3 Ring, 6099 RTR (24 Sep 1999) Envoy finds an alien artifact on Fortunatis.
(Envoy) (Space) (Spheres of Magic) (Wynona)
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The expedition to Fortunatis, for the most part, has gotten relatively dull. Relatively, that is. Wynona has been busy with her meager collection of weather-monitoring equipment (all very low-tech, really, and of dubious accuracy), writing up reports to submit back to the Temple. This has been fairly challenging, considering how often the weather changes around here … but at least there haven't been any more "storms" quite like that last one to blow through. A minor squall, however, can still translate into major changes in the environment.

It doesn't happen on a daily basis, but a few times the Gateway has opened up, allowing either more supplies to be sent in, or else some samples and reports (and refuse – best not to litter a new world) to be sent back. Wynona was especially pleased to get some correspondence back from the College Esoterica … especially since the latest shift in the "weather" has been that the sandy expanse outside has given way to a curious alien winter wonderland: Instead of miles of waves of sand, the ground now consists of a jumble of crystal formations, most of them human-sized or larger, seemingly shifting in color in "waves" in a fashion much like the sand did previously. Furthermore, it's especially cold outside, and the crystal growths are frosted with snow and ice.

Fortunately, the interior of the crystal chamber where the Gateway is located stays pretty close to a nice standard "room temperature", although blankets and heavy clothes have still been required to be comfortable. While the wind scatters flurries of snowflakes every which way, and a snow bank builds up on one side of the crystal chamber's exterior, Wynona reads through her letter.

"Oh! Envoy," exclaims Wynona, "it seems that the Temple has taken to tentatively referring to the purple misty world as 'Ylem', like I mentioned in my report. That's not official, though … It's kind of been traditional for the planets to be named after gods, so they might end up naming it after some deity from the Olympian pantheon – not that I would know who the contenders would be. But, still, it looks like you've been influential! Maybe you'll even be mentioned in the history books, years hence."

Envoy smiles at the news. "And here I'd thought I'd be the one writing those history books. I just wish we'd been able to discover something more to explain this world." The Aeolun turns to look out through the crystal doorway at the now-frozen landscape. "I should visit Bosch sometime to compare its behavior to what we've seen here."

Wynona at first doesn't respond, and then her brain finally responds to what her ears are telling her. "Bosch?" She jerks her head up. "Ah … no. No, I don't think Bosch is a good idea. Bosch does strange things to you. It warps you. Things are strange here, but at least nothing came by and twisted our bodies around on a whim. There, you can just be standing around, minding your own business and POOF you're suddenly a tree. Or an egg. Or a cross between a tree and an egg and who knows what else."

Envoy hmmms, and nods. She takes out her sand samples to check their colors, just in case being inside the tower makes them immune to the general changes going on outside.

The sand looks like plain, dull, sand-colored sand – not blue, not red, not any other color. It could have been plucked from a beach on Sinai … or, for that matter, any other number of worlds.

"Curious," the Exile notes. "Wynona, have you tried any magic inside the tower before? It seems to be isolated against the probability changes."

Wynona shakes her head. "No serious magic. I just tried a couple of cantrips. They went wild. Well … I've had worse happen, but it was impossible to control them. Magic exists here … just not very useful magic."

Looking around the crystal interior, Envoy suggests, "Maybe only Sifras magic works in here. I think the ancient Savanites may have discovered something about that before the fall of their Empire, but I have to talk to some of their mages to be sure."

"Uhm … well … if you can call it magic, then, yes, Sifras magic," agrees Wynona, with a nod. "In any case, technically, I could cast a spell … but I guess it would only be if I'm not really particular about the effects. Say … some sort of desperate distraction in the hopes of scaring off a monster or something like that. Though I've yet to see any monsters here. Not that one couldn't pop up in one of those Probability Storms. Or … that's what I'm calling them, you see. Or did you come up with that name first? I don't recall."

Envoy goes back to watching the landscape outside. "I wonder if there would have been anything at all manifesting in that storm if we hadn't been here to feed it information. That storm changed me, I think. It was the first time I ever tried to deliberately ignore what was going on around me."

