With the group still in Londinium, and with the Power Filtering Rooms (at least that was what the sign on the door said they were) throughly mined, Marty, Smoke, Arkus, Kevin, and Kevin’s Thralls, continued on through the tunnels under the Crystal Palace while Jarvian bombarded the city. They’d be deep inside the Ministry of Magic soon enough.
The stairs they found went both up and down. Down was glowing. Probably that “Sunwell” thing, but worth a quick look.
The staircase spiraled downwards for several hundred feet, its structure slowly shifting from finely cut stonework to decorative brass. Eventually it opened into an enormous, and apparently sunlit, cavern. There were trees, grass, small animals, and the usual signs of intensive gardening. The light was coming from a large golden lake with immense amounts of power stored in it. There had to be some really massive inscriptions holding that back – but it didn’t seem likely that there would be any way to modify them without blowing themselves up even if they weren’t protected.
Besides, the place was either a dimensional pocket or big enough to underlay most of Londinium. It was big enough for lots of golem-things, luncheon pagodas, and a small forest. Well, as Kevin noted “Of course, we’re in no shape to fight the golems, we don’t know what we’d be messing with, and we might destroy the entire city. Other than that, no problem!”
Fortunately, the Golems took them for students and gave them the tour.
Apparently stability had been a primary concern with the Wells, which was why such care was taken to filter the power feeds and remove any extraneous impurities from the incoming power. Once the power was added to the well, the system became relatively stable and self-sustaining.
If the power flow was disrupted somehow the Well itself would remain stable and self-sustaining – although if the power flow was stopped up somewhere and allowed to collect, then the new collection point would become highly unstable without proper conditioning. If the power flow was completely shut off at the source then the Well would stop growing, but there would be no adverse effects. Construction had begun on the minor wells some 250 years ago, but the Primary had only been constructed recently, since it placed greater demands on the minor Wells – and each Well represented a different type of energy from among those that made up the world around them.
All of which was interesting, but not especially useful. It also only left them about half an hour, plus boil time, before the explosions. All the inscriptions would be buried deep and well-protected, not to mention possibly being far too disruptive to disturb. If here were any critical points, vulnerabilities, or ways to pull power out they weren’t visible from the tour. Doing anything like that would be a major project. Oh well. Time to head on upstairs.
Back upstairs, it looked like they’d gotten into the gardens, where the horrific monsters were said to roam. Blast: they’d been hoping to bypass that part.
Meanwhile Jarvian had switched to hit-and-run tactics – helped by a bit of Illusion courtesy of his assistant Jaiden – to deal with the major artillery emplacements and steam tanks. Fortunately, most of the military had been well away from the city, so it was mostly the fixed stuff – and the local targeting systems sucked.
Back at the Ministry, the group was lucky enough to find one of their targets – Magus Hutchins – out having a lunch break.
Oddly enough, he didn’t put up that much of a fight. OK, Marty was grabbing him while Kevin and the Thralls tangled him up – and incinerated his clothing to get rid of any talismans, sigils, or inscriptions he was carrying – but he was supposed to be a top member of the guild. He should have been able to put up a better fight – but he seemed to be pretty resigned. He even offered to let them all back out peacefully since the Minister’s “pets” had an annoying tendency to slaughter anything they considered an intruder, very keen senses, were imports from another world, and were nigh invulnerable to anything the mages could throw at them. Unless they had something bigger than that, he recommended getting out of there.
Still, if they were crazy enough to keep going, the Minister should be in the central compound of the main garden.
The group considered… Hutchins was on the list, and had been cooperating in stealing children’s souls and melting their bodies down into ectoplasm, letting the employees die of radiation poisoning, and so on. They didn’t feel much compunction, although he had been tolerably “friendly” as far as the local mages went. No one really had any good binding effects available. It looked like there were minor charms on him, plus a huge infusion from the Sunwell (that’d probably make him tough to kill until it wore off), but nothing more. Still, none of them really liked slitting the throats of people who were tied up. At the moment he fell into the category of “Impediment”, since it was pretty obvious that the Minister wouldn’t give a damn about “hostages”.
He seemed sane enough in some ways. OK, he’d tossed all scruples in favor of survival – but he wasn’t the first. The Minister had been having trouble with “The Outsider” (a.k.a “Nexus” and “The Other“), a creature with a vast ability to shape reality which had been wandering around killing mages and officials. They’d been unable to stop it; it’s magics were just too strong. The Minister had bargained with another extradimensional entity – Merlin – for help. She’d listened to his promises of power and salvation and willing liquidated her entire organization and thrown out all reason in favor of following the plans Merlin porovided – a way to create a power well capable of focusing the energy we needed to fight the Outsider. Hutchins had wanted to run, but between the Minister and The Outsider, that usually resulted in death.
