "Aha, but you overlook one crucial point. If we take a boat from Rome to Odessa, we'll be on a boat the whole time ... that might be quick and reasonably straightforward, but it is certainly not comfortable!

"I was thinking about the one on the Danube, between Yugoslavia and Romania. That's the one that you said was more dangerous, right? It would have the added benefit of upgrading our journey from the cursed water to the superior rails."


Carl laughs. “Jack, Jack, you’ve blown your cover! Here, all this time, I thought you were determined to stay safe at all costs? Do you really hate ships that much?

“All right. Say we take the train and then go overland to examine the site. That’s a worthwhile goal in its own right, even if the Brotherhood are not there. But I do not want to bring the ikons into that area; they need to be kept safe and well away. That probably means Miss Ripley and Mister Hanover stay away also, as their interests lie in protecting the artwork. Perhaps they could take ship, separately?”


"Well, you know, despite really enjoying my last trip on a boat, it's not something that I'm necessarily in a huge hurry to experience again."


"Sounds like you've got me between Scylla and Charybdis here. We can either take a boat or we can split up the group, neither of which, empirically, has done wonders for my health and well-being. Sigh, I suppose we could always stop by the site on the way back."

As if thinking to himself.

"Now if I could just get the Pharaoh to teach me that teleport spell..."


Carl sighs. “I’m sorry, Jack. I know it seems that we never do the things that are important to you – at least not until everything else is done. Which it never is.

“All right. Think through this with me. I’m trying not to put the ikons or our new friends in harm’s way by combining missions; Russia is likely to be quite enough ugliness, thank you. But let’s consider some options for a moment.

“Option one: The original plan. Rail from here to Geneva, then to Rome, then take the ship to Odessa, then rail north. The main advantage to this itinerary is that the voyage by ship bypasses most of the dangers and potential interruptions we might face getting to Russia.” He spreads his hands. “I am assuming that our journey is quite official, and that the Russian government knows we are coming, so that we can be met in Odessa and given proper escort from there. That makes the whole trip about as safe as it can be, given the times and the nature of our mission.

“Option two: we bypass Rome. My goal in going to Rome was both to learn what’s gone on there and to show you all a few things, but really there is no pressing need at the moment. If we miss Rome, we could either take rail from Geneva to Venice, then by ship as before – or we could take the train directly from Geneva, to Vienna, then Warsaw, then to Kiev – or to St. Petersburg directly, if politics demands it. No ships, but no chance of poking at the Brotherhood either, hmm?” He smiles. “On the other hand, if we’re passing through Austria we have another chance to meet the other candidate for Auda’s Consort in Vienna.

“Option three: we devote some time and energy into investigating the Yugoslavian ley nexus. In this case, we would probably rail from Geneva to Zagreb, then overland from there. We could possibly continue to the sea shore and take ship from there as in Option One. No telling what we will find at the nexus; perhaps nothing at all, perhaps big trouble. I’m hesitant to bring our precious cargo anywhere near this.

“Option four: we devote time and energy into investigating the Romanian Place of Birth. Again, in this case, we’d rail from Geneva, most likely to Belgrade. Given what Mister Becker said, a meeting with the Brotherhood is more likely here; I definitely need to talk to him again before we go anywhere. Afterwards, we either move north to Kiev by way of Budapest, or down the Danube to the Black Sea coast and over water to Odessa. Neither of these are particularly convenient. This is probably the worst idea, from the perspective of keeping our guests safe.”

Carl stops. “One side benefit of the water voyage is that we pass by Anaphi, and could make a brief detour to the Sanctuary for some answers. That’s not a bad thing.” He leans back.

“Now, did I miss anything important? Or is this where you remind me that dealing with the Brotherhood is probably more pressing than being an art courier?”


"Well, you know me. If you guys all decided that the best course of action was to go meet with the Brotherhood, I'd probably argue that," he mimics himself in an oafish way, "'You guys are all fools. We need to get this valuable painting to Russia, ASAP.'"

He pauses for a moment.

"That being said, I won't pretend that I have any specific interest in our current course of action. However, if you think that this is the optimal course of action, I'd be foolish not to defer to your greater experience, particularly in regards to implementing your vision for protecting the world.

"I can't help but think that New York is where we need to be, but I could be in danger of conflating (to some degree) what is important to me personally with what is important generally. It's also assuredly the case that, while I've never been in full possession of the facts, due to recent events, I'm more disadvantaged than I have been in some time. As such, my ability to make good decisions is somewhat compromised.

"I do wonder if it would be advisable to ask the rest of the crew what they would like to do. They may have no particular preference, or, even if they do, you may want to overrule them, but it might help foster team spirit by making everyone feel included. (On the other hand, it might just bog us down uselesslly).