Wynona says, "I have a hard time believing that we had no effect on it. What would the odds be that it would just happen to conjure up a character from some story that you know … and you being an Exile? Unless that story of yours holds some cosmic secrets of impressive magnitude … well, I'd see it as highly unlikely. And we can't just say that 'If it's unlikely, it will happen'. There are countless things that are unlikely. Such as, say, the whole universe imploding instantly. If everything that could happen did, I don't think we'd be around for very long."

Experimenting, Envoy closes her eyes, and turns her back to the doorway. After a few moments, she turns back and opens them again to see if anything has changed.

Yes. It has stopped snowing.

Envoy frowns, and tries the test again.

Nothing is obviously different. It is still not snowing.

"Maybe Morpheus knows what function Fortunatis serves," Envoy suggests. "Too bad there's no way to communicate through these portals without actually stepping through them."

Wynona says, "Well … you can see through them … sometimes, at least. The portal to Abaddon seems to be slightly … uhm … out of sync? I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but it seems like something's slightly amiss there, some of the time. But otherwise, I'd imagine that it should be possible to communicate by holding up something and writing on it, if nothing else. That worked for us before."

"Of course," Wynona adds, "you have to have someone on the other end and ready to see you. There's no doorbell that I know of, so to speak."

Envoy walks over to the window corresponding to the world of Morpheus. "The Temple hinted that Morpheus has some sort of control over the Gateway Tower on his world, so that he can allow or deny particular visitors. So, he should be watching it. Maybe he'll understand Savanite sign language."

"Morpheus … can you refresh my memory on the story behind him?" asks Wynona.

"I don't know the full story," the Exile says, sitting down in front of the portal. "He's something created by the First Ones though, and just recently on his own. He was very friendly towards me, and helped me out when I was having something of an identity crisis. He even looks like a mix of races, like I do."

"Oh? Which races?" inquires Wynona. "And he's friendly, you say? That's good."

"He looks like a black Khatta with Eeee features, and small wings. Or else like a black Eeee with Khatta features and small wings," Envoys says. "I never would have been able to focus like I did during that storm before he helped me."

"Interesting. So … he has something to do with dreams … and I guess that helps you with … uhm … mental things, like focusing, then?" Wynona fumbles.

Envoy blinks, then turns to smile at Wynona. "Oh, my problem was that I wasn't really built to be thinking on my own, and there were a lot of conflicting… drives. Morpheus gave me a new element that helped bring the others all together, so that I could have one mind again. I could probably even act like a normal member of society, if it wouldn't make me feel like a hypocrite."

Wynona shakes her head. "I don't know how you cope with it. I mean … I figure that's stupid of me to say, since it's all perfectly natural to you, I suppose … or, artificial. Whatever … but it's just so strange for me to be sitting here, conversing with you, when you say things like how you were 'built', and all that. Like you're some sort of machine."

"But then," ponders Wynona, "I guess golems are like that. But I've never really dabbled in that sort of thing, and the Collegia Esoterica slaps a lot of restrictions on that."

"Really?" the Aeolun asks. "What sort of restrictions? I had wondered why the wealthier nobles didn't have custom-made golems for servants."

"Well, that's just it," replies Wynona. "If there weren't such restrictions, you can be certain that anybody with enough money would be doing things like that. Now, that happens on occasion in Babel, though I'm not really sure how they handle that in Nagai. But I think it's just because magic can be … unpredictable. As much of a reputation as you might have for being 'strange', I wouldn't expect you to suddenly go berserk and start killing people. You can just never really tell with golems, unless you've got a mage constantly holding them on a magical leash. And even then… things could go wrong."

Envoy stares at the portal for a while, before asking, "Why couldn't a Spirit Mage transfer somebody's mind into the golem then? Wouldn't that keep it under control?"

Wynona shudders. "That's probably been done. But that gets into Necromancy. Spirit Magic as practiced in Rephidim is under a great deal many more restrictions than in Babel or Nagai. Some have tried to divide up the Sphere of Spirit into two sub-spheres: Warding and Necromancy. Of those two, 'Warding' is the sub-sphere that would be most approved in Rephidim. But they're a lot more free about that elsewhere."

