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22 days ago
Current Eat the rich.
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2 mos ago
As are we all
5 mos ago
Because you don't explain
5 mos ago
Given that books are made from plants and or animals, I technically am enjoying nature when I pour over that grimoire!
5 mos ago
Ever just want to write about old school book readin' , spell slingin', robe wearin' wizards?


Early 30's. I know just enough about everything to be dangerous.

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Jocasta was about to make an off color joke about sizes of boats and motions of oceans when an alert pipped in her implants. Her attention seemed to focus off in space for a moment as she rapidly assimilated information from a number of her drones. Her eyes blinked very rapidly as she cycled between views at a speed fast enough to make her regret how much Nebula Tears she had consumed.

“Problem,” Dirk said, not in question but in statement.

“Eighteen minutes ago a luxury liner, Tenebs Tribune, docked. From the looks of it, she was hijacked out of system and came in under her codes,” Jocasta reported, watching silent footage of a gang of rag tag men bursting out of the hold as the liner unbuttoned. They swarmed over the security personnel before they knew what was happening.

“Six minutes ago they took control of the transit stations and the control center it looks…”

The monitor on the wall sprung to life and was filled with the image of a heavy browed man with a shaven scalp and a mechanical eye. He grinned through a mouth of metal teeth in a manner that looked both smug and threatening at the same time.

“Ello folks, I’m sorry to interrupt your hard earned vacation, but this station, why its under new management. Im afraid we will be closing it for renovations,” he leered, scratching an ear as he did so.

“Some nice gentlemen will be around to each island in turn to collect our cancellation fees from ya, but don’t worry, no one will be hurt provided they give my men everything they ask for,” he explained, his grin growing wider.

“Turn over your valuables and we will let you leave alive, for those who dont appreciate my nice industry speech. And just so you know, the smart ladies who built this place put failsafes into the boats. I wouldn’t try leaving your islands without my boys express permission if was you!”

The screen cut out to be replaced by a slowly rotating skull and cross bones.

They missed me by the merest fleeting chance. I hadn’t gone to sleep after Hadrian left of course, how could I, rather I paced the apartments growing increasingly irritated. Despite Hadrian’s attempts to explain I felt I still didn’t completely understand what was going on. Jezebel’s apparent confidence with me made no sense other than those found in the trashiest of romance literature. Did I have a doppelganger out there? A twin sister who was known to this cult and whom it made sense to show up at this place and at this time? Vanishingly unlikely, and what of the words Jezebel had said? ‘A matter of the most pleasant fraternal confidence’? It seemed nonsense, so bland as to be absolutely meaningless, yet it worried at the back of my mind like the memory of a lost tooth. I was out on the balcony pondering it when I heard the doors burst open, followed by the shouts of Urien and Bolskar and the distinctive sound of shock battens arcing up. I had only a minute to act so I jumped up onto the balustrade and then heaved myself up behind the gargoyle that glowered over the portal, scratching and soiling my hands as I did so. I had just had time to conceal myself when two guards, these ones dressed in matte black carapace armor rather than the gaudy house dress up, burst out onto the balcony. Long cold stab light beams pierced out into the darkness, sweeping down over the balustrade.

“Not here,” one of them said into what I presumed was a comm.

“Yes sir, we will secure the room,” the soldier said and they both turned and went back inside, closing and locking the door as they went. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. What to do now. Urien and Bolskar were captured or dead. Hadrian was captured or dead. I was the only one left free and I had no idea what I should do or what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t as if Hadrian had given me the Inquisition’s vox code so I could call for help. Well if I couldn’t call for help id just have to go get it. I climbed down to the balcony and found the door locked. By the play of a stab light at least one guard was still inside. I knocked on the glass with my knuckle and then climbed up onto the railing and lowered myself down so I hung as though clinging on for dear life. The door flew open and the guard came out with his stun batton lowered. He saw me and hesitated. For a moment I was afraid Id misjudged and he was going to stun me and drop my body, but instead he cursed, sheathed the weapon and grabbed me by the forearms, hauling me up. I grabbed his head and pulled it to mine locking my lips with his. His eyes widened in shock as my psy bored into him. I was at my strongest when I was in physical contact and he was totally unprepared for it.

