Federation-Apcalypse, Session 176a – Nine Tales and the Darkness

Darkratos Light&Darkness

Pesky Interface Zones!

Kevin grumblingly went off to use light magic to bless the city walls and some schools (blessing he local temples with forces that weren’t associated with the local gods was surely in poor taste), no matter how sticky-syrupy-sweet it made him feel. Pesky Silmarils and the Church, always pushing him to be good! Maybe it was a good thing that he hadn’t found the third one yet…

He strongly suspected that the Bishop was jumping to conclusions anyway! The man had come to check out a realm that was being contaminated by dark energies, had found Kevin – an acknowledged demon lord – working large spells, and figured that it was him. While that was logical enough, he certainly didn’t feel that it was conclusive. After all, someone attacking the city had cursed Eight-and-a-Half-Tails long before HE’D arrived – and he’d seen plenty of greed, dominance-behavior, territorial expansiveness, sexual possessiveness, and other behaviors that went with his “darkness” powers since he’d arrived. It wasn’t like he was big on good and evil as abstract principles himself.

They might even be manipulating him a bit – trying to steer him towards light magic at the same time that they used him to eliminate a problem! If they could detect this stuff from dimensions away, couldn’t they have handed him a gauge or something? If he swung the balance to the “Good” side wouldn’t that foul things up just as badly? Or was that their plan?

Oh, the guy had hung around; he’d just stepped out for a few minutes to have a look around. Well, that was SOME help.

Raphael was taking some time out to rebuild his robots – and that took a certain amount of time no matter how much he sped things up. He felt positively naked without at least one around!

Fortunately, his construction ritual would only take a day or so. The shapeshifting magic that he imbued them with helped compensate for local rules and small flaws!

It wasn’t like he’d EVER let someone else touch them! They might omit an important safety feature! It would be silly to let someone else build or design them when it would be his life on the line if they decided to enslave humanity!

Huh… These were turning out to be magnificent works of art, and much better than the last batch… Oops! He’d been neglecting to do regular updates!

Marty was supervising the recruitment and outfitting of the crew for that upcoming voyage with the Platypuses. He was also discreetly looking for information on those archmagi Eight-and-a-Half Tails had fought – and playing with Limey and Elerra, he had missed them.

They’d missed him too!

The walls mainly existed along the entrances to the mountain passes and the harbor. Currently there were eight schools spread across the city, plus three Magical Academies. The project took most of the day – as did Raphael golem-making and Marty’s mixed investigation-and-recreation. It would be evening before they were all finished – although there were some conversations along the way…

(Bishop Ranald) “Well, it is difficult to just say how much energy you need to balance these things out. Typically if you can bring things close to neutral, the realm will quickly enough ground out the remainder. In my experience this is about the point when the resistence to additional holy energies drops significantly.

(Kevin) “Uhrmmm… resistance?”

What “resistance”? Oh wait! Most people couldn’t afford to just blast away with raw power until things gave way…

(Bishop Ranald) “The dark infernal energies will resist the attempt to purge them from the realm. It is in it’s nature to spread, grow and resist purging. This effect can even become cumulative after a certain point. Once one manages to purge the dark energies enough that it will no longer be able to sustain itself, the “resistance” drops significantly. (Pause) Tell me, do you not feet it painful to channel holy energies? I am told you have done that on other occasions as well.

(Kevin) “It was annoying the… third time, but that was a major battlefield effect, and augmented by other external forces. Not otherwise. Why? Wait a minute! What are you not telling me?”

(Bishop Ranald) “What I just described happens on a realm level can also happen within an individual. The tendency for one power or the other to become dominant can quickly become something that is difficult if not impossible to reverse on anything considered a normal timespan. On the other hand, if those Silmarils are truly created by Ryan O’Malley, then many of the standard rules may not apply. I would want to see how those things perform first hand, although I must warn you to be very careful with them. Artifacts of such power can be far more dangerous than they appear… What have you been using them – and your own powers – for so far? ”

Kevin looked quite blank for a moment; that was a question that was rarely asked – and the answer came unbidden to his lips, as it had before – in an echoing chorus of voices.

(Kevin) “I am the Darkness-that-Defends, the Light of the Abyss and the Angel of Nightfall. In the darkness is the rage of the oppressed, the wrath of the injured, and the vengeance of the bereaved. It is the drive for survival and dominion. I will not permit the fall of the Core worlds or for the race to fail it’s destiny – no matter what that requires.”