The Exile nods. "Necropolis uses something like my ansible to control her zombies, although they still seem to have their original personalities to some degree. Even the crystal golems of the old Priest King kept some of their original selves. I almost feel sorry for those two, having come so far but still not being able to create their own remotes… "

"Well … let's not go using Necropolis as a good example of what can be done with Spirit Magic," says Wynona. "I can safely say that Necropolis – going by all the legends, you understand – would be the least sort of thing that we'd want Spirit Mages to emulate."

"I still wish I knew more about her origins," Envoy says. "If she followed the same course as the Priest King, it would explain why Aeztepa is one giant Forbidden Zone now, and why she was so interested in the City of Hands and the Priest King's death."

Wynona says, "Well, honestly, most of what I know about Necropolis, I learned from Baron Zoltan Cambio. And that's not much. I try not to speculate too much, as that is far out of my field."

The sky outside clears, and a strange chiming noise begins to ring out in the surrounding "forest" of crystals that has sprung up. It sounds a lot like the "music" in the dreams about Morpheus, actually.

"I suppose I just have a morbid sense of curiosity." Envoy grins. "I think I've encountered Necropolis twice now, more or less directly, and her actions didn't make any sense to me. Or perhaps I can't help but speculate on what may be a twisted version of my old self. I don't think Morpheus is going to talk to me."

"Your old self?" queries Wynona. "What do you mean? What would you have to do with Necropolis? I mean, other than that I guess you're drawing a parallel somehow, what with you being a 'construct' and all. Or is that it?"

Korut's ears flick at all the mention of Necropolis. "Ah … ladies … is this any sort of thing I shouldn't be listening in on? If so, I could go take a stroll or something. Looks like it's stopped snowing outside."

Envoy gets up to look out at the landscape again. "Oh, I'm just a piece of a larger being. A living castle, sort of like the old Priest King had become. I imagine Necropolis is sort of similar to the old King, but neither of them knew how to really become like Lothrhyn, since they had mortal, single-bodied origins." She smiles to the Jupani. "Oh, it's nothing the Temple doesn't already know. I wouldn't mind going out now myself, to hear the music better."

"Really? How odd. 'Necropolis' means 'City of the Dead'. Maybe 'Necropolis' turned herself into several buildings? Maybe there's something about turning yourself into a building to become a god. Like … making your own temple?" Wynona seems to lose herself in wandering off on that tangent, her theories dissolving into odd murmurs, punctuated by the occasional head-shake and "No, that doesn't make any sense."

Korut nods. "Ah. Okay. Well, if you say so."

"The Priest King would have absorbed the City of Hands if the Twelve-Times-Twelve hadn't kept him penned up," Envoy says, pressing a hand to the crystal portal. "If Necropolis did the same thing, there wouldn't have been anyone to stop her from absorbing the entire island, probably."

The window shatters, and the shards spread outward. Wynona quickly throws a blanket around her, momentarily snapped out of her theories as she protects herself from a brief blast of cold air. Korut doesn't seem to mind so much.

It's chilly outside … but the wind has died down, so it's not all that bad, if one is properly dressed.

Envoy heads for the nearest of the crystal structures, to see if the chiming is coming from it.

No … the chiming seems to be coming from somewhere beyond it, out of sight … but the echoing off of the other crystals frustrates any attempt at pinpointing the direction precisely.

The Aeolun sings out a chiming note of her own, to see if the source of the music responds.

The chiming echoes die away … and then another chime sounds, at the same pitch.

Envoy changes to a three-note repeating pattern.

There is a delay before the chiming changes … but it echoes her pattern in response.

Encouraged, Envoy tries a prime-number sequence, singing first three, then five, then seven notes before pausing and listening for the other to continue the sequence to eleven notes…

It seems to catch on quick. And it's going right on up in the prime number sequence. (Though it's going to take a while as it gets further along.)