"All that is to say that, while I'd probably prefer the other options (it's my understanding that I have some stake in this Auda thing), if option one is your preference, we should probably stick with that....

"Oh, right, I almost forgot. I just wanted to mention that dealing with the Brotherhood is considerably more important than being some glorified Pony Express for a fancy painting."


He grins. “Of course. And I forgot to mention Option five: That we take rail to Cluj in Romania, and look for the Brotherhood at Hauptmann’s old place.

“In almost any other circumstance, I would either send the painting on with Becker’s pair while we did something else. But, not only do I believe we can get some useful aid from Becker, but I do think that learning the state of things in Russia is important; and my personal history with some of the Court might be the best way to get into what is otherwise a closed border. Plus, China and Japan are rising concerns and Russia is the only other significant player in the far East right now.

“So we need to get whatever we can out of Cecil Becker before we go: Brotherhood locations and strengths, anything he has on Russia – and Japan and China too. I’m not sure whether Boris’ absence is a good thing or a bad one.

“If you were in New York right now, what would you do?”


"I'd see if Laura wanted to come back with us. I'd check in with my sources to see if there is any word on Donal (Okay, sources might be overstating the matter... I'd check in with my source). If not, I'd contact the Dark Pharaoh to see if I could generate a lead. If not, I'd contact Pentheus and see if they could help me out.

"I'd contact Ms. Caine and see if there was anything that she could clue me in on as to the source of my memory issues. I'd also try to pick up my trail and see if I could figure out where I went and what I'd done.

"I'd want to look into the upcoming incursion and see what, if anything, can be discerned. Is it being generated naturally or artificially?. Is there some way to stop or mitigate it? Can we learn something that would be incidentally useful to us?

"I'd probably check in to see what Pentheus was doing. Apparently the field test went well. What is their next course of action? Should we be doing anything?

"You had mentioned something about New Jersey. Maybe we could check in on that."


“Good.” He nods. “We can do something about some of those things even from here of course. For some of the others, how much time would you need?

“Miss Laura,” he continues, checking it off on one finger, “is in France, not here. We’ll see her on the way.

“Donal, presumably, is in New York, or has been. Your source may confirm this, yes?

“Miss Caine is of course in New York, and would probably enjoy hearing from you regardless. Why not call? If there is an inestigation to arrange, she is certainly capable; that way, when you do appear, much of the legwork is already done.

“My best resource to look into the incursion is at the Sanctuary, which would entail a side trip while sailing past Greece. Assuming we’re on the ship.” He tips his head slyly.

“Pentheus, of course, you could visit in New York, or call, or wire. Or all three. But talk to Henrik before you go – he stayed behind in South Dakota to see to the cleanup there, and can probably fill you in with a lot of details I cannot.

“And as for New Jersey – the site was selected and primed, I met with the Fae emissaries, we discussed briefly plans and next steps, and I left them to set things up to their own satisfaction. I do need to return there periodically to continue the work and help things along, but it’s only been ten days. I don’t want to stick my nose in too far, you see.” He chuckles.

“If we delay here in London for two more days, I can give you twenty four hours in New York. Three days, and I could even come along. Would that suffice?”


"With Laura, I figured it might be helpful to have her around when trying to locate Donal. If I/we were to leave from here, that would clearly preclude bringing her along, but if the alternative would be to not go at all, that'd be a small price to pay. We can always see if she wants to come along at a later time.

"While it's been awhile since we heard any information about Donal, the last we knew, we believe he was doing something with Pentheus in New York. My source (and there's no secrecy here. I requested some assistance on this matter from the Fae when I was in Los Angeles) will hopefully have some information on this matter. If not, as I say, I can escalate matters with other possible sources of information.

"With Ms. Caine, as you say, I could call, but it seems like it might be a bit awkward. Of course, perhaps less so than just showing up. Hmmm.

"Am I still in the good graces of Pentheus? Unfortunately, my memories regarding them are pretty spotty. I mostly recall what I was planning in regards to them while I was on the train trip back from Los Angeles to New York. It leaves my knowledge pertaining Pentheus quite incomplete. Anyhow, if they are still feeling well-disposed towards me, I figured they might be a good source of information about the incursion. Whether they'd want to share, I don't know. Like always, I could check with the Dark Pharaoh, but my impression is that he might not be averse to the upcoming incursion.

"As to going to the Sanctuary, that's Tibet, right? I think there's a reasonable chance that I can't get in there. Not that that is a big deal. If everyone else felt like it was a worthwhile excursion, I certainly wouldn't object.

"So anyway, yeah, if there's any chance I could sneak back to New York for a bit, at any point, I'd be most happy to do so, and the more the merrier."


