As Above, So Below
A Whateley Academy Tale April Fool's Day Prank!
As Above, So Below
by Kristin Darken
Elsewhere. Outside time.
The black cloud that represented the Dark Master stood across the Anvil of Service from its opposite, the shimmering energy that was the Holy Light. The Keeper's Hall in which it stood would have been recognizable to any player of the game GEO in any of the mortal realms with whom they maintained contact. The two spoke of the entities they had recently found, tested, and allowed to grow strong throughout the Faded Lands. It was a language of refracted images and body movement with a fluidity only truly possible by incorporeal beings. The complexity of perspective and emphasis would make true translation impossible; yet that was exactly the difficulty they faced in any encounter with physical sentient creatures.
“These ones of the new coordinates show prospect of greater evolutionary challenge,” spoke Light. “Passionate advances in both composites yield far more essential force than many coordinates. Translation interface yields in some beings have accelerated beyond physical interaction to direct connection by reality ichor.”
The dark mist moved in an agitated pattern, “Some entities in this coordinate perceive reality ichor as mutable factor. Seek understanding and fail. Heightened challenge maintaining integrity of channel.”
“Acceptable by Keeper. Greater reward merits risk effort,” assured the shimmering energy. “Concern raised by non-aligned composite. Appeal for this structure produces lower dynamic yield.”
“Initiate challenge structure in traditional composites against non-aligned composite?”
The two creatures dimmed in intensity as the focus of their intentions shifted into the Faded Lands, the reality the mortal beings knew as the world of their game called GEO. As Game-masters of that place, they initiated content patches and quest chains that would turn both Light and Dark sides towards integrating the neutral lands in return for the power and rewards being offered, especially those of the Bandit Queen Seramis and her shadows on the other world-servers. When the opposing sides met, it would spark factional conflict and raise each side to further dynamic differences.
“Initiate interpretation phase?” queried the Light oriented sentient being. “Language emphasis and perspective process in interface shows moderate facility with abstract interaction. Begin glyph directive communication now?”
“Negative. Uncertainty of cooperative interaction most entities. Peak interaction only at pinnacle experimentation, most entities still challenged by surface level reactions. Most visible advances in entities of advanced evolutionary progression. Allow further development before interpretation phase.”
“Confirmed,” came the response from the shimmering energy, though it seemed dimmed by the failure to advance the project.
“Conflict escalation not critical. Communication not yet vital. Soon.”
The chamber seemed to ring with with an unpleasant chime, the Anvil shivering with an unseen impact. Both entities pressed forward in fluctuating concern.
“Coordinate mirror advanced shiver, collapsing. Dynamic yield falling to failure point,” the Dark Master revealed, carefully examining the reactions of the Anvil.
“Confirmed. External integration of Faded Land dynamic conflict resulting in collapsed social infrastructure. Shattering channel binding necessary to prevent system infection?”
“Confirmed,” agreed the Dark Master, and again each creature faded as attention was focused elsewhere; to another version of the creation known by the uninitiated as GEO. As the interdimensional connection to that version was closed and sealed, the Anvil whined in animalistic sorrow before settling down.
“Additional failure. Project success rests on fewer coordinates,” worried the shadowy mist.
“Further connections impossible, reach and flux extreme for more distant. Dynamic energies needed for safekeeping, expenditure will prevent survival until gains achieved.”
“Confirmed. Success fated. Existing dimensions sufficient, unless false foretelling. Still, these ones,” the Dark Master pondered, focusing its intent on the Anvil, “show promise. Perhaps abandonment of non-progressed beings? Focus on evolutionary advances?”
“Negative. Not dominant species. Cooperate is necessary. Else disrupt dynamic.”
The two entities returned their focus to their individual tasks and responsibilities, interacting with and manipulating the progress of the project using the Anvil of Service. In the distance, the enemy renewed their attacks on the arcane gates protecting the Fortress of Discovery; the Keeper himself watched over the defenses. The structure of many realities depended upon the fated success, that the Fortress would stand undefeated. Few knew the Truth, that the tale of such a Fate was little more than a minor construct... a rumor. Much would change, across the myriad dimensions of reality, should the Fortress fall. It was necessary to seek aid from outside. The difficulty was in communicating the need and bringing the proper forces into the conflict without disrupting other critical points of balance.