Well, he seemed sane enough (Kevin was a damned good psychologist). He was pretty obviously addicted to the Sunwell though. It seemed that the last time he’d faced The Outsider he’d been stripped of all ability to generate his own magics. He needed the energies of the Sunwell to even light a candle anymore. Kevin knew some people who needed advice about magic though – and Hutchins could use an offworld job. The House of Roses wanted to check his sanity first – but were open to the offers. Opening (and resealing) a portal right at the spot was risky – there were extradimensional beings involved – but what were they going to do with him otherwise? He hadn’t been any good at self-defense when he had his inscriptions and sunwell link. They shipped him off to Crusader. It was an easy link anyway – remarkably easy as it turned out. The local reality was either really conducive to gates or was under a lot of stress to be that thin.
The Minister – an old lady – was relaxing with her bodyguards. They decided to talk first.
Things went downhill quickly enough: the Minister was quite crazy – and her two bodyguards seemed to be absolutely loyal. As for the Minister – “Ha, weaklings, all of them. Too scared to do what needs to be done to save their home and it’s people. Too scared of what lies within themselves to seek the power they need to survive.” “Whether it is that everyone lacks vision or is too timid or stupid matters not to me. They either need to stand out of the way of those with the plans and the power to implement those plans or perish.”. Oh well. Apparently anyone who didn’t agree with her was automatically unworthy of consideration and should be honored to be used in any way she wished.
Kevin was of the opinion that you couldn’t really change realities from the outside: all you could do is split off your own version. If there was a threat to this reality, it could only be coming from someone in it who refused to accept it the way it was. Now who did that look like here? The woman couldn’t even see that it wasn’t working. Reality wasn’t nder threat: just the local power structure.
“Just the local power structure” indeed, it is that power structure that gives our very society shape and laws that govern it. Take that away and there will be nothing let of us.”
That was almost enough to make the group feel sorry for her. Was that really all the identity she had? Still, the Minister’s “Logic” was making Marty yearn for the Trojan possum committee back in Battling Business World.
Still, she then set her bodyguards on them. Her choice…
The bodyguards started off with throwing massive objects and assaulting Marty. Kevin started off with augmenting Marty with a short-term armor-construct (which promptly too a beating) and trying to drain the Minister and her constructs a bit. It actually worked on the constructs somewhat – but was nowhere near enough. The Thralls shot up the Minister a bit too, but it only annoyed her. Arxus got really lucky though, and knocked her momentarily unconscious – giving Marty enough time to decapitate her. The bodyguards promptly went limp and slumped to the floor; evidenly she’d been controlling them directly. It didn’t seem like she’d had any clones, soulbindings, or any other arrangements to come back: it looked like she’d never really considered the possibility of being defeated.
The bodyguards were alive, but soulless and not human. They looked like a local adaption of the Praetorian technology, probably grown from samples brought back through the gate. Not much in the way of minds or motivations though.
There really didn’t seem to be anybody else around – although the sounds of fighting (and more plumes of smoke) were coming from outside the crystal palace. Jarvain had taken out a sizable number of the fixed emplacements and most of the available local troops were busy trying to stop him – although he was having to fall back for longer and longer periods. Even with a constant supply of mending spells, the Mirage was just taking too much damage. Some systems were too complex for simple mending spells to fix – and artillery hits usually blew away some unrecoverable mass. Jaiden couldn’t do anything about either, which meant that his capabilities were steadily degrading. Pretty soon he’d have to park the Mirage, leave Jaiden to do what longer-term repairs she could, and head in personally if he wanted to do any more damage – or work with the local military. They should be coming in fairly soon (hopefully as allies).
Back with the rest of the group, they were considering: they’d had a target list of four mages, the Minister, six subordinates, and the two bodyguards. They’d taken out one mage, the minister, and the bodyguards. Three of the mages had been working on defenses (and Jarvain), and might or might not be in trouble. Where the hell were all the employees?
Well, the Minister had been a control freak – and had been killing employees who tried to get away from her. There had to be some mystical links or methods of tracking them around.
There was a scrying pool with appropriate talismans in the next room. So; two of the remaining mages were already dead – fighting with Jarian, the Family, and the Military (they apparently had some of the faster scouts in now), and the last one was cornered. Of the six ministry guys they had… one floating facedown in the waters of the Sunwell, one dissolving screaming under a desk, one being grabbed by a big blue hand, two dead in the fighting, and one blocked (a wise choice, unless he or she was dead behind wards or spells which hadn’t gone down yet). It looked like the assassination mission was winding down. Had the woman been crazy enough to have a “take them all with me” effect set up, was it just bad luck, or was it “The Outsider” (presuming that such a being even existed except – possibly – as a mask for Merlin)?
Well, time to see what they could loot and pillage – probably starting with the bodyguards if they were salvageable. Marty was sorry that modern cameras didn’t work (that headshot had been pretty sweet), but Kevin assured him that between illusions, divinations, and modern computers, they could do a virtually perfect reconstruction.
4 CP all around