Tangled Tokens

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So my 9th novel is now complete and in the middle of the editing process.  The book, entitled “Tangled Tokens,” will be the first of the series I’m calling “The Adjusters.”  It will tell the story of the rebuilding of civilization after the Cen War, through the eyes of a number of Deryk Shea’s Adjuster’s […]

The Cen War Part 1

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“Shortly before Christmas, 2019.  While out shopping for gifts for their parents, two sharp youngsters stumbled on a bunch of folks who just don’t smell right.  They weren’t right.  They were Cen agents, human animal hybrids utterly loyal to their creators.

These kids being on scene saved the west coast of North America a lot of heartache.  When the word went out what they’d been caught with, the mages up and down the west coast, from Los Angeles to Denver, stood ready.  And, in a flurry, a hundred nukes we thrown through dimensional portals to land on our doorstep.  But our mages were ready. They kicked them back and slammed the portals shut.  Made for a lot of unhappy hybrids, wherever they went off.”  He grinned wryly, scratching his bald head.

“Things didn’t go so well back east.  Magic still hadn’t gotten the acceptance it had in the west.  The infections had spread from this coast, so the easterners hadn’t as long to learn to deal with monsters and freaks in their midst.  And magic scared the crap out of them.  The bible belt nearly had a collective coronary.  Heh, heh.”

The old man chuckles, pats his jacket absently, then sighs.  “Ain’t never gonna get used to the cigarette ban.  Can’t believe you can smoke dope but not cigarettes.  Then again, dope doesn’t cause cancer.”  He shakes his head.  “True story.

“So… the east coast had been utterly destroyed.  Low radiation bombs, from what we were told, but I wouldn’t want to take my grandchildren sightseeing through those parts, if you know what I’m saying.  Not if I want great-grandchildren.

The Cen took Omaha, then swept north and south from there, moving forward until they reached the base of the Rockies.  That’s when they settled in for the winter.  Nothing lived behind them that didn’t glow already, and if they had their way they’d consume everything in their path until they reached our sea.

We only communicated sporadically with posts overseas.  Thankfully there were supers and magi everywhere, more or less.  Everybody had a fighting chance.  And everybody knew–you fuck a super or a mage, you might come up with the power too.  Fucking for humanity.   It might kill you, but if it didn’t…

Truth be told, by the time the war came along most people had quit dying from the plagues.  Most of the ones dying of disease those days were the kind that come back.  Everybody else just hung on for dear life.

The plagues killed a lot of people, but there were a lot of people cheering them anyway.  They made us stronger, they said.  Sounded like Nazi shit to me.  As it turned out, I wasn’t alone.  Anyone who tried pushing around ordinary folk usually ate some recoil.  As I was one of those ordinary folk at the time, I appreciated the backup.  I ain’t a coward.  I’ll stand up to a superhuman type.  But those trolls?  Or a vamp?  Or how ’bout a ‘thrope?  Uh-uh.  I’ll leave the monsters to fight each other.

Anyway… We’d all heard how the Cen hated magic.  True story.  Apparently they like things that fly even less than they like magic.  Their anti-aircraft weapons are scary as fuck.  They targeted our satellites in orbit.  That’s why our communication grid went to hell so fast.  They hit them as they came through the gates.  Along with any aircraft that came within fifty miles of airspace they claimed.

We had no way to flank them.  Oh, a few of our flying heroes could get over there, but so what?  Then we skirmish them on both their borders?  They had enough people for that, believe me.  Of course, I was just a lousy Sergeant.  No one listened to me.”

He snorts.  “People.  Never thought I’d call ’em that.  Anyhooch, I gotta mosey on home to my Jamie.  Going to be a cold night and we like to bundle close.  Happy holidays to you all.”

From Memories of the Cen War

by Tagai Hava

(Interview with 1st Sergeant Matthew O’Bannon, Earth Defense Forces).

Equipment Continued: Mirrorgates and crystal and magewood weapons

The Mirrorgate

It’s often mistaken for a PCD.  In some ways it performs the function of a PCD, but they’re generally worn on the opposite wrist.  A mirrorgate will allow the wearer to enter and leave the dimension of mirrors, the other side of the mirrors.  It’s a place of fractured light and jagged pathways, where a misstep might leave an unwary traveler stranded in the space between until s/he goes mad.  Or is rescued by one of the denizens of the dimension of mirrors.

For the most part mirrorgates are the province of Mirage, provided exclusively to them by Artificer, a mage-engineer of great power and subtlety.   Only the members of Mirage are able to make use of the dimension of mirrors.  (See the Places: Dimension of Mirrors entry–forthcoming).

The spells involved in creating a portal into the dimension of mirrors—by the way—is the casting of a mana strand into the surface of the mirror, then opening it up as a portal.

Crystal Weapons:

Deep in the Earth there exist rare crystal caves, said by some to have formed around the grave of a great mage lost in time.  For whatever reason, these stones gain a kind of sentience, and will aid a smith in the casting of them as weapons.  A high crystal blade is the only blade that can still an immortal’s heart, apparently interfering with the communication between the cells necessary to allow them to regenerate from death.  A crystal weapon is their greatest fear.  But bear in mind most immortals either carry or have access to crystal weapons.