Envoy turns to Wynona and Korut. "Listen! There's intelligence here after all! I think." She then turns and runs off into the wind, trying to find the source of the chiming.

Envoy's path takes her on a winding route through the forest of crystals. She has to pick her steps carefully, as the ground is covered in crystals, with patches of snow here and there … but there's enough even ground and enough texture so that she doesn't end up slipping and impaling herself on a crystal or falling on her hind-side.

The chiming continues in its sequence … slowly increasing in volume. As it does so, the wind picks up in intensity as well, rushing over the tops of the crystals, though they provide enough cover that Envoy doesn't feel anything but a minor breeze where she is.

"Hello-ooo!" the Exile sings out, turning her ears to try and better find the source, instead of relying on volume alone.

The chimes ring out in pitches that echo the 'notes' formed by Envoy's call, as if mimicking her. It sounds like the chimes are coming from just ahead. There is a large crystal before Envoy that seems to be nearly flat – plate-like – and she can glimpse a few more such crystal-plates beyond, rimming a circular area just out of sight and beyond. There's no seeing just what is in the center of this "clearing" yet.

Envoy pauses briefly to examine one of the plates, before turning towards the clearing and trying to see deeper into it. "I am Envoy of Lothrhyn; is anyone there?"

The plate appears to be made of the same semi-crystal material as the rest of the "forest" … except that it has an almost liquid quality to it in appearance. While the surface is hard and angular, the colors inside flow around as if driven by currents.

The Exile blinks three times, and reaches down to touch the surface of the plate. "Are you the planet? Is Fortunatis alive, and dreaming?"

The clearing beyond is rimmed by several such crystals that angle outward, as if a giant hand had reached down and gently pushed the crystals outward to clear out a bowl-shaped opening … and in the bottom of this crystal "bowl" is a faintly glowing pool of something that looks like an even more "liquid" form of the crystal.

Lights brighten at Envoy's touch against the plate, and a ripple of color radiates outward through the crystal.

Envoy smiles, and pulls her hand away before carefully making her way down into the bowl.

The way down into the bowl is a little slippery in parts … but there are plenty of "steps" formed by the layers of crystals folded outward … and the bowl becomes progressively more shallow toward the bottom.

Once she reaches the edge of the small pool of liquid-looking crystal, Envoy pauses to watch it. "Hello, can you talk?" she asks it.

Ripples dance across the surface of the pool, responding to the sounds made by Envoy.

Then … they keep rippling.

At last … all the waves radiate toward the outer rim of the pool, then back inward, increasing in amplitude … until a single drop bursts from the center of the pool, forming into a perfect sphere that rises upward … like a scene played in reverse motion, and more slowly than it ought to be.

Envoy's eyes widen as she watches the sphere, remembering her own first attempts at communication, only a few years previous.

The sphere rises … then hovers at a point in the air equal in height to Envoy's head. The pool ripples again … and the process repeats, as another droplet rises from the pool. And another. And so it repeats, as several drops stream upward, and collide with the first. The drop wiggles and swells with each impact, slowly growing into a larger sphere.

For a moment, Envoy wonders if Wynona and Korut are following, but then her attention focuses back on the sphere.

The sphere continues to grow and warble … and as it swells, it takes on a less spherical aspect. No, instead, it begins to resemble a ki'rin's head, fashioned entirely of a strange semi-viscous liquid that sparkles and refracts light now and then as if it has crystal inside it. The face looks back at Envoy, its form still being contributed to by the steady stream of "drops" coming up from the pool.

"You're learning," Envoy says to it. "At least, I hope you are. I don't suppose many people have visited here before." The Aeolun stops talking, and starts singing to the sphere, hoping it likes the input.

The body continues to form into something resembling a mirror image of Envoy, sculpted in not-quite-water. A chiming voice comes from the pool, at first imitating Envoy's voice … and then forming a harmony, adopting a dual-tone voice to compliment Envoy's.

Envoy keeps up the singing for a while longer, then tries moving her arms and face to see if the figure follows along.