Serve. I projected. Obey. Protect. He jerked me up over the rail and caught me lowering me gently with his eyes puppy wide.

“Mistress…” he managed the desire to be given an order so strong it enabled him to speak.

“Take me to the hanger by the most secretive route you know,” I ordered. It took us nearly twenty minutes to reach the hangar by back corridors and servant passages. Periodically my new servant, Calec was his name, reported in that he was guarding the suite and nothing was a miss. It wasn’t till we reached the hangar, a large ferrocrete bunker that held a number of air cars and some other luxury fliers that my plan hit its first snag. A half dozen guards stood around the opening cradling las carbines and ornate but functional looking auto guns.

“Mistress?” Calec asked. I knitted my brows in thought.

The guards whirled at the sound of one of the light aircraft powering up. As one they spun and lifted weapons, screaming orders to stop at the top of their lungs. The flier began to roll across the floor, its big turbo fans winding up to a scream. As one the guards opened fire, coherent light and slugs smashing across the nose cone and windshield of the sleek machine, crazing the plex. It continued to accelerate despite their best efforts, driving forward and scattering them like pins. The powerful turbo jets caught one man in the backwash lifting him up and smashing him against a wall so hard his carapace cracked. The others kept firing, several rounds peppered the engines and intakes and with a percussive whoosh the right engine flamed and caught. The machine staggered forward regardless, the roar so loud it hurt the ears. Thick smoke billowed back from the flier as it lifted drunkenly into the sky, wobbling free of the earth like a stunned bull. From the far edge of the property there was a great jet of flame and a ball of fire rose on a smoke trail to intersect the vehicle. The missile took off the functioning engine and most of the tail section in a cataclysmic blast and dropped the burning jet to the ground. It exploded in a spray of burning promethium and aviation lubricants, its speed turning the fireball over a half dozen times before the wreck smashed into the tree line with a final thunderous explosion.

We retreated to our luxurious appartments shortly after we returned from the gardens. We got a few glances from the guards, knowing smiles and concealed grins. The rooms themselves were as palatial as the rest of the the building, a broad foyer flanked by servants quaters, then a parlor ahead of a pair of rooms the size of the master bedroom at the Hotel Imperial. The whole place was tiled with white marble veined with a pleasant green inclusion that matched the jade fitings of the furniture of antique wood. The parlor even had a small library, crammed with tomes on xenoarchaeology, sector history and a few works of Imperial philosophy. Emmaline wondered if the lack of any devotional work or hagiography, a normal inclusion in such a bibliography, was deliberate.

Urien and Bolskar were sitting in the foyer when we arrived, heavy swords across their laps as they tossed tarot cards to the floor where a pile of coins, jewels and other odds and ends were gathered. They cried out in triumph and despair according to some rules Emmaline didn't follow. I went into my room and stripped off my expensive, somewhat grass stained clothing. I splashed myself with water and then pulled on a a shift of diaphonous slightly green silk. It was almost translucent and seemed to settle around me as though secured by some kind of static charge. I examined myself in the mirror and then headed for Hadrian's room, a slight grin on my lips.

I stood and took his hand. I felt a hint of irritation from Julius but ignored it. We stood and headed out into the gardens, passing through the impressive marble arches and out onto the lawns. We spoke for a few minutes about architecture and history, that is to say, Hadrian talked, I simply didn't know enough to contribute beyond a few appropriate noises. There was no doubt we were still in range of any number of vox sniffers and cameras but that couldn't be helped. We wove our way through one of the hedge mazes.

"It's not technically a maze," I said, for want of being able to contribute something.