Many crystal weapons also have active intelligences inside them, offering advice—solicited or otherwise—and using additional abilities on behalf of the wielder.  It is also possible to rune-bind them and allow them to take on magical properties.  Telepathic blades are not unknown.

A particular school of smything can also create colored crystal blades with access to an obscure type of magic known as the High Art. It appeared to be the product of a symbiotic bond between the wearer and the mage stones.  In return for life energy, the gems would manipulate magic to the desires of wearer.  Or that had been the intended purposes.  A mistake led to the propagation of a type of stone with a relatively limited array of abilities.  It is thought they use one of these programmed mage gems in the creation of their weapons.

Magewood

Said to be grown by dryads on a far off world, magewood is blacker than ebony, so black it almost gleams in the light.  The black of a widow’s ass or a sinner’s soul.  It makes it to Starhaven in small quantities, brought in by smugglers as well as legal couriers.

Carrying magewood enhances magical and psychic focus.

Hard as steel, sharp as paper.  Magewood is deadly.  And it can be trained.  Rune-bound, of course.  Throwing knives or axes with return runes on them.  Designed to flip back around and return to sender—or simply reappear in a holster.

That can be done with crystal weapons as well, but it’s actually more common with magewood.

Equipment Continued: The Personal Communication Device.

PCD   First invented in the early 21st Century, they most resemble our own smartphones—except PCDs are wearable.  People of Earth Prime just preferred to wear a large bracer on one arm (or, in some cases, on both).  Early users needed either a wireless headset or a draw cable headset.

 These PCDs were used for navigation, communication, record keeping, and reading their version of the internet.

23rd Century PCDs, on the other hand, are so much more.  It is said that it takes moments to learn how to use one, but a lifetime to master.  It has the communication function, enabled instantaneous multi-reality connections between agents in the field and home base, as well as filtered channels for other agencies as well.  Transmissions are tracked and backup can be alerted instantly.

 

Scanner function enables a 300 meter area in which the device can read life signs from everything in the area.  Temperature, pulse-rate, rate of movement, size, mass, and, often, potential threat levels.

 

Databases extend through the operational Starhaven archives, with the knowledge of five worlds within easy access.  Look up any piece of information necessary to do one’s job within minutes.

 

Panic in the Disco Ball:  If the panic function is activated, the wearer and anyone s/he’s touching is surrounded by a force bubble of immense strength, which can last between ten minutes to an hour depending on how much of a beating it’s taking.  At the same time it shoots out scintillating bolts of light, including infrared and ultraviolet.  It is said to be particularly dangerous for a vampire on the outside of one.

 

This also calls for backup.  A second squad will be dispatched to the wearer’s location within 10 minutes.  Arrival times are not guaranteed.

 

The last function, the least used, is the dreaded Gate Home.  It’s… humiliating.  But every agent who’ve ever needed to has used it.  It usually doesn’t help your next promotion come any faster, as it happens.

 PCDs are durable enough to be used as a shield, if necessary.  More than one agent has owed their life to the agency leash strapped around their wrists.

Infinity Bible Part IV-Immortals

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Some 25,000 years ago, the Cen released a bioweapon on a civilization some may know as Atlantea.  The death toll was devastating.  Some 99 percent of the planet’s human population was wiped out virtually overnight.  The 1 percent who survived, however, were forever changed.

An immortal is who they down their very DNA.  If one cell survives destruction, an immortal can regenerate from that little bit.  Generally the way they accomplish this is particular to each immortal, but it’s something of which one might want to be aware.

The only thing known that can kill an immortal is the dreaded living crystal weapons.  But for a few notable exceptions, a death-stroke delivered with one of these artifacts disrupts the cell memory and can inhibit or even deny growth.  Immortals have been killed this way.

Fleeing the destruction of Atlantea, some 200 immortals arrived on what we know as Earth Prime.  We sometimes like to think of it as one step sideways from OUR Earth.  They split up almost immediately, the stress of losing their world and so many loved ones added to that of many manifesting preternatural abilities on top of it.  A lot of immortals just wanted to be alone.

A few took off together, however, and began dealing with the humans from their adopted world.  It became comfortable for some to be seen as gods.  Why not?  Compared to these creatures they were gods.  Advised against it by the gateship Captain, the one who’d brought them here, these little godlings donned the aspect of deities and invented pantheons around themselves.  Powers they had were attributed to the gods they became, and thus mankind was turned away from pure nature worship into something else.

Grand civilizations were born in the centuries immediately following the crash.  Their gods walked among them, and the miracles performed were beyond counting.  They discovered that belief conveyed a kind of energy, and when one had accumulated enough believers, the immortal began to develop ‘god’ powers.  It generally involved the spontaneous invocation of mundane items, simple transmutation, that sort of thing.  Control over the natural world was not uncommon, including the four elements (or five, depending on who you ask).

