Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » April 13th, 2018, 2:37 pm

Chapter Nineteen: Side effects

At about this time, side effects of the summoning of Luminosita began to be felt around the Errant World.

-*-*-

The first “effect,” of course, wasn’t a “side” effect at all; it was what Luminosita had been summoned to do. The huge, magical apparition that, only about two or three years later, would loom over Emerylon (with disastrous results both for Emerylon and for itself), now raised its sword against the castle-fort at Provatiel – considerably more effectively. The first sword-stroke severed one of the towers that rose above the river, hurling its massive blocks into the water and against the walls as though they were confetti. The second took out two more towers, dropping them into the courtyard where they pulverized the forces that were starting to gather after the construct’s mighty bellow; the third, the main keep. Finally, and most importantly, a mighty, magical foot stomped down through the wreckage of the keep, and collapsed the underground chambers where the clandestine artillery, and even more importantly, the subverted elven travel platform were concealed; Brother Miguel’s sketches had been remarkably accurate. Then, the magical apparatus triggered by the Artifact of Absonial could take no more, and it ground to a halt – but it had served its purpose.

The whole attack was over in no more than a minute, probably less. The dying – including the deaths of Elgin Bindiel’s first two wives and children (Sister Carleen, his third wife, escaped by a stroke of luck, having been sent to the fields on an errand) – was not.

-*-*-*
Next, for a brief, sickening moment, the airship carrying Miguel and his fiancée back to Saus lost the magical component of its lift, as did the few other airships aloft over northern Veracia.

The interruption didn’t last long, only long enough for the airship to sag gradually by two or three feet. However, three feet of free fall in a large ship seems like an eternity. It is also enough to do surprisingly serious structural damage. The airship was combat-ready and hardened against magical attack (the Veracians had learned something, after all, in the aftermath of the Mage/Priest War), so redundant systems kicked into action and stabilized the vessel quickly … but not too quickly for Miguel and Sister Marilyn to notice.

Marilyn’s upbringing had left her as tough as nails, and certainly not inclined to scream in terror, but she did produce a gasp and a curse. “Luminosita’s Nuts! What was that?”

Miguel produced his own quiet “Damn” and held his lover tightly for a minute or two … and then he swore again. “Damn. I … I think I know. And I don’t like it. Great gods of the elves, I’m going to have nightmares for the next three years … because … if I’m right, I …” His voice trailed off as alarm bells started to sound in the airship’s cabin, quite unnecessarily as the critical moment had passed.

“You what?” Marilyn probed; she was getting her own balance back, and that Ensigerum-like preparation for combat was rising with it.

Miguel’s mouth worked for a moment, then he put a finger on his fiancee’s lips. “Don’t ask. You’re better off not knowing, at least until … later.” And he would say no more until the couple were safely through the warp gate in Kiyoka.

*-*-*

Remarkably, neither the Kiyoka gate nor the corresponding one in Saus through which they boarded felt the slightest measurable effect from the Luminositan magical pulse. A few other gates spread around the Tsuirakuan system, including one all the way up in the Northern Confederacy, did flicker briefly, drawing looks of surprise, and indeed fear, from the normally imperturbable portalmages. Fortunately, no gates were opening during the magical pulse; and so no lives were lost.

There were, however, repercussions. Recent events had left the Tsuiraku Transit Authority sufficiently skittish about warp-gate operation that those few flickers were enough to produce a hasty but full-fledged inquiry into what had caused them. It didn’t take long to point an accusing thaumatic finger at Veracia, although not one with enough spatial detail to pin the source down to Provatiel. When an official demarche drew a curt “none of your business” response from the offices of the Patriarch, the Tsuirakuan government knew something was up; they just didn’t know what. Time would tell. Maybe.