The form remains a mirror-image, mimicking Envoy's gestures, but it doesn't display any initiative in adding to the movements – merely echoing Envoy's own motions for the time being.

Finally, Envoy extends her arm, open-palmed, towards the figure.

The mirror hand reaches out, and touches Envoy's palm. It feels cool and wet to the touch … yet it also feels just as solid as her own hand, somehow. Her hand tingles with the contact, and the tingles slowly spread up her arm.

The figure makes its first movement of its own volition since the "mirroring" … it tilts its head forward, as if bowing its head to the Aeolun.

Envoy freezes. "I suppose you're examining me now. You don't have any reason to hurt me. Do you understand my speech?"

The voice of the pool continues to sing for a time … and then it grows quiet. The tingling spreads to Envoy's torso, and starts to radiate outward toward her limbs and neck. She still has muscle control and her nerves are still reporting in, but the strange sensation is spreading.

"Are you the genius loci of this world?" Envoy asks, trying to remain calm. "Did the First Ones make you?"

The tingling spreads, reaching the ends of Envoy's limbs … and her ansible. Actually, it's hard to describe how it feels in purely sensory terms.

"No," comes a response that seems to originate inside Envoy's ansible, somehow – or maybe at the tip. Well, it's hard to tell, really.

Envoy blinks several times in surprise. "Do you have an identity?" She "listens" closely to her ansible again, having literally tuned it out after years of static.

"No," comes a response, once again, from inside the ansible, for lack of any other explanation. "Are you the interface?"

Envoy blinks again at the question. "I used to be one. What are you seeking to interface with?"

"The creators," answers the thing. "Ready for instructions."

"What are your… " Envoy pauses to think. "… operating parameters?"

This seems to give the pool (for lack of another label to apply to it just now) pause for thought as well. "Formulating answer."

"Regulation of probability," answers the pool. "Stand by to initiate interface."

"Why would the First Ones have left without activating this?" Envoy wonders out loud.

"Unable to answer. 'First Ones' not identified. Initiating interface procedure," reverberates through Envoy's ansible. The mirror ki'rin image quivers, rippling, distorting and shifting.

Envoy focuses back on the simulacrum, hoping the interface isn't going to be more disorienting than talking to the Temple computer.

The simulacrum loses its quasi-humanoid shape entirely … now looking like an array of tentacles (for lack of a better term – unless 'fingers' might apply) that curve toward Envoy, one of them in contact with her hand already.

Envoy wonders what Wynona would think if she came across this scene unprepared, while she waits for the interfacing to complete.

The tentacles rise up, poised like snakes ready to strike. Envoy can see her image reflected in the liquid-crystalline surfaces countless times over.

Envoy picks up sounds of movement somewhere behind her. "Envoy! Envoy, where are you?" calls out Wynona's voice. Obviously, she must not be close enough to see this just yet.

The former remote clears her mind as much as possible, and doesn't respond to Wynona's call, for fear of upsetting the interface process.

Suddenly, the tentacles thrust toward Envoy, the tips sharpening like spears. Envoy's nerves report several punctures, as the crystal probes rip into her body, and engulf her ansible. The sensation could be interpreted as being quite painful.

The chiming noises increase in volume and pitch, and the liquid-crystals flash brightly.

"What is that?" calls out Wynona. "Envoy! … ENVOYYYY!!!!" the bat screams.

Envoy can't help but cry out as her body convulses!

Nerve endings stop reporting in here and there, as the strange structure invades the Aeolun's body. She feels an unusual sensation in her spine … and then her eyes report only darkness.

So this is what fear feels like, Envoy thinks, worried that her mind has been pulled out of her body.

"Interface complete," echoes a voice, for lack of any other description. It is nothing heard with ears. Envoy's essence – again, for lack of any other description – floats in a void.

And then … lights appear. Or, rather, the sensations register as light. Lines of light slowly trace across the expanse, forming a web-work of pulsating energy – a network of some sort. And the lines eventually trace their way toward Envoy, converging … and joining.

Envoy tries not to think of her body, as she considers the possibilities. "Can you show me the regions of unstable probability that exceed default limits?"