Among the most powerful immortals in those old days were Zeus, Hermes, Thanatos, Athena, Artemis, Hades, Hecate, Lilith, Thor, Odin, Sif, Morrigan, Lugh, , and Ares, as well as Isis, Osiris, and Thoth.  Other gods were wiped from the face of the Earth in the First Wars.  Wars so devastating and brutal that the surviving gods wiped any evidence they had ever happened out of existence.  As far as anyone could tell, civilization started somewhere between 8 and 10,000 years ago.  And that’s how the immortals like it.

Over the centuries others have fallen away, been lost somewhere in the web of worlds.  Whole civilizations were born and died before recorded history began.  Some left, many died in the war.  And if anyone knows with, they’re not telling.

And the memories of those beings were where the legends of the various gods came from.  And not even mankind remembers.

Loki missed it when the Cen seeded Earth with the magic stealing virus.  He’d long since lost all his equipment and had been waiting for science to catch up.  The war had caused a great deal of trouble and they’d had to tolerate eons of barbarism between the fall of the old and the rise of the new.

He’d expected it much earlier, having feared from the beginning that the Cen had somehow followed them, and had grown lax.  Tens of thousands of years in between… he thought maybe they’d followed some other probability line and were harassing someone else’s Earth.

Until the magic all went away.  The Ghost Dance was about magic’s last gasp, and it failed.  The viruses carried by the settlers had wiped out whole populations, but they had also done their secret work… stolen magic from damn near the last people in the world who still carried it.

A few mage lines existed, but they stayed way underground, treating with other worlds and some of Faerie, but even most of those lines had died out by the time the 21st Century had rolled around.

Loki planned to fix that.  He’d actually been trying to recreate whatever had happened to them to save his future bride, Renee had been dying of a blood disorder.  He’d been working on a formula.  The two things met and did something… unexpected.

One last thing about immortals that might be of particular use is this:  There is a great deal of variation in the powers of immortals.  Some few retain a little god power, and others are simply powerful to begin with.  Powers rarely repeat, though they may overlap.  Different immortals may use similar powers differently, as is found with vampires.  Not all immortals have powers, however.  Some are little more than super-enhanced parahumans with ultimate regeneration.  Others can be quite spectacular.

An immortals power is generally considered to be superior to all other powers.

Similar powers may override each other in this order.

God Powers

Immortal/Draconic Powers

Vampiric Powers

Symsuit Powers

Magic

Thus a symsuit with power over fire would lose in a battle of control with a vampire or immortal with similar abilities.  This doesn’t mean, however, that they would lose.  Powers are only one aspect of any entity’s arsenal.

Infinity Bible Part III-Magic

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Magic is temporal energy unfulfilled.  While the web of worlds exists because of the chain of possibility, there are those events that build energy but do not create another universe.  The threshold of probability is not reached.  This energy is scattered across the globe, visible to anyone with the talent for it.  The innate gift of magic, humanity’s birthright, had been stolen from us by the Cen.  The arcane virus, legacy of Loki’s Sin, returned that old gift to mankind.  And now magic was visible again.  Threads could be woven into seals and sigils.

Each strange, each loop of a sigil, represents an intention.  This fragment of energy will do… this.  (Imitate a kind of energy or element, like fire, electricity, cold, etc…)  It may also grab something up to a mile away, or transport the mage across those distances with a single step.

One end of a strand can be tied off, the other opened, thus creating a dimension pocket.  Any mage may have a dimension pocket sewn into any piece of clothing, or inside of a standard belt purse common on low tech worlds.  Some carry weapons in dimensional scabbards.

Magic is complicated to explain, but let’s give it a go.

You have different kinds of magic.  Offensive, defensive, affective, reflective, and creative.  What determines the type of spell is the mage’s intent.  Knowledge informs intent.  You have to know what you want the magic to do.

Offensive is pretty self-explanatory.  Every strand of many put into damaging an opponent does so much physical damage.  In game terms we used a specific amount, of course, but let’s say one strand isn’t usually lethal unless it’s somehow boosted.  (Lightning into water comes to mind).

Defensive can absorb as much damage as a single offensive thread can do.  They cancel each other.

Affective magic induces change.  One thread is equivalent to fifty lbs of mass.  To change a large human man to something else of the same weight would take roughly four threads.  It is presumed that some of the effects of lycanthropic and other shapeshifting draws upon magic, though it’s never actually been proven.  If it does, it’s entirely outside the purview of the shifter.  It is for were-creatures, anyway.  We’re not making any bets about dragons.

Conservation of mass generally applies, but it is possible for a creative mage to get around this problem.  Creativity and knowledge, remember?

Reflective magic is designed specifically to counter offensive and affective magics.  It doesn’t simply reflect.  It combines and increases the power of the attacking spell and hurls it back at the assailant.

Creative magic is the most difficult, and the most misunderstood.  Creative magics are those the at which the legendary Jasmine Tashae excels.  She created the imp Quickfingers, after all.  He is, if anything, a construct of magic somehow given life.  No one else has ever succeeded in this venture, though it’s not impossible that someone else might eventually do so.