“Personally, I’ve always found that the secret of successful adventuring lies in careful forethought, extensive preparation, and knowing when to forget all that and go for random chaos and/or destruction.”
After the battle – several dozen phantasms and three steam tanks made for a lengthy one – Arxus identified their unconscious captive: he was an operative from the Mages Guild, and had been looking for children on the streets off and on for some time. He did look a bit different though. Jarvian was annoyed that they weren’t likely to get a ransom for him. Most of the rest were annoyed at the fact that he no longer had a soul either. A hell of a way to reward your servants. Did the guild have no ethics at all?
Secondarily, the Mirage was in need of serious repairs. One arm was missing, steam output was at 60%, and mobility was severely reduced. Jaiden’s and Raphial’s talents could repair some of the damage (the steam and mobility limitations) but they couldn’t replace missing arm without some fresh materials. Well, it was a good excuse for a trip to the alchemists guild. It looked like mr captive would be staying unconscious until they had some more time.
They informed the alchemists (fortunately, not much further away) that they needed local reagents for minor rituals, a sizable amount of various alloys, and to see Mr Maxwell Stenson on a private matter.
Max was a bit surprised when he found that the Holy Guide had sent them to talk about Voidstone – rather than it being another 14-year-old boy wanting a private talk about aphrodisiacs and related potions – but he agreed that the wholesale stealing of souls could not be permitted. It was just that Voidstone was very dangerous stuff. It was an antimass of concentrated negative energy and it was draining to even carry for too long whether or not it was properly set.
Marty looked into permanent alchemical enhancements while he was there, but found that they tended to destabilize the bodies internal chemistry so that you needed more and more daily doses of potions to survive. He settled for picking up some healing potions (5 that healed 4d8+20) even though they wouldn’t work everywhere.
The alchemists did need more Voidstone (supplies were very short at the moment) although even they didn’t know the source. They liked all kinds of exotic materials and textbooks on sciences from other lands as well.
Unfortunately, about then, a small delegation from the mages guild (including one of their major magi) turned up, making demands (for massive amounts of gold for free), issuing threats of death, claiming that they had government backing, and evidently quite impervious to reason; they weren’t interested in input from anyone else. The group considered sneaking out – but they might already have been detected and they didn’t want to abandon the helpful alchemists. The mages had some protective spells running, but they seemed to actually be here, so after a quick telepathic consultation (concluding that it would be pretty difficult to make matters any worse) and swift undercover operations by everyone else to provide restraining fields, set up telekinetic containment barriers, create anchoring points, and otherwise keep anyone they liked from being swept away – Kevin opened a gate to the negative plane (and made sure that any prepared escape-spells would not work) in the midst of the little group of mages. One – Magus Issac Kampfer – hung on for a minute, but in the face of the hurricane winds, the pull of the void, the magic-drain of the negative plane, and Jarvian’s weapons fire, he didn’t last long.
Kevin got the hole closed down to something small enough to put easy barriers around – the drain might help protect the Alchemists against magic – and then started telekinetically pushing through it. If Voidstone did come from the negative plane, and was an antimass, that ought to pull some through.
It did. Quite a chunk of it.
Meanwhile the Alchemists were having a variety of reactions: There was shock, horror, triumph, smugness, and everything in between – as well as numerous small fires, bruises and strains, and minor spills. The clean-up was easy enough, but Max and Arxus felt that another contingent or a strike force would probably be along within 15-30 minutes. Still, with the voidstone and negative gate there the local area should be almost immune to the local magic for a bit.
Outside, there was fighting all over the city. Evidently the mages had started a general move towards enslaving the world. There were a dozen really strong mages in the city and lots of lesser ones – and it looked like they’d have to do without Voidstone amulets. There wasn’t any more time. Nobody knew what side the military – and its augmented members, mecha, tanks and troops – would be on, but the church and the independent mages would certainly get involved now that the fighting had started.
Marty considered imbuing some tanks and things with some of the Mana his Thralls provided to link them to his home universe for a bit. He was pretty certain that the locals hadn’t been paying their gear at ALL.
Kevin sent some of the local Thralls up in hawk-form to provide an aerial overview. It looked like there’d been more opposition then the mages had expected: the mages guild was on fire and under attack, and several people over there were spending quite a lot of Mana. Probably a good place to start.
There were phantasms, some minor magical barriers, and a few random individuals and looters running about – but nothing that could really hinder them much before they got there. Arxus even got to accumulate some more psychic energy.
The guild had at least three major mages and a steam golem defending it and two major attackers – both spending great quantities of Mana but relying on massive amounts of simple physical force. Most of the magical barriers were down, there were random discharges of raw energy everywhere, and the group headed straight on into the middle. Marty was rubbing off on them.
Kevin threw up an antimagic sphere around himself and the mages while the others joined the attack – which didn’t take too long since it had already been a more-or-less even battle. They wound up with one mage dead, one in deep shock, and one injured and surrendered. They had a couple of the local major magi – admittedly, the less-combative ones, but still notable figures. Interrogation time: the mages said that the guildmaster was currently a bit dead – but their two fellow-attackers were collapsing: out of mana, reality shock, fluctuating between human metabolisms and electrical… Praetorians again. No wonder they were having problems: the local reality wouldn’t support them. Raphial stunned himself erecting a reality bubble for them – his home reality was close enough to theirs to keep them going for some time – but even that would only be good for an hour or so.
Alright, what the Hell just happened?
You exhausted your ability to maintain a reality where your augmentations functioned.
This really isn’t an ideal world for you. It doesn’t naturally have electromagnetism or even atoms; Raphial here exhausted himself extending his reality to cover you for a bit. He’s from a pretty high-tech cosmos.
Well that’s annoying. You would think they would have signs or something warning about that.
We need to get you to a more compatible universe.
The two praetorians were on Baelaria looking for their niece: they were Peter and Catherine’s younger siblings and had followed the mages through the gate. They’d apparently lost quite a few years somewhere, and weren’t aware that the efforts to revive Singular had failed. The group filled them in a bit.
The mage who’d surrendered had a statement – “It wasn’t my fault and I thought it was a bad idea!”. It seemed that the guild had been worried about some external menace and they’d been trying to make super-minions by transferring souls into geas-controlled bodies (the bindings were branded on the underside of their tongues) based on a local adaption of the Praetorian technology. Yep. More minion-creating. A hell of lot of magic for lousy results: you always needed more and more magic to hold a soul the longer you did it – and nothing could hold one forever. Worse, the tension made the left-over bodies magnets for psychic energy. You got a bunch of crazed soulless demigodlings running about, and when they finally got their souls back you got another world run by a bunch of crazy godlings. Couldn’t anybody figure out that it was better to get volunteers?!?
The “soldiers” were still being grown – but they were in crypts beneath the seven major branches of the Guild (although at least one branch had been working on something different). Now if they released the bindings the spirits would have a choice: they could opt to stay, in which case they’d stabalize and the shells left behind would quit accumulating energy. If not, they’d snap back – but at least the situation wouldn’t get any worse.
They headed on down to release some souls.