An image forms of a spheroid … and it is marked with multiple glowing points on its surface, and extending to parts beneath. Somehow, Envoy can "see" the entirety of the sphere at once.

To Envoy's mind, this looks like a map of the Forbidden Zones of Sinai, but she asks for confirmation. "Which world is being shown?"

The answer, really, is nothing like the word "Sinai" … but somehow she is given confirmation. Somehow her own knowledge meshes with that provided to her. In her own mind, she can translate it as confirmation that, yes, this is Sinai, and, yes, these are Forbidden Zones.

The area that would correspond to Bosch is a particularly unstable region. The area that would correspond to the Gateway Tower is considerably less so, of the Forbidden Zones … and somehow, Envoy gets the impression that the "instability" is on a downward curve at the moment.

Envoy asks the system, "What would be the overall effect on probability if these instabilities were normalized?"

"That is beyond capacity to calculate," responds the system. "Current trends predict an increase in overall instability that will eventually equalize, then stabilize."

Or … that's how Envoy's ansible attempts to translate the concepts.

"Is there any danger in leaving the system to follow this cycle?" Envoy asks.

"Define 'danger'," the system requests.

Envoy tells the system, "Danger would be a condition leading to a catastrophic failure or extreme variance from current levels."

"No," answers the system. "This cycle has occurred before. The system is self-stabilizing."

"What causes the instabilities?" Envoy asks, curiously.

"Damage to the system," responds the system. "Unable to self-analyze nature of damage."

Envoy asks, "Is there a repair system?"

"Yes," comes the answer. A point shows up on the representation … at sky island level. There are many points orbiting the sphere … one of them is probably Rephidim. The one indicated is different. An image forms in Envoy's head of a floating island with a great tower in its center, and three conical projections radiating outward from its base.

"Repair system has been modified," the system reports. "Proper cataloging of modifications has not been maintained."

"Is this system still functioning?" the disembodied alien asks.

"Repair system was inoperative, but has been reactivated." A sense of time communicates itself to Envoy. Without proper context, it would be meaningless to her … but somehow she's able to associate it as being in fairly recent history – during her time on Sinai, at the very least.

A few points of "light" pop into existence, somewhere on what might be thought of as the horizon of Envoy's awareness. She somehow receives the odd sensation of being … watched.

Envoy asks, "Are there any other instabilities that interfere with… system performance?"

"Access denied," responds the system.

Envoy really can't express surprise in this state, but somehow was expecting to run into a barrier eventually. "Can a remote link be established with this interface unit in case of a system alert?"

"Yes," answers the system.

Envoy gets that sense of being "watched" again, immediately after this answer.

"If such a link does not interfere with the normal functioning of the interface unit," Envoy says, "initiate this link if operator assistance is needed to handle a system alert."

"Access – " and then the system's response is broken off, as Envoy's sensations shift. It's impossible to place just what might comprise her physical form, but she is filled with the distinct sensation of being invaded, somehow … as if something were prying into her very soul – or whatever passes for such.

It must be recalibrating the ansible, Envoy thinks… and hopes that is all that is being done…

The sensation ends. " – denied," completes the response, though somehow in an altered "tone". Something doesn't seem quite right about it.

A different "voice" queries the Aeolun's consciousness. "Welcome. What is your bidding, Mistress?"

"Who is this?" Envoy asks, startled – in an abstract way, at least.

"Deus ex Machina," replies the voice.

Envoy considers this. "I don't understand your question. What are you capable of?"

"Anything," replies the voice.

"Can you tell me the current status of my body, then?" Envoy asks, cautiously.

"It is melded with the access point," answers the voice.

An image forms in Envoy's mind … she can "see" the crystal forest, and the bowl of crystal shards.

Rising from the liquid-crystal pool is a crystal pillar. Inside it, she can see a silhouette of her winged, humanoid form … pierced many times over with tendrils of the alien material.

Elsewhere in the clearing, a teary-eyed bat is seated in the middle of a hastily formed magic circle. It looks like she is preparing some sort of ritual, while a Jupani keeps guard over her, his sword drawn.

