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Old 09-07-2017, 09:01 PM   #34
tshiggins
 
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Denver, Colorado
Default Re: Campaign: Facets

(...continued)

With the agreement in place, things relaxed quite a bit, and A.J. offered to let Don Maximo stay at his place, where the master mage would find the accommodations much more comfortable. Don Maximo agreed readily enough, and after that, the group began to treat him as a guest from out of town. At Don Maximo’s request, they took him to on a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon (which remained almost entirely inaccessible, in his world), and made a trip to Las Vegas (which the Spanish sorcerer likened to Sodom & Gomorrah, even though he acknowledged the sheer utility of such a place).

(Basically, Henrietta, the group’s “face-man,” turned on the charm, and despite the minuses due to the circumstances, she got some decent rolls. Also Don Maximo’s reaction dice came up very high. He basically decided to accept the situation philosophically, and get out of it what he could. After all, he had enough problems to deal with in his own world, without a bunch of mages with a talent for violence gunning for him with 21st Century weapons.)

Once things had settled down, a bit, A.J. got to talking with Don Maximo and, during the course of the conversation about the Grand Canyon jaunt, joked that he’d like to take a helicopter through the portal. The former NASA scientist was quite surprised when the Spanish sorcerer reacted with deep shock, and said such jokes were, by definition, in poor taste. A.J. was even more surprised when Don Maximo grew quite upset at the mention of the ultra-light aircraft he and Steven had already taken over and flown around.

Pressing for an explanation, A.J. soon learned that the presence of anachronistic technologies, or the open use of magic, posed an existential threat to any world in which mages – either accidentally or on purpose – caused a significant change in the natural flow of events. The greatest hazard lay with actions that directly affected the lives of individuals who played important roles in the events of the world, Don Maximo explained, especially if performed publicly, in full view of many people.

Such “out-time” interference seemed to trigger some sort of cosmic reaction, which manifested as the appearance of what the Spanish sorcerer called the “qlippoth,” the “mad devourers.”

The qlippoth usually appeared as parasites in the minds of those near the violation event. These parasites devoured the people from within, and spread to new hosts. Once an entire region had been affected, Don Maximo said, all life mutated in twisted mockeries of itself, and eventually tentacled horrors appeared that spread magical chaos throughout the area.

If not stopped, he said, the very fabric of reality began to unravel, and eventually the entire universe frayed apart. Moreover, if the initial infestation took place near a portal, Don Maximo explained, it could spread to the second universe before the first disintegrated enough to destroy the gateways.

By bringing over anachronistic devices, and using them so openly, the group had placed Don Maximo’s entire reality at risk.

Appalled by the revelation, A.J. called a meeting with the rest of the group and they discussed the possibilities. They noted that everyone who had seen the ultra-light was either from the 2015 side of the portal, or had perceptions already magically altered and, therefore, didn’t count.

(Don Maximo explained that mages and magical creatures were already aware of the rather more fluid nature of the universe than mundanes, so anachronisms didn’t trigger the same consequences. He also noted that in certain very rare instances, a legitimate discovery proved so profound that it accidentally triggered something that looked like a qlippoth infestation. Don Maximo said this was supposed to have happened in at least one reality in which Sir Isaac Newton discovered the calculus, and local mages had sterilized his brain as a precaution. However, he couldn’t really claim that the story was anything other than a cautionary apocryphal tale.)

The group discussed matters, and Henrietta said she’d hit the McShane library to research the matter further. A.J. pointed out that the new information would force them to alter their modus operandi, by quite a bit.

A.J. pointed out that, while the presence of the ultra-light was probably the most obvious issue, the greatest threat had probably come from Doc Bascher’s sale of modern sterile gauze, bandages and aspirin, on her first trip to Valle Grande. After all, the Doc couldn’t bring herself to break sterility by removing the plastic packaging and, not only did the 1919 world probably not yet have bakelite (much less transparent plastic), the packaging was printed with all sorts of instructions, patent notifications, FDA approvals, and information about manufacturing origins.

Although still visibly upset, Don Maximo managed to calm himself, and acknowledged that while such activities posed needless risk, the universes weren’t exactly fragile. As such, given that the group had exercised at least some discretion, and had mostly shot bandits and soldiers in an area about to become a war-zone, anyway, they probably hadn’t triggered an infestation of qlippoth.

Still, Don Maximo demanded they take far greater precautions on any future trips, and said he’d have Don Reyes and some of his other colleagues check the areas in which the group had been most active, on previous visits.

He also noted that the risk of qlippoth infestation meant most lodges did their best to maintain near-absolute secrecy, and seldom exercised power in any directly traceable way. Instead, they always embedded themselves deeply in a society, created relationships with individuals in the local economic and political power structures, and exercised power by pulling strings as invisibly as possible.

The discussion then turned in a more philosophical direction, as A.J. began to ponder the nature of the qlippoth. Were they some sort of universal backlash triggered by outrages to the space-time continuum, or were they produced by grotesquely violated human perceptions, in a universe where faceted human minds could control supernatural forces by an exercise of will? If the latter, did universes become so resilient as humans gained greater understanding of the sciences – so much so that human minds could no longer control decanic forces directly?

Alternatively, A.J. hypothesized, did the rapid advance of technological innovation seem so miraculous to a populace -- the vast majority of whom could never begin to understand the science that drove it – that any unusual event was simply dismissed as yet another example of the science that had already utterly alienated many of them? Did numb, mindless acceptance immunize a world from infestation by the qlippoth, at the same time it rendered magic impossible? Was that why no world more advanced than theirs had ever been discovered?

Regardless, Don Maximo noted that a special college of sterilization spells, known mostly by only the most powerful sorcerers, could be used to eliminate a qlippoth infestation, although they generally produced a lot of collateral damage. The elder mages who cast those spells didn’t concern themselves with that too much, as those spells were never, ever supposed to be needed and, if they ever were, the sorcerers who knew them made it a top priority to spread the collateral damage widely enough to include the mages responsible.

The conversation gave everybody a lot to think about, but they also had other items on their plates. To that end, the group set up a meeting in Chicago with a representative of the Goldenrod Circle, Oliver McShane’s original lodge and the one most closely associated with the Academy Club’s Columbine Lodge.

After a few days, they received an appointment to meet with George LaMarque, who arranged to host the meeting in a rental conference space in downtown Chicago. The group flew in, the night before, greeted LaMarque bright and early, and the FOOL contingent jumped right to business.

They said they had a problem with the infestation of the portal by a violent spirt, and wanted help to get rid of it. To that end, they asked if LaMarque’s order, the Goldenrod Circle had access to a stasis box that would allow at least one of them to carry a projected melee weapon into Yetzirah, the Astral Plane?

Somewhat taken aback by the query, LaMarque reluctantly acknowledged that the Goldenrod Circle might have such a thing available, but if so it would be an incredibly rare and precious item the group would never needlessly risk, since the knowledge of their manufacture lay in the 18th Century world on the other side of the portal in the Paris catacombs.

Henrietta and A.J. said they had no desire to place the item at any risk, and would allow someone to accompany them to the site of the portal so as to keep an eye on the thing while they borrowed it for their single mission.

(continued...)
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MXLP:8 [JD=1, DK=1, DM-M=1, M(FAW)=1, SS=2, Nym=1 (nose coffee), sj=1 (nose cocoa)]
"Some days, I just don't know what to think." -Daryl Dixon.
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