The Bishop was visibly unnerved…

Wait, what?!? The darkness had spoken THROUGH the boy? That wasn’t demonic power! That was the primal darkness! The blind urge to breed and spread and conquer that was rooted in the survival instincts of the human race and of life itself! Had the boys power as an Opener allowed him to take the tainted darkness of the abyss and reach past it’s evil into it’s instinctive core? Was that why he could work with angels and wield sacred energies? Because the darkness he drew upon had no philosophical principles behind it at all? Nothing that directly conflicted with the morality of the light?

That also meant that… a great many of their views on the boy had been exactly backwards; the iron adherence to his contracts, the (rather thin) gloss of evil he applied to his operations, and being summonable… Those were limitations that the boy was imposing on the darkness! Not the conditions that the evil of the Abyss imposed upon him! While the harems, the soulbinding, the expansionism – and even Project: Midnight Gardener – were direct expressions of the Darkness, not personal indulgences the boy was turning his power to obtaining!

Not so tainted or evil as they had feared… But potentially even more dangerous. The darkness was… attempting to seize all space and time for humanity and the creatures of earth, using children as its weapons – as children had always been the weapons of evolution and racial survival. Attempting to make humans – towing along their genetic allies – the dominant species of eternity.

And the primal darkness knew no restraint, no morality, and no limits to its drives. It would tolerate no interference with that goal. Was anything restraining that march of conquest except Kevin’s will? The Hellstorm had attacked the Core Worlds – and Kevin had hunted it down, unleashed the darkness, and personally destroyed an interstellar battle fleet.

Perhaps worst and saddest of all, that meant that… the boys playing at the “pirate” role, and the occasional similar bit of foolishness he indulged in, might be the only traces of the child he had been that showed beneath that crushing burden. The sins, ambitions, and arrogance of the race, loaded onto a child…

A need for redemption indeed.

Kevin, perhaps unfortunately, didn’t really notice the Bishops piercing regard – or that, for a few moments, his tongue had not been his own.

(Kevin) “What?”

(Bishop, regaining his composure) “I just caught a glimpse of the dark power is all. Pay it no heed.”

Meanwhile, Marty’s Thrall-investigators were specifically avoiding asking the Eight-and-a-Half-Tails about things. After all, Marty assumed that if she wanted to tell them about it, she would have. Besides, she didn’t seem to want the attention.

The battle was still in recent memory for many of the older generation. A trio of Archmages from deep inland had apparently gone rogue, and had marched across the continent, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They had an army with them, but that largely amounted to a force able to keep the defenders pinned down while the mages cracked the defenses. The first mage was an immensely powerful Chimp Fire Mage named Canthil. The second was an Crocodile Mage specializing in physical enhancements named Yggmar. The third was an albino chameleon that seemed to make the very grass he tread upon wither and die. He was the one the other two seemed to defer to.

Eventually their trail of destruction brought them through the mountains to the Cyrweld. The city had been aware of their approach and had time to prepare for the assault while other cities in the area were sending forces to assist. The initial plan had been to smash the army and the archmages between the walls and the armies. Unfortunately, it was discovered that Yggmar was able to enhance to abilities of all the soldiers as well as himself – and the attacking army arrived days ahead of schedule. This left the city defending itself without the reinforcements it had been relying on on to turn the tide. Amazingly enough, the defenders did quite well at holding off the army, but were powerless to stop the mages. At that time the Nine-Tails showed up.

Details on the battle between the four of them were vague, apparently the sheer amount of energy being thrown around had made it difficult to sense much of anything. It was known that Canthil was killed almost immediately by the initial shot from the Nine-Tails. Yggmar held out longer, but was quickly enough imprisoned in a solid block of metal and then sealed with a number of spells on top of that. The Albino Chameleon was much harder to handle though. He got a shot in on the Nine-Tails while she was sealing Yggmar that ended up chopping off an significant fraction of a tail and drastically reduced her power in the process.