Saturday, February 11, 2007.
Nikki had many months of practice in ignoring her ancient side's addiction to GEO and usually used the time to contemplate the eventual integration between the two of them. While it was clear that the search into the magic aspects of the game had been the lure that drew the Sidhe Queen to it, it was clearly an excuse now. Seramis, the Bandit Queen and Keeper of the Grey Font, was far from the neutral position she had once hoped to establish. With the conversion of the other known Font from Evil to Good by the Apropos Ring a few months prior, her own Font had become the primary target for wave after wave of Dark side raids. The Light was happy to remain in control of the single Font, even extending offers of assistance to her when she came under attack. It had become almost common place for two or three Apropos Ring members to be in residence at her Keep and she had Garic and Necina on the magical equivalent of speed-dial.
Sara and Nikki had laughed for a long time, breaking into giggles for weeks, at Aunghadhail's shock about who was the mastermind behind Marala. Having the Succubus undermining the various offensives against the Grey Font had helped keep things from getting too far out of hand, but the ancient power was all too aware that the friendship and bonds between the two girls didn't automatically keep them from fighting or betrayal in this sort of game, especially when the character's they played were designed to be in opposition.
This is... disturbing. The thought from Aunghadhail brought Nikki's attention to the monitor and the game. Seramis and several of her allies had broken free of an orchard, long since overgrown with brambles and vines to be nearly impassible, to approach what remained of a old tower. Most of the near side appeared intact, but piles of crumbling stone around the east side suggested that large parts of that wall had collapsed. Their focus at the moment, however, was on a large section of intact stone walkway on this side. Precious metal inlays and other mystic materials kept channeled magics active and ready for use, with no sign of when the circle had been created. More importantly, the Fool's Circle was identical to one that Nikki had seen all too recently for her liking. On the stone beside it were other power circles: one to call for aid from beings all too closely tied with Aunghadhail's ancient enemy, another to unbind and capture spirits from powerful artifacts that would have made mockery of Solomon's greatest work, and others that raised goosebumps on the back of her neck even sitting safely in her room at Whateley.
“These are... how are these circles in the game Aunghadhail?” Nikki asked hesitantly.
This should not be possible. Perhaps now you see my quest with a different light? This is not the magic that I was seeking, but it is an important find.
“Did Hekate do this?” the red-haired girl asked.
No. This Circle and some of these others are well beyond her mastery. I believe that these could be the work of the one who taught that girl. Perhaps even the source of her knowledge of them.
“Wait... you mean... this is Hekate's master?”
Possibly. Most likely her master is the person who created this. I have not seen any other player create something on this scale, not even those mages of the Apropos Ring who are rated the best in your world at this game. That suggests it was created by those who created the rest of it... this Enigma Solution, who created the game.
“But why would...”
Wait. Something is happening.
The others had been carefully avoiding the various markings of power as Seramis looked them over. They had taken up positions where they could quickly respond to any sort of attack, caution trained into them after many weeks of battle with the armies of the Dark. As Aunghadhail passed a warning to them, the air around one of her Archers rippled. The man turned incredibly quickly and began to fire arrows into the others of the group as quickly as he could load them.
An out of character private message popped up on the screen, “Sorry, the character's out of my control. You'll have to take me down, its some sort of mind control or something.”
Seramis pulled a wand from her belt and gestured aggressively with it, freezing the Archer in place with the stored magic. One of the mages raised a hand in her direction, but paused before actually casting any sort of spell and relaxed again when she lowered the wand. She quickly explained to the others what had happened, and warned them to be on guard for more attacks. Whatever had caused it could easily try again and she wanted to examine the circles more carefully before they left the area. First though, she carefully moved around the side of the tower to where she could see the gaping holes into it.
That is what I was afraid of... something was imprisoned within there. And is no longer.
“Isn't that a...”
A static portal to somewhere else, yes. Like the ones the training areas use to send people into specific locations to quest. Someone was sent here, possibly to help free whatever was in this place.
“If Hekate played GEO, she could have been sent here and learned how to do what she did...”
You forget that she did this to Skybolt and Cavalier before this game ever started.