"Hmmm," Hadrian enquired, pausing to look at the foliage around us.

"It's a labaryinth," I explained, "there is only a single path to the center. So long as we walk it we will arrive there." Hadrian nodded and I got the impression he was thinking beyond a simple feature of landscaping. I paused, laying a hand on his arm. He turned to face me and I leaned in close and pressed our lips together. Hadrian responded to the kiss, first hesitantly and then with more enthusiasim. I wrapped my arms around him and drew him downwards until we lay on the stoney path between the hedgerows. Then I used my psy. It was an old trick, maybe the oldest I knew and I could manage it with the merest flick of my will. If there were an alpha level psyker in the house they would have heard it, but if the enemy had an alpha level mind in there we were already sunk.

We stood in a wavy reflection of the of the chamber Jezebel had taken me to. The objects themselves were clear as I was expending more energy to focus on them.

"Jezebel at least is part of what is going on here," I thought\said. I hesitated for a moment. I didn't know how Hadrian might react to what I was going to say.

"For some reason Jezebel seems to think I am on her side, perhaps an agent of offworld associates," I told him, rushing a bit over an uncomfortable admission.

"I have no idea why, but I played along," I told him, pointing to artifact she had called the Account. It was rendered in almost exact precision, down to the way the light had fallen on the reflective material. Our imagined overhead lights changed to reflect what I had seen in the tablet.

"I told her they were missing a key, she got very interested and I told her I was looking for it, nothing more. She suspected you of being from the Ordos, I told her you were a Navy officer who had been tapped by the Arbites so she wouldn't kill you," I rushed along, conveying as much as I could in our brief mental link.

Julius continued chattering to Hadrian as Jezebel fell into step beside me. She was somewhat taller than me and she had arressted her aging somewhat later than most. I wondered if that was an oversight, an accident of circumstance, or she had deliberately chosen to look older. She moved gracefully with all the assurance of a scion of the nobility.

"I suspect my brother was more interested in luring you out here than your ...friend," she said with a slight snicker. I offered a superior smile.

"With all due respect Lady Jezebel, there is nothing on this planent worth me putting myself at risk, either physical or social," I replied somewhat snootily. Jezebel smilke and lay a hand on my arm, slowing me down and allowing Hadrian and Julius to draw ahead.

"I admire a woman who knows her own worth, may I tell you something? It is a matter of pleasant fraternal confidence."

I was standing in a parlor. Artifact sat atop marble plinths, some of them suspended by suspensor fields, others wrapped in milky void shields. Jezebel was watching me with an arched eyebrow, looking at me with more respect than she had when we had met. I couldn't recall how I had gotten here and the stone in the necklace was cool against my skin.

"We don't have much time before we are missed," Jezebel said. Her accent was changed in some indefinable way. It was hard for me to track accents, I travelled so much that all Gothic kind of blended together in my mind.

"Queen Mab," I said, the words coming into my head unbidden. Jezebel smiled, very good, I doubt one in a hundred could have picked up the accent. I shrugged unable to process what was happening. Had Hadrian done something to me? I couldn't imagine it. Had Jezebel? Clearly but she couldn't have messed with my mind without me noticing the psionic residues. I felt very cold, I knew I was in danger.

"Is your minder with the Inquisition?" she asked so bluntly I nearly stumbled. I shook my head.

"Will it cause problems if I have him killed?" she pressed. My mind whirled in freeform, drawing loops that connected to nothing. Lacking any other option I fell back on my familiar instincts and told the first lie I could think of.

"Yes. He is a senior operative with the Adeptus Arbities, if he dies they will come looking for you, I didn't know what I was walking into," I temporized. Jezebel nodded as though that all made sense. I brought my heart rate down under control, a scam was something I could run, even if I didn't understand what was happening.