[ 150 posts on this one thread – wow! ]

“There is a portal in the Midlands, about four hours by rail north of here, that connects to one in Massachusetts, about four hours by rail from New York. I have one more day trip to make here in England, plus two meetings in London, so I have at least a day less time than you do, if we delay. If you were to go, now would be the best time – I could join you in two days if I were needed. But it would have to be a brief trip, no open-ended investigations, you see.

“As far as Pentheus is concerned, I believe you are still in good aroma there. The field test in South Dakota went very well by their lights, despite a couple of unexpected turns and a lost man. Do talk to Henrik – he was there for the whole thing, even the parts I missed.”


Redland is silent for some time, thinking.

"You know, as much as I want to get back to New York, it might be best if I didn't go alone. Something obviously went wrong for me last time I was there by myself. Perhaps the wisest course of action is to wait until the entire group is ready to make the trip. After all, waiting a little while (probably) won't hurt anything. I don't know ... I guess I'll have to think about it, even though the window is closing. I need to start making good decisions."


“I know you want to go, Jack,” Carl replies, “and I’ve seen already that you really like to do things on your own. I’d just hate to have something – anything – happen to you when we’re already committed elsewhere. That’s when these things usually happen, don’t they? “ He shrugs.

“So it’s not about good or bad decisions, just timing. Sticking to one’s guns, I believe the saying goes. We have Russia to plan for.

“Speaking of which – do you know any foreign languages?”


"Sadly for the current venture, I don't know any Russian. I mean, they do have some good probability theory guys there, but that hasn't proven to be a sufficient incentive to learn the language, since, if need be, I can just muddle through the math and infer the relevance.

"Considering English as my home language, I would say that on the foreign language front I have:

"Fluency/Near-fluency in German

"Reading level comprehension in Greek and Latin.

"Oh. I've also started to pick up some American ... by osmosis."


Carl laughs. “Touchee.

“It’s good you have German, traveling in Europe. For Russia, French might possibly have been more useful, at least in and around Court, and English of course. But that’s only if we get to court. If we’re traveling in ecclesiastical circles, it’s harder to predict.

“But mostly I asked just for the information. It’s always good to be able to understand the people around you, even – especially – if you’re not part of the active conversation. I had some Spanish and German in school, and in the past ten years have picked up quite a lot of French, as well as bits and pieces of Italian, Latin, Russian and Arabic.

“None of which is going to help either of us if we’re out in the Hungarian countryside, or lost in Romania somewhere.” He smiles.


"The German I picked up from living there.

"I snagged some Greek because I wanted to read The Odyssey in its original language.

"The Latin was a necessity, because it's hard to be truly pretentious if you don't drop into your conversation some random, unnecessary, Latin terms from time to time.

"I'm undoubtedly a bit narcissistic, because when I'm outside the active flow of a conversation, I have a tendency to let my mind wander to something like the positive and negative aspects of the system of voting for politicians or somesuch.... Of course, given that we're going to be on a boat pretty soon, I won't need to worry about conversing too much, since fish are notoriously close-mouthed."


“I wouldn’t worry about that; you’ll have all of us to talk to after all.

“Hey, you have Greek! Is it all Classical Greek, or are you able to read more recent stuff? Byzantine, say? That might be very handy if we’re talking to Cyrillic monks about 9th or 10th century ikons.”


"Yeah, but unless you guys find things like, 'Ugghhhh' or 'Where's the bucket?' to be scintillating conversation...

"Er, anyway, not to be too disparaging, but I don't think the Greeks have written anything in a couple thousand years that anyone would want to read. So, unfortunately, we may have to chalk that up to another not-so-useful skill."


‘Oh Jack You *are* disparaging, aren’t you? And you disparage yourself worst of all. There are quite a few important texts that exist only in Greek editions, which are quite relevant to us at the moment.

“In any case, being able to read the markings on the ikons might just be a significant advantage. Have you ever looked at an ikon, either Greek or Russian? I’m going to go look for a book for you, if I can find one. They’re complex works, and understanding that complexity is a good thing.”


"Of course I've looked at an ikon before ... that one earlier this morning ... er, that's about it ...

"It won't shock you to learn that they were not in my usual areas of interest. I'd be happy to take a stab at it. Most of my reading in Greek has been plays, philosophy, and histories."


“All right.” Carl seems pleased. “I’ll look for something here in London then; and in any case there are some art plates at the Estate which I can show you. Really I don’t know much about it myself, but I have seen and read enough to know that both the writing and the symbolism are rich fields that tell quite a bit about the origins of the ikons and the people who made them.

“Understand – these are paintings, right? They do have text on them sometimes, but it’s not sentences and paragraphs. A letter or two, to indicate a word or phrase –a sort of shorthand. And each one – and where it is placed – means something. Here.”