He stands between the bat and the pillar … as if a chitin blade might somehow prove to defend against such things as this alien technology.

Envoy asks, "Can you separate my body from the access point and restore it to its prior state?"

"Yes," answers the voice.

"Who created you?"

"The Creators," answers the voice. Something inside Envoy's essence applies another name to this answer. The Sifras.

That sensation of being "watched" invades on Envoy's perceptions once more.

"Do you know of the entity now called Morpheus?" Envoy asks.

The answer cannot really be described as a voice. Something within Envoy's being "translates" her own question, and in the interchange of information, images are conjured up of what is known as the Primus System to some entities, and the planet known as Morpheus. On this world, she gets a sensation of a heart of crystal that has melded with a network of energy and "liquid crystal" running through the planet … an essence that has drawn its identity in part from this world, and in turn suffused it with its own hybrid will.

Envoy asks, "Were you created for a similar purpose to that of Morpheus?"

"No," comes the answer.

"What is your intended function?"

"The implementation of will upon the physical universe," answers the voice.

Envoy's mind begins to brim with questions once more. "When the inhabitants of the fourth world use what they call 'magic', are you the one which implements the effects?"

"Yes," answers the voice. Something inside Envoy tacks onto this, "sort of."

Envoy lets this sink in. "Is there a way for me to communicate with you after I am disconnected from the access point?"

"Yes," answers the voice.

"What is required for this?" Envoy asks.

Suddenly, a flood of sensations fall across Envoy's consciousness as an answer to this question. They are so without context and so alien that Envoy's mind is unable to grasp it immediately. But something within Envoy's mind comments on the sensations and tells her, "Magic."

"Am I capable of achieving this?" Envoy asks, hopefully.

"Yes," answers the voice.

"I should not keep my companions waiting much longer," Envoy communicates. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

There is no answer. Somehow, Envoy gets a sensation of utter befuddlement.

"One last question then," Envoy asks. "Has anyone other than the Sifras discovered you before now?"

"Yes," answers the voice.

That sensation of "being watched" is getting awfully strong now. There's something vaguely menacing about it, actually.

Envoy can't help but ask another question after all, "Is that person aware of our current communication?"

"Yes," answers the voice … although Envoy gets a vague sensation of 'wrongness' about the answer.

"Please disconnect me from the access point and restore my body to its pre-interface condition," Envoy asks. "And thank you for sharing your knowledge with me."

Everything explodes suddenly, as Envoy's consciousness is wrenched out of … wherever it was … and her senses suddenly come back "on line". It takes some time (well, it's hard to gauge how much time is passing, really) before she realizes that she's staring up at the sky. It doesn't help that the sky keeps shifting its appearance regularly anyway.

A strong wind blasts over Envoy's body … and then she hears a bat crying out, "Envoy! You're alive!" She feels cold … and then she feels herself being wrapped up in a heavy cloak.

Envoy blinks a few times, not feeling ready to try anything so bold as moving on her own yet. "Yes, it seems so," she says. "I don't think there is anything more to be discovered on this world now, Wynona."

Korut barks, "Be that as it may, my instructions are clear. We've encountered a hostile force … We are to head back to Sinai immediately." From the proximity of the wolf's voice, it seems that Envoy is being held by him. It appears to be his cloak that she's draped in.

"I have no objections to that course of action," Envoy says. Then she smiles to the Air Mage, and asks, "Were you really going to try and magic me out of the crystal?"

Wynona says, "I'm sorry … I couldn't think of a better plan. I figured that in a situation like this … I had to try whatever I could. I'm … I'm amazed to see you in one piece … after … what it … did to you." She shudders.

Korut urges Envoy along.

Wynona is quick to follow after, only gathering up the most important of her supplies used for the ritual.

"It was worth it," Envoy says. "Although I wouldn't recommend it, personally."

Before reaching the tower, Envoy asks Wynona, "How difficult is it to be accepted into the Collegia Esoterica?"

---

GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 8 days before Guy Fox Day, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)