“Oh... well that's good, right?”
Hardly. Either the one who taught her is now teaching others or this game is only a new incarnation of something that taught her over a year ago.
“You mean like the Palm?”
Yes, you've heard Sara's friend talk about her encounters with that man's manipulation of magic and technology. An Artificial Intelligence shouldn't be able to create something like those circles... but neither should the power in them be able to be produced in an artificial world like this. It confirms something I've suspected for some time. This is not a game world... it is a tool for viewing and interacting, even controlling, aspects of another world. Somewhere out there, uncountable dimensions over from our own, is a world where the people find themselves manipulated by our actions. Our thoughts and goals inhabit them, driving them into actions that are based on our whims for entertainment.
“It's real? But that is...”
Terrible evil. And yet, in many cases; the players are doing things to help the people accomplish great things. It poses an interesting dilemma. One that we will have to consider before...
A scream came from the other side of the tower, but by the time Seramis was able to return within view of her group there was only silence. A quick look showed blood and body parts scattered across the stone blocks, stopped in places by the mystic energies of the circles and runic spells. There was a new spell in place on the stones as well, and shock filled Nikki as Aunghadhail recognized it and saw space ripple as something unseen raced towards her. Seramis activated the Rune of Recall that was attuned to the Grey Font, it's power pulling her back to it's glade in moments. There was nothing she could do for her fallen allies. Somehow, she must get word to the leaders of the other critical factions of the game; to warn them of the risks. She headed for the path leading to her Keep, but found it blocked. She turned back to the Font in time to see two figures step from its mist like clouds, one oily black and the other a brilliant energy.
And then the game closed.
“Uh... game over?” Nikki squeaked out.
I believe so. They know what I found and what I was going to do. And stopped me. We need to get Sara, she can pass the word.
Nikki got up and headed for the hallway; but when she placed her hand on the doorknob, it was blistering hot. She jerked her hand back, then carefully tested it against the wood of the door to ensure there was no fire on the far side. As she did so, an odd crackling sound came from behind her.
Emerging from the melting computer were two entities that looked much like the game-masters of GEO.
“What... what was that spell?” Nikki asked Aunghadhail.
It's a weapon of the enemy. It takes the contrast created by dynamic extremes and uses it to generate vast amounts of energy... it intends to raise the conflict between us, the good and evil in our world, heroes versus villains, to fight its war. It will destroy our dimension to fuel it's own actions.
Nikki took in the immaterial appearances of her opponents and tapped her spot to call for help...
Several members of Team Kimba were in their Corner in the floor lounge. Most of the other freshman had gotten used to the Kimba's reacting to their private communications channel, getting private amusement by the half of the conversations that they could hear... and occasionally being scared out of their wits when TK went on the alert if one of the team called for help. This was one of those times. Jade and Chaka went through the door at the same time as Tennyo, only one of the three touching the floor anywhere near it. But before they had gotten more than a step outside, the stopped, unsuccessfully trying to stop the pain as their ears were barraged by painfully loud screaming. They didn't need the spots to hear the screams though, everyone on the floor could hear Fey screaming for help and then just in terrible pain. Doors slammed open, people bursting into the hallway, and then everyone was knocked back off their feet as an explosion took out several rooms on the freshman and sophomore floors.
Chaka shook her head trying to clear the ringing from her ear as the two regenerators took off up the hall. She tapped her spot, “Fey?” There was nothing but a terrible silence.
“Someone is going to pay for this...” she growled. She rushed to catch up with her friends, but there was almost nothing left of Nikki's room, or those adjacent to it. Tennyo was floating in the midst of the wreckage, silently staring at Jade. The younger girl had collapsed to her knees at the doorway, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I'll stop them, Jade,” she whispered. A dark light was flickering in Tennyo's eyes. “They may have gotten Nikki... but they won't get any of the rest of us. They won't get anyone else, ever.”
In upstate New York, a Syndicate precog jotted down several images of terrible destruction rained down on bases all over the globe. Several coordinated attacks would soon be made if action was not taken. When he had his notes ready, he picked up the phone and made a call. If Whateley was going to allow its students to shatter the neutrality, people needed to know about it. It was going to be war, for certain...