Carl scribbles on a scrap of paper. It looks something like this:

   __    __
* IC * XC *

“This is one I’ve seen on a lot of ikons, so I know what it means. ‘Iesus Christos’. Jesus Christ. It’s usually floating over the baby’s head, near a halo. Get the idea?”


"Ah. Well, I do like puzzles, although I definitely have greater facility with numbers, letters, and words, than I do with symbols or images. Looks like this might be a little of the former and a little of the latter, so I'll see what I can do.

"Are we just curious about the origins of the ikons or is there some advantage to be gained from the knowledge?"


“Possibly both; until we get there, we may not know. In any case, it’s another tool in our toolbox, and that’s always good. Personally, I would love to know why these ikons display such dramatic properties and others don’t, but that may not turn out to be relevant to the mission at hand. As far as that mission is concerned, the ikons are keys to get us inside of locked borders.

“I anticipate, however, a rather interesting conversation with the owners, once we arrive.” He smiles.


"I was under the impression that you could mimic the dramatic properties, is that not true? Or is it more to the point that you could mimic the properties, but the methods you would use are not the ones that are apparent in the 'true' ikons."


Carl pauses. “That’s an interesting question. I realize, now that you mention it, that I have never done a close examination of the deep inner structure of either of the two ikons. I don’t know how they do what they do.” He looks at Jack, thoughtful. “You’re right, however. I believe the Kings could, if needed, make something that behaves like the weeping Madonna ikon. I don’t think I could do it alone, at least not in any way that would ensure it came out like I wanted. But even if we could make such a thing – we haven’t done so.

“There have been many things that have acquired wondrous behavior since the change in the weather began a few years ago. Most appear to be spontaneous. The ikon I have, however, was weeping before the change. I don’t know about Becker’s.”

Carl raises his eyebrows. “Perhaps I am reluctant to dissect what appears to be a natural miracle. Hmm.”


"Well, you know, anything I can do to destroy the sense of wonder and mystery in the world...

"I recall you saying earlier that the Outsider 'magic' was of the same essential 'type' as what you employ. If these ikons are an entirely different phenomenon, that might be of considerable interest (as well as potentially making atheists like myself look foolish)."


“True – though the fact that a phenomenon is measurable doesn’t have to make it less wondrous.

“I’m not sure it is correct or safe to say that Outsider magic is the same as ours. I can say that some Outsiders make use of the same basic energies as we can, at least when they’re here – but who is to say they aren’t using other forms elsewhere, or even in addition? Forms we cannot detect or measure? And sometimes what seems miraculous may not even be active magic – or even an action at all. For example, your Dark Pharaoh is said to be able to describe the past, or far-away events in the present, or even future happenings, with great accuracy sometimes. Some of the texts in our library imply that this is not because the Pharaoh can see the past and future as we think of seeing – but merely that It exists outside of time, dwelling at once in all times, past and present, and so merely reports what It sees during other extrusions into our world. D’you see?”


"That the Dark Pharaoh can see into the past seems plausible. It seems strange, but I clearly don't understand the powers he possesses. However, even given what I've seen, I have a hard time believing that anyone (or anything) can see the future. I take these' views of possible futures' to be just (potentially sophisticated) projections of what the individual believes is likely to occur. Anything beyond that (while conceivably, I supppose, true), challenges my fundamental beliefs about the world so thoroughly that, even were I to be convinced that it was logically true, might be too much for me to 'believe,' thus pushing me into a crisis of rationality..."


“Ah!” Carl leans forward. “The engine we have, in Tibet, does exactly that. We speak of the ‘negotiated future’, we can look at trends – often quite detailed – based upon what we know to be true, what we believe to be true, and what we want to propose … but it is subject to change, and as a future draws nearer to the present, it becomes clearer and more immutable. That engine, amazing as it is, exists entirely within the world, and within Time.

“Contrariwise, we have the case of the Pharaoh, in some form. Consider, if you will, our world as a closed environment. Even time is a part of that environment – another dimension, if you will, as Einstein might propose. Time being biased entropy-wise, only an entity existing entirely outside the environment might reasonably be able to lie along the timewise direction and see it all at once. It’s a bit mind-boggling, but makes sense if you think of it in a simplistic way: that Time itself is multi-dimensional, with alternate futures being in different futureward ‘directions’, and all possible versions existing at once somehow.” He blinks, smiling, and continues. “Consciousness and will – and perhaps it is only these – steer paths along and between these entropies – not creating futures so much as deciding on a membership. Do you see? I haven’t really thought this through so concretely before, but it makes a sort of sense – given the things that the Kings can do, especially the King of Fate….

“In an environment like that, something large and Outside might ‘see’ all possible futures, but we limited mortals would still be free to choose and act … and the Pharaoh could give us visions of the future that were true, but still never came to be!



The conversation continues on, but this is all that was noted.