CAST OF PLAYERS:
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
Casey moved swiftly back through the door and onto the swaying staircase, seeking out Yggthor’s mind on the roof above. ** Yggthor, take off as soon as you and the Stonwolf and Korin are aboard. Alseyne says to call her at the Pendleton once you get it landed; she’s going to go collect Percyndi and head back there. **
Traveling alone she made better speed: it was more levitation than footwork that carried her swiftly down the stairwell toward where she sensed Falco’s presence. ** Done; everyone’s gone or going. I’m going to come down and see if I can help you squelch that thing. **
:: Casey… This place is about to come down around our ears. You may not get here in time… ::
Unshakable determination suffused her mental presence. ** You’re here because I called you. Going back for the amulet was my idea too. Basically if you die here it’ll be because of me. ** If anything, she was plunging down the stairwell even faster than before.
She sensed a scowl from him. :: I make my own choices, just like you, Casey. No one is responsible for what happens here other than ourselves… and Mardmor. ::
** I’m not prepared to accept that. If we don’t have time to kill the amulet, then at the very least maybe I can help you not get crushed. **
:: Well, I can’t argue with that. ::
Casey was a bullet heading down the passages. She was moving faster than she would have imagined possible — but having navigated the way up made maneuvering the descent easier. She homed in on Falco’s mind like a laser-guided missile.
As she approached, sickly emerald light beamed forth from the chamber. She entered to find Falco floating over the wreckage far below. Concentration was etched on his face, as he extended in the direction of the glowing amulet hovering several feet away.
“…AND THERE SHE IS! THE DESTROYER! YOU! YOU! YOU KILLED THE DREAM! AND NOW YOU SEEK MY DESTRUCTION AS WELL?!?!? IT IS I WHO WILL DESTROY YOU! I WILL DESTROY YOU!“
** I’d like to test that theory. ** Casey’s mental voice was casual, even flippant. It was pure bravado, of course. She wasn’t foolish enough to think she was stronger than whatever was bringing down the building. She could only hope that she and Falco together might be powerful enough to stand against it.
She flew to his side, and once again slipped her hand into his.
Her mentor’s hand was warm and strong. The surge of his power was bracing.
Focusing on the amulet Casey addressed it decisively. ** Your dream is finished. You lost. We destroyed your Machine and now we’re going to destroy you. ** She attempted to envelope the amulet in white-hot psionic power —
“Aigh!” She cried out, her assault reflected back at her. Blood ran freely from her nose.
“NOT LIKELY, WITCH! IT IS YOU WHO WILL FALL! YOU WHO WILL BE SHATTERED! WEEP, FOR TODAY YOUR HOPES WILL BE REDUCED TO ASHES AS YOU HAVE RENDERED MINE!”
Gasping, she shook her head, began to gather a stronger attack —
:: Too direct. :: Falco’s voice was cool water. :: He’s warded against such. Follow me in. ::
She sensed his intelligence projecting itself into the amulet.
Letting go of her intended strike, she closed her eyes and extended her mental presence into the goblin stone along with Falco.
She was awash in a sea of green. Giant, glass-like spheres floated past her. At once, she identified their purpose. That one … memories … that one plans … over there possible futures ….
Falco was distantly ahead.
She hurried to catch up with him, not wanting to be alone in this alien expanse, but the spheres were moving in between them. It was growing difficult to keep up. She wanted to explore them, delve into the vast knowledge they must surely hold. Time was short, though. ** Should we try to break them? Will that damage the sentience? **
:: … eer a… raw you… :: Connecting to Falco was like tuning a weak AM radio signal; she wasn’t even catching every other word. She considered pouring more effort into reaching him, but since he didn’t appear to be especially worried about staying in contact she couldn’t see any point in chasing him. She came to a stop with a slightly exasperated sigh, taking a closer look at the spheres. For a two thousand year old telepath Falco’s communication skills were singularly crappy; apparently she’d have to figure this puzzle out on her own.
She moved over to one of the giant bubbles, one that she perceived to contain “plans.” Resting a palm flat against it, she attempted to access the information it held.
Her hand touched the sphere … it rippled like water, rings expanding outward across its round shape. And they flowed back…
… Intricately detailed technical schematics. The Machine!
Surprisingly, it was a beautiful melding of function and purpose. Impressive, the artistry, the knowledge. She was drawn to the power supply and the feeding stations. The design here was very different from what she’d witnessed earlier. These blueprints revealed that the Machine was to run on something called DROSS, a hardened form of glamor and not the living Changelings on which were actually being fed to it.
The silver spires of Arcadia opened up before her, the truth forming. It was beautiful, wondrous.
Despite the modifications apparently made to the Machine, Arcadia would have been successfully brought to this world. It was true. It was real. She knew this in her heart. It would have truly been Heaven on Earth for Alseyne, Pip, and the rest of the fae.
And Falco was right. She knew the truth of this, too. Humanity would have become a vassal race to the Changelings. Ruled in a benevolent manner surely, but no longer the master of its own future.