The battle had continued between the Chameleon and Nine-Tails, but it was quickly becoming apparent that her power was growing weaker and draining fast. At which point the Nine-Tails ended up throwing a number of imprisonment spells in an attempt to buy time while she enacted a major ritual to pull on the power of the local populace to assist. She had (quite dramatically) completed the ritual just as the Chameleon was rotting through the last binding. That clash of energies was seen from several of the neighboring cities on the other side of the mountains. Afterwards, the Nine-Tails insisted that she had not actually managed to kill her opponent though, she’d only been able to “send him away”. Afterwards her power continued to decrease as the wound refused to heal and she leveled off at somewhat above Eight-Tails in power. She had been called the Eight-and-a-Half-Tails as a sign of honor ever since.

Marty shared that information around…

Kevin, jumping to conclusions as ever, had some guesses as to the identity of the albino chameleon; Death again perhaps? Plague had little or no power locally, and Famine would be weakened enough to have to fall back on secondary powers (such as the fires which had so long been used to try and purify infested areas) – but War, with his ability to enhance his troops, would do just fine.

OK, there were other possibilities, even amongst their current and former opponents – like “God” – but it was only a quick theory.

The Nine-Tails hadn’t been entirely unknown before then, but she had been the stuff of legends, rumors, and hearsay. She’d been mostly known as a wandering mystic who occasionally appeared to guide people and impart wisdom as she traveled around. The battle had been the first documented case of her showing up and actually fighting against anything larger than a minor bandit gang.

Overall it had been nearly thirty years ago (wait; just how long was the local “year” anyway?). That was long enough ago that many of the newest adults only knew of her from the stories told of the defense of the city. Most of the older adults were either children or young adults at the time.

Hm. Was she whoever was in the role of one of the local creator gods? One-shotting major opponents was VERY difficult around here! Drawing on everyone nearby… limited godfire, only available through a ritual? And probably conscious of having just banished the Chameleon to another dimension…

Marty had to agree. It DID sound a good deal like Jerusalem – and corruption from the top down would be pretty plausible, especially for a legendary figure of that level of power and helpfulness. And there might have been an attempt to curse the entire city… They HAD all been linked to the Nine-Tails at that moment!

As for the investigation into the Otters… They could be assumed to be getting pirates and other nasty types to pit against the trade fleet – but it looked like they’d also been trying to collect information on the planned route the Platypus ships were hoping to use, to sneak people into the crews (the Thralls had been handling that quietly), and had been sending people to go fishing at the docks at night – while not catching much of any fish in the process. They did take a lot of bait with them though.

Hm. It might be best to have the Thralls keep an eye out underwater and on the bottoms of the ships. Fish-form was easy enough!

According to the Thralls, it looked like the “bait” was bite-sized fish one might use for fishing for bigger fish or for giving to dolphins as treats. That was interesting… Were they trying to recruit spies or stealth-attackers from the local marine wildlife?

The final wards were on the outer walls, well away from the city… Kevin wasn’t sure if he should experiment with using the Silmarils to bless things. Mightn’t that bring Ryan’s dopplegangers down on the place? And the effects were unpredictable, even when he tapped into them rather than when the pesky things decided to get involved on their own.

Maybe with some backup? Raphael was finishing up with his golem-making, and he WAS their divination-and-theory guy – and some of the locals had shown up and wanted to know what he was doing. The city guard and some other mages mostly.

(Kevin) “Oh well! Bishop Ranald here says that the realm is a bit off-balance, and it may be due to my use of exotic powers – so I’m counterbalancing things a bit by putting up some long-term defensive blessings! Personally, I bet that it’s a bit more complex than that… but a few defensive blessings won’t hurt anything!”

(Mage) “What sort of energies are those? I don’t recognize that style of defensive spell.”

(Kevin) “Well, you wouldn’t; they don’t occur naturally in this realm.”

(Mage) “Ah, more of you and your companions weird magics. I can’t tell if they are interfering with the existing enchantments any, but it might be a good idea to get Lady Eight-and-a-Half-Tails here to have a look Captain. She has much experience with these sorts of things.”

(Captain) “Alright, let me see if my men can locate her.. ah there she is. Let me get a message sent to her and hopefully she will come have a look.”

Meanwhile, Raphael had finished up his ritual, and had come over to see what is going on with the balancing act.

Given that Raphael was the diviner, Kevin was kind of hoping that – once he’d started – Raphael would be able to tell where it was all going.

Marty headed towards the growing collection of guards, mages, Kevin, Raphael, robots, and – now – the Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. It was probably going to be impressive regardless of what happened, so why not?

Kevin waited obligingly, since more people were coming.

