Chapter 8: Curses of the Spiral Mystic
Picky’s eyes were closed when he entered the domain of his computer. His eyes were closed, but he was intimately familiar with the spiralling magic circuits that made up his terminal. He hadn’t yet checked to see if he could find other artefacts.
“Welcome master. You seem worried today, I’ll play Govin’s 14th Serenity for you” a gentle woman’s voice, yet devoid of soul.
Comforting trills of flutes filled Picky’s ears like the sound of early morning birdsong. Birdsong with nary a peacock or rooster in hearing. An eternal song like the humming of a good mother at work… like the laughter of honest workmen.
A plain and honest sound.
“Run some general diagnostics” Picky ordered.
Normal… Picky wasn’t sure that Gaddy was really normal. Would a normal man so quickly turn to thinking of how to save everyone? Wasn’t it more normal to fear for your own life?
“Curious, all circuits are running beyond optimal benchmarks, all functions confirmed, not only that, but master, this system is not connected to a regular external power source, but… this unit is currently charging. Master what is this place? The world beyond this unit’s physical form is… it is like the ethernet itself”
“…then, shouldn’t I be able to connect to it like the ethernet? That’d mean anything with a magic circuit is connected…”
Magic circuits, Forms, and sources of power. Brand the form with circuit, connect it to crystal power, thus magic is realised. If the very air thrummed with power though? Picky couldn’t quite comprehend the particulars. He had the feeling it was related to how, in Sunder it was possible to make a magic circuit not branded to form in the ethernet, but it was not possible in the physical world.
“Crystal Air theory” He mused.
It was the idea that In Sunder the air had tiny particles of crystallized magic. Following that, could he assume that the Alterworld just had a higher quantity of crystal particles? He shook his head. It wasn’t the time to try and figure out those mysteries. He had something he had to do.
“Shouldn’t I be able to perform a full dive into this world? It’s a bit of a risk, but I’m a servant of Khotepe, so hopefully that gives me some protection”
Picky stroked the circuits around him, arranging them to cast the spell of entering.
“Khotepe favours the ghosts of the machines, so, I’ll have you cast the spell!”
“Thank you master, loading spell, activating circuit sequences, casting Master’s Veiled Descent”
A normal dive was just going into the ethernet, but what Picky was using was something he used when hacking artefacts and exploring dangerzones of the ethernet. A fully comprehensive set of protections. Veiled Descent was a spell that traced its existence back to the earliest times of the ethernet, and it was rumoured that the spell was partly composed from records before Sunder appeared before the Dragon Sun.
The main thrust of its philosophy was that if you couldn’t be seen, if you passed through all things, then nothing could harm you. It was neither a defensive or offensive spell. The spiral circuits around Picky howled and grew bright, twisting and distorting, forming a spiral of spirals.
Picky felt his avatar taking form, uniting with it, and then the dive. Leaving the safety of the nest, the step over oblivion.
A leap of faith.
The Spiral Mystic opened his eyes.
Before him was his boon companions, and his own empty husk. He understood then that each time someone had dived into the ethernet, they had become a spirit with but a thread of a connection to their physical body. It was only so clear now, in this place.
The so called spells of entry were actually spells that cleaved spirit from form!
His own spiralling spirit was still attached to his own form. This presented a problem, he knew there were other spirits in the Alterworld, and if they saw his bond, they could follow it to his spirit, or more disastrously back to his empty form.
Decisively he cut the bond, and swirling it around, he formed a spiral seal upon his form. Now, he and it were more securely veiled from the eyes of spirits. It was time to gaze upon the twisted soldiers and their works.
Distance had less of a pull over him as a spirit, taking care not to alert any other beings, he made his way over to the tower from the sleeping world. He could feel the artefacts of the patrolling servile soldiers, the weakest of his enemies, those who were not even altered. He laid his mark in each pattern they held, how easy it was as a spirit, and how defenceless they were.
Surrounding that thing that should not have been there, that abnormal tower, was a vile barrier. A tortured thing. It was primitive, but some kind of savage spirit was trapped and goaded to hunger and madness. The Spiral Mystic passed through the cracks in the shoddy barrier, slipping inside.
Rather than a barrier formed from a spirit, just a spirit standing guard would have been more of a threat to the Mystic. Needless cruelty had not served his foes well this time. He unfurled his spiral shaped spirit and spread himself throughout the building. It was laughable, there were all kinds of raw wards against spirits, but wards against the curses of a hacker?
There were only the vestiges from the sleeping world.
He saw all within the tower. Many of the devout of Mandible had changed. The leader, the World-Will Apostle was particularly disgusting. A long body of twisted hooks with crazed eyes hiding amid the segments, and at one end of the body a maggoty face distorted by sadistic euphoria. Instead of a regular mouth, it had the fingers of two fists covering a horrible maw.
The eyes of this being were black holes with a slight hint of yellow within.
Before this evil being was the staff which held the crystal encased head of an ancient magus, and splayed out from this were the still forms of the three Featherscale Maidens of Metalsong. The World-Will Larva were arranging the still bodies of the sleeping world residents along a magic circuit. The mandible soldiers who had not been altered did the greater body of the slog work however.
“Work faster worms! Each moment we linger is a moment a powerful spirit could descent upon us and devour us all! Ahh, such danger here, but only in this shape do I feel truly free. It is not wonderful you worms? This mere taste of our new world?”
“YES SIR!” the Larva cried out.
New world. The Spiral Mystic knew which heretics of the Creed of Domination these ghastly creatures were. The World-Will cult. Those who wished to reform the sleeping world, claiming it was an incomplete world. They wished to form a world-egg away from the presence of the Dragon Sun.
Sacrifices for the world-egg?
The Mystic saw there were tube-like containers in the hall. The fruits of the ritual would be stored there. He saw that the Larva were quite weak, the Apostle was likely the lowest of their rank. In the sleeping world, were the ones they turned away those beyond their power to suppress?
The ritual was proceeding a bit too smoothly. The hall had changed much, but the thrones of the patrons were still present in a form. Yet, the Spiral Mystic did not bid them to rise at that moment. Weak as the World-Will cultists were, it would not end well if he was discovered.
So, he waited, the chance came when a lowly soldier, his equipment tampered with by the mystic, tripped, and fell against a mechanism that should not have done what the Mystic had happen next. The trooper and the mechanism, something to do with lights, both exploded in a firework of magic as the charges of their power were sent spiralling out of control.
It was easy to do when he turned off the surge suppressors after all.
Following that, the thrones arose from the ground, pushing the residents of the sleeping world about and destroying the carefully laid out circuit the Larva were constructing. The Spiral Mystic slipped out of the tower, discarding it as he had his flesh before. The screams of rage of the World-Will Apostle echoed behind him.
He carefully made his way back, and returned to his physical body…
Picky opened his eyes… then he screamed because his right arm unfurled into a spiral.