-*-*-

A curiosity about magical effects, it was known in most of the world’s magical cultures, was that magical influence did not necessarily fall off with distance from the place where magic was being wielded. The Tsuirakuans had put more effort into understanding this curiosity than most, and Sashi Mu’s experts on Gu theory had developed sophisticated models that explained it in terms of “constructive interference,” “phase cancellation” and assorted other bits of thaumatic jargon. Most of these served mainly to hide the fact that they didn’t understand the behavior of magical influence much better than the Tsuirakuan on the street.

Whatever Gu theory may or may not have had to say about the phenomenon, there were certainly some locations quite remote from Provatiel where unexpectedly strong side effects of Luminosita’s summoning occurred. Most of these were underwater, reasonably enough given that water covered more than half of the world’s surface. There were some fish kills that would give sea-going scavengers a few days of good dining, and in a place of two, human fisherfolk would puzzle over the numbers of dead fish on the water’s surface, without ever making a connection to Provatiel. On dry land as well, most effects were transient and nearly unobserved – a troll Chieftess found her ritual sharing of the meat of a recently deceased tribe member to be incredibly energetic, and a magical Healing somewhere in the Northern Confederacy had unexpected side effects – but generally, nothing too dramatic happened.

It would have surprised no one who knew the natural history of the Anuban archipelago (not that there were any such sages left after the Errant War, of course) that that island group was an exception. Sister Rose and Argus were hacking their way through some dense undergrowth when their attention was diverted, first by a frisson of magical energy that they felt at some visceral level, and then by a loud rumble from the north. (By this time, Paukii had struggled ashore, and after casting vigorous Hygiene magic to rid herself of the seaweed and other gunk she’d accumulated, had fallen into a deep sleep that mere noise was not going to dispel.) Argus and Rose looked at each other with muttered, simultaneous “what was that?” on their tongues … and then they looked off in the direction of the noise.

Beyond the nearest island, perhaps two or three islands up the chain, a volcanic eruption was in progress, not unlike the one that had happened some weeks earlier near the Mountains of Madness in its force … and its unnatural origins. The two explorers both knew enough of the geography of the archipelago to know that it wasn’t a volcanic landform. At least, it hadn’t been.

“Blue and orange Weave,” Argus said, using a version of the standard Tsuirakuan expletive that Rose had never heard before. “If that happens here …” He didn’t need to finish the sentence.

“You have no earth magic to stop anything like that?” Rose asked, almost certain of the answer, which indeed Argus gave. “Not within a factor of ten, probably not a hundred. If that happens …” He didn’t finish it this time either.

“Well, if it happens, we’re screwed,” Rose pointed out realistically. “Therefore we assume it isn’t going to happen, and take whatever precautions we can.” She resumed hacking at the vegetation with her dagger.

“But what precautions are those?” Argus asked, reasonably enough.

“Damned if I know.” There wasn’t much more to say after that, as volcanic thunder from the north rolled over them again.
----
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » April 20th, 2018, 10:54 am

Chapter Twenty: Requiescat

Possibly the most spectacular example of an unexpected magical confluence (other than the volcano seen by Rose and Argus, but essentially no one else), following Luminosita’s assault on the castle at Provatiel, happened only a few short miles from Elgin Bindiel’s inn, where basically nothing had happened at all. That was the way the confluences and interferences worked, for no reason anyone had ever figured out.

Carson Jeromiel had arisen far earlier than he’d expected to, following the late-night session with Bindiel. He’d slept well enough for the first half of the night (what was left of it, anyway), but when he rose early in the morning to heed the call of nature, he couldn’t get back to sleep. There was something about dealing with that Veracian finger-waggler that was creepy, and Carson Jeromiel, like most assassins, was both immune to most kinds of creepiness and inclined to trust his instincts when he did detect some.

He’d slipped out of Isabel well before the sun came up. That, at least, was consistent with his normal routine: move when no one is watching. Even in a city as large as Farrel’s capital, the pre-dawn hours were a quiet time when he could move, and escape, without being observed. He covered the first mile of his journey on foot, to where he’d left carefully concealed transportation to get him the rest of the way. A horse wouldn’t go far enough or fast enough, and the contraptions used to power trains and airships weren’t available to him; the magical ones were, well, magical, and non-magical steam power (the Errant World would never have internal-combustion engines, lacking oil) was much too heavy for personal transportation, let alone the racket it made.