With everyone together again, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails was analyzing the blessing. Kevin and the Bishop were explaining, Marty was watching for anybody trying anything funny, and Raphael was examining the interactions with the spells on the walls and the flow of – well – “goodness” out of them while designing a dimensional balance detector spell.

Kevin was looking impatient – although he was willing to wait for opinions since now there were all kinds of people around now.

(Eight) “It looks like the blessing will not interfere with any of the existing enchantments on the walls. In fact, I believe the interaction of the new blessing with the original enchantments would likely result in a positive benefit given the magic’s defensive tendencies. I am still not familiar with all the intricacies of the magic involved though. Might I ask what has prompted this endeavor?”

(Kevin) “Well, that was Bishop Ranald here; he said the Realm was being unbalanced by the use of exotic energies, so I was rebalancing it – and the balancing forces for this one are really good at defenses. Ergo, boost those since the place apparently has some enemies anyway.”

(Raphael, offhandedly as he continued examining the spells) “Apparently the energy he likes to use is building up when it usually does not so he is adding some of its opposite to counter it.”

Hmm… It looked like the defensive bonuses on the walls would be better than cumulative, although the extent by which that synergy would improve things was hard to quantify. It might actually be a qualitative effect instead on quantitative. Introducing the Silmarils into the mix might well supercharge the effect for some time. So long as the wardstone for the city wasn’t blessed directly, however, the effect probably would not become permanent and self-sustaining.

Raphael pointed out those bits to the local mages; no reason why he shouldn’t show off his skills a bit! Technobabble, ATTACK!

He amazed a fair number of the mages and guards in attendance as he pointed to things and offered detailed and complicated sounding explanations of all the various minor and otherwise inconsequential interactions.

(Eight) “Interesting. So the energies can be used against each other in some fashion to cancel each other out? I presume this is much like Cold and Heat?”

(Kevin) “Oh basically yes. They can also be combined to yield greater powers but it takes very delicate handling. The trouble is, if you’re primarily dealing with the physical side of such energies, they cancel out. If you’re primarily dealing with the moral side, the principles are absolute, and cannot cancel each other out, only clash – and the clash keeps generating more and more physical-side power.”

(Kevin, to the Church Rep) “So, should I bless the wardstone and make the boosts permanent that way? Or would that be overdoing it and confuse the realm more?”

(Eight) “That would sound like a delicate balancing act indeed. I take it that the energies will sometimes violently collide as opposed to simply nullifying each other?”

(Multiple Individuals) “Yes!”

(Bishop) “Well, blessing the walls should work in the short term to balance things out if we are purging the dark energies directly. If we wish to avoid having to do a purge then setting up a long term blessing on the ward itself might be prudent. It wouldn’t be permanent per-se as the two energies will slowly ground each other out to nothing, but that is a stable situation.”

(Kevin) “Oh fine then! One long-term blessing on the ward… This is getting more and more like that mess at Jerusalem with the Ark!”

(Eight) “I will admit, I am curious to see more of this style of enhancement. Now, (glancing at Raphe and Marty) since both of you have experience with this sort of thing, what say you to enchanting the wardstone with this?”

(Raphael) “I would say it might be a bad idea as it might be hard to remove if something goes wrong and Bishops tend to be biased slightly towards this type of energy as generally being an improvement in all cases – even when it might not be.”

Marty found that idea a bit concerning as well.. As if there was some special case scenario that might be triggered – and he couldn’t remember exactly what it was!

(Marty) “Uh, guys, this might not be a good idea. I’m sensing some weird reaction here. Can’t put my finger on it though.”

(Kevin) “Well, making this city a bastion of light will tend to pull in any creatures of darkness that ARE in the area – and make it easier for more to arrive to counterbalance it. Also, of course, it’s a giant mercantile city that runs on greed. Would we be messing it up?”

(Raphael) “The ward is intelligent, and that always interacts with this energy”

Marty hadn’t thought about economic effects! He might be slipping! Would all the holiness interfere with trading and the economy?)

Raphael didn’t want a wardstone – since it wasn’t basically human – dabbling in morality. He was strongly against the proposal.

Kevin resolved it by getting bored with the debate; they could always do that later, after they saw what happened with what he’d done so far!

Kevin then mischievously pointed out that Marty still had to plan his wedding!

Marty was briefly blank – then oh, right! He needed to get that arranged and to spend time with Miss Fennwick!