"You have come about the Account?" she asked. I nodded again, feeling the metaphorical quicksand growing deeper. She lead me over to one of the plinths. A piece of metal the size of a dinner plate sat atop it on a piece of red velvet. It was shiny and chrome and carved with the same strange runes I had seen on the artifact Hadrian had shown me. I glanced over it reading only gibberish. I pretended to read it. Jezebel was obviously waiting for me to say something but I studied it for a long minute. Inwardly I steeled myself.

"I take it you are missing the Key?" I asked. Her eyes widened slightly.

"By the warp you can read it? You really are an Adept then?" she asked.

"Just a dabbler," I replied with more truth and modesty than she could have imagined.
I had opted for a suit of soft leather in various shades of gray. It wasn't quite a body glove, but it seemed a good combination between the stylish and the practical. Each exposed edge was impressed with various verses of the prayer of Saint Euphratii in gold stitching. It was a common patron among academics, the woman who had documented the Crusade, the greatest expansion of human knowledge in history. The ensemble was finished off with a large floppy hat of woven fabric and a pair of jet black boots with heels that would have been a little impractical at a dig site. The jewelry Hadrian had prepared was secure. After a brief discussion we had decided that I should carry a compact snub. It was an elegant weapon, long and thin with a single powerpack that would exhaust after a half dozen shots, the kind of weapon a noblewoman might carry for personal defense. Given the unpleasantness at the ball, it seemed unlikely anyone would think twice about me taking precautions.

The flyer roared up into the mountains, the air growing cooler and the manicured agri-farms below giving way to wild forests of twisted pines. We headed up a long valley between spur like ranges with glistening caps of white snow. The Ignatius family owned vast swaths of land in the Seaward mountains, their ancestral seat high in the mountains surrounded by hundreds of miles of wilderness that formed a private hunting reserve. As we approached the top of the valley the forest thinned into manicured orchards of cherry and ploin trees. A great house stood at the peak where the two ranges met, four wings in a neo-gothic style around a central spire. The intersities of the cross were filled with complicated looking gardens of hedges and rock gardens. We called ahead on the vox and saw a guard of men in silver and sky blue armor tramp out of the main doors of the house to form an honor guard on either side of a field of crushed rock that served as a landing field. Urien goosed the throttle and brought us in at a sedate pace that was more worthy of a limosine driver than a backwater barbarian.

Ignatius himself stood on the steps as I climbed out of the flier, his long black and gold coat billowing in the reflected down draft of our lift fans. His radiant smile dimmed slightly as he saw Hadrian emerging behind me.

"Welcome Lady Von Morganstern," he called over the wind rush, "and... to you also... of course."

The Next Day

"This is pre-xanthanite iconography based on the..." I stumbled, peering at the arcane text before me.

"Based on variations in straigraphic matrix," Lazarus prompted. I lay the book down and rubbed my eyes. The tech adept had been giving me a crash course in the world's xeno-archaology. Some of the material was actually interesting, but the goal of the exercise was to equip me with enough jargon that I could pass myself off as an Adept. Lazarus had secured me the marjor writings on the pre-xanthanite tombs and taken me through them in exhaustive detail. The human story was more interesting than the xenos one to my mind, the various archaeological authorities in this sub-sector seemed to hate each other with a passion only present on battlefields and in academic discourse. Bachman hated Tellus, Tellus hated Vorkosigan, Epienhiemer hated Vorkosigan, all arguing back and forth about the particulars of a civilization that had died before the Great Crusade began.

"Straigraphic matrix," I muttered, tucking the information away in my mind. It seemed unlikely I would be able to convince a real expert, but assuming I just dealt with amatuers, I could probably vomit enough buzzwords to sound credible.

"Do you think it will be a problem that my invitation is just for one?" I asked Hadrian. He snorted.

"Probably won't make him too happy, I'm sure he was looking to get the lovely Adept alone," the Inquisitor admitted. "But he can hardly complain if I properly chaperone you, not without making a scene anyway."

"And what exactly are we looking for?" I asked, my eyes scanning the dataslate one more time.
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