She frowned. There had been nothing benevolent about the future Falco had shown her; she’d seen Mardmor reigning over a world of hopeless terror and oppression. Like the Machine itself, the future would have seen some grim modifications from these relatively benign plans.
Experimentally, she contacted the amulet’s sentience again. ** This isn’t how it would have happened, even if I hadn’t come. Mardmor corrupted your dreams. His Machine ran on death and terror — he betrayed his own kind to fuel his rise to power. Nothing beautiful could have come from that. **
“NO! IT WAS PERFECT! AND NOW IT IS ASHES!”
And it had to be this morning, she realized. Something about the alignment of the trods, whatever those were. It would be another 100 years before such a convergence would recur. All things considered, she couldn’t feel anything but relief about that. Sometime soon she’d have to figure out when exactly those future trod convergences would occur, and make sure that the dates and their significance were made available to the People and to Alseyne’s Duke and to anyone else in a position to help avert future Apocalypses.
** Who are you? ** she wondered again.
“I AM ALBERICH OF THE FORGE.”
** How did you come to be in Mardmor’s posses — **
Falco’s “hand” was on her shoulder. :: I’ve found it. Come. :: He extended his hand to her.
She took it and followed him, deep in thought.
As they moved once again between the sea of spheres, Falco explained what he had found. :: It is the central consciousness that governs the artifact. We destroy it, we destroy the entire thing. ::
And she saw it rising before her. It was the largest of the spheres and by far the most magnificent. Wondrous swirls of light danced within, radiating this way and that. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
:: Our combined effort should do the trick. ::
Casey gazed in silence at the sphere for a long moment, strangely reluctant now that the moment had come.
** Alberich of the Forge, ** she said quietly to Falco. ** I almost hate to destroy him, he really is a brilliant mind. Misguided, maybe, but I don’t generally kill people for that. **
The serenity of this place was an illusion, she knew. Any second now her real body, and Falco’s, might be crushed beneath tons of falling stone and metal. But knowing that wasn’t enough to settle her mind; she had to know that Alberich was someone who needed to be destroyed. Otherwise she was just saving her own life at the expense of someone else’s. Nothing very noble about that. ** I think Mardmor corrupted what was originally a fairly benign dream. I mean, anarchist goblins aside, who’s to say the Fae couldn’t do a perfectly lovely job of running the world? Humans sure have mucked it up pretty thoroughly, haven’t they? **
:: To date, that is true. But I have seen great and wonderful things for humanity. The Arcadians subscribe to the Noblesse Oblige. Nobility obliges. They will shepherd and care for the mortals, rendering humanity to little more than a child race. Mankind’s future achievements cannot be attained at the foot of a parent. ::
She gave Falco a searching look. ** Yes, but … kill Alberich or be killed, are those really our only two choices? Can’t we, I don’t know, put him to sleep or something while we come up with a better plan? Destroying him seems awfully … permanent. **
He considered. :: The Arcadians would overwhelm our people at this time, but perhaps … perhaps in fifty years or even a century there could be co-existence. When man and woman could meet them as equals. :: He looked meaningfully to Casey. :: What do you think? ::
She smiled faintly. ** You misunderstood me. I wasn’t suggesting that we help Alberich achieve his dream. I’m not sure it can happen now anyway, with the Machine destroyed and the deadline past. I just meant that what he was trying to do may not necessarily merit a death sentence. **
:: Indirectly or not, not destroying the amulet is helping him. :: He said it without judgment. It was merely a statement of fact.
** It’s letting him live. He may have more to offer the Fae than just the Gateway Engine. We’ll never know if we destroy him now. My grandfather used to say it’s a lot easier to take a life than to give one back once it’s gone. **
:: Your grandfather is wise. ::
Her smile turned wistful. ** He is. ** After a moment she added, ** Mardmor was just plain bad, he needed killing — probably still does, actually — but we don’t *know* that that’s true of Alberich. I think if we can incapacitate him for now without destroying him, I’d rather go that route. ** With a wry shrug she added, ** We can always kill him later if it seems to be the thing to do. **
:: Agreed. :: Falco studied the sphere before them. He extended his hand to her. :: Lend me your strength. ::
She hesitated only for an instant, wondering what he’d decided to do, then opted to trust his judgement. Taking his hand, she opened her mind’s resources to him to draw upon as he needed.
He drew her into himself. For a brief moment, they were one. She was closer to him than anyone she had ever known. A thousand images covering an expanse of thousands of years flash before her minds eye: people, places, things … it was almost more than she could bear.
A glimpse of something fantastic!
Unique and marvelous!
It was over as fast as it began.
There was a crispness to her senses. She tingled with awareness.
:: Forward! ::
She and Falco plunged within the swirling wonder that was Alberich. They plowed deep into his mind and with a surgeon’s precision, they cut a silver tether…
…And they were both back in crushed Machine room. The amulet dimmed and fell from the air.
Falco caught it.
“Asleep,” he said. The sound of his voice startled her a bit. “Asleep until one of us reawakens him.”