A bicycle, however, worked just fine, even lacking the magical enhancements of the “thaumatocycles” that two Tsuirakuans had used just days earlier to travel in southern Veracia. Jeromiel was fit, and he made a good fifteen miles on his machine before the sun was up. Another hour, and still unnoticed, he was approaching his goal: the valley where he’d left “Fred” hidden.

Wasting no time, he removed the brush he’d used to cover the immense golem’s face and other more recognizable features; not much of a disguise, but not much need for it, either. The narrow valley where the golem had come ashore wasn’t useful for agriculture, and fisherfolk had better anchorages down the coast. Besides, long before this particular use for it came up, the Schwarzhammer had carefully cultivated the idea that the valley might be haunted, unsafe for normal human beings, and particularly unsafe for anyone of rival guilds; in other words, anyone but Schwarzhammer. The destruction of another, minor guild’s safe house, just across the ridge line inland from this valley, had emphasized that point in a way the guilds could understand absolutely clearly. Jeromiel smiled at the memory …

“Well, ol’ buddy, time to rise and shine,” he said cheerfully and conversationally to Fred, even though the golem had never shown any signs of recognizing speech (or any other sound, for that matter). It did recognize the controls he held, however, and under his hands, remarkably skillful given that he’d only had the box for a few weeks, the golem awoke, started to rise to its 300-foot-tall upright position, and almost gently, lowered a hand to where Jeromiel stood. He stepped aboard, and soon he was sitting comfortably in his makeshift saddle-seat on Fred’s shoulder.

Let’s see, he thought, what were we going to do today? Right, aquatic tests. He patted the folded life preserver he’d remembered to bring, after pinching it yesterday from a shop in Isabel. (If they only knew… he thought with some satisfaction.) He wanted to see how far out to sea he could safely take Fred while still under control of the Tsuiraku-manufactured box. That was reasonable; the man from Veracia had insisted on it. As in most coastal areas, the sea bottom dropped away from the rocky beach quickly at first, but then more slowly on the continental shelf underlying Farrel itself. He figured he could get at least half a mile out to sea before the water rose to anywhere near Fred’s shoulder, maybe more. If things started getting problematic, he’d just turn around, and he had the life preserver in case things went completely to pot. He was as safe as he could make this test.

In the water, anyway. But he had not reckoned on what was about to happen on dry land.

Man and golem were still half a mile from the water when the convergence of Luminositan magical energy reached the valley.

Its timing was particularly unfortunate for this pair – terminally unfortunate. Fred’s immense foot was in the air, preparing for a step, when the magical shock wave hit. The control box exploded, literally exploded in Jeromiel’s hands, and the golem paused in mid-stride … temporarily.

“What the hell, Fred?” Jeromiel snorted, as if addressing a friend who’d just done something stupid. His perch was starting to waver in a most uncharacteristic way. The explosion of the control box had done him little physical damage, but he no longer had any way to control the golem. And he was two hundred fifty feet in the air, on his precarious perch.

Swearing under his breath, he started to look for a route to climb down the immense torso. After the first twenty feet or so, where the shoulders ended and the vertical, overhanging body began, there wasn’t one. “Damn,” he swore again. “Just going to have to wait this one out…”

But he had already run out of time.

The one-footed position would have been unstable in the best of conditions … and now an earthquake, also triggered by Luminosita’s attack, rumbled ashore. It wasn’t much of a quake, barely enough even to be felt in Isabel less than thirty miles away, let alone do any damage. But it was enough to start the now-inert golem tipping forward to the ground … rapidly.

In that moment of clarity which precedes death, Jeromiel had time for one thought. Damn … wish I’d learned a Slow Fall spell.

And then the ground rose up to smite him and the golem. They lay where they fell, and neither ever moved again.
----
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