In the wake of his success in the Evanscents, Abram takes Drago to hunt down Elements on Œrth. The one most feared finds and overcomes them before they fairly begin the search.
from The Silvergrey Sea
Though the thought made his gut churn, Abram knew he’d have to make the journey to Œrth himself. After a little thought, he decided to take Drago along with him. Considering his origins, the former Hyborean was not only rather civilized, but seemed completely uninterested in the goals of the Sea god, even hostile. That the Mercurius Pro Tem did not understand why this should be so caused him a little worry, he put aside; the Water Man could be a powerful ally in the former’s efforts to contain the other Elements and so foil the scheme of Poseidon to recreate the Pleroma.
Deciding to leave the Albedo to round up and return the surviving dragons, he left the Kokkinos to lead a guard to protect what remained of the Primal Matter and defend against the Sea god’s return. There might have been an Element of two here, but all doubted it.
The Silvergrey Sea continued to roil.
Having never seen or heard of a storm on the Sea, Abram was more than a little frightened by what he saw every time his gaze rose to the horizon. Wondering how far the unrest has spread, he collected Drago and made the preparations to journey to the home of humanity.
Officially, only the Mercurius could make Portals where none had been constructed. That was one of the powers of the Rod of Office. Abram was one of nine (that he knew of) who had learned the trick of it without. Now was not the time to reveal that, for he knew that neither of the Elects was among that number.
The secret of invoking the powers of the Rod of Mercury would be expected to be known by an Archivist. He would be revealing no great secrets by admitting that.
Holding the Rod in his right hand, upright by the center (clear) section, he intoned the required word for Œrth and tilted the Rod forward to an angle of forty-five degrees.
A vortex spitting painfully bright scarlet light roared into existence. With a single glance back at Drago, Abram led the was through it.
One after the other, the two stepped onto flagstone paving in an antique city. Abram recognized it from descriptions as the city Praʒski. Perfect.
“This is it,” Drago said. “Powerful artifact, that Rod is.”
“A gift of the Templars. It controls much of the Technomancy they created.”
“What’s our first move?”
“Show me where all the action happened.”
The Mercurius followed Drago through the ancient streets of this most Magickal of cites Œrth had ever known. Not even Peos, the capital of Atalanté had boasted as many Magi nor as great the works of Theurgy that had been performed here. Praʒski had had wizards who’d visited the worlds of the former Pleroma centuries before the Silvergrey Sea had manifested a shore on this world. Many magicians had, in fact, predicted the Sea’s advent decades before the event.
Abram was nervous being here and it had little to do with the presence of rogue Elements. He knew what had finally driven humanity from this world and was almost certain it was still here. Looking at this city, as pristine as it must have been in its hey day, any doubt he had shrank. He hoped their stay here would be brief enough that they wouldn’t be noticed. Faint hope.
Something had upset the perfection of the city. As they wound through the new-old streets, up ahead was something blocking the road. It was the remains of a building. As they approached, Abram corrected that to ‘buildings.’ The smell his them a few minutes later. It wasn’t unlike cooking meat. Only whisps of smoke did they see.
The closer they got, the worse the scene. Drago leading, they were forced to climb piles of shattered brick and stone.
The smell was cooked dragon bits. Despite the not unpleasant aroma, nothing about the chunks of flesh looked appetizing. The dragons of Aʒure’en were not made of meat, but stone. The baked remains of them looked more like burnt quartz than anything else. The odour became acrid. It made Abram’s sinuses burn. It wasn’t till he got closer to another corpse that he realized that the savory smell had been coming from human carcases.
The true horror awaited them when they topped the highest pile of rubble.
What looked to be several square blocks of cityscape had been cratered. Abram’s knowledge of the city was archival only, but a sinking feeling told him what had stood here. He asked anyway. “Drago, do you know what this used to be?”
“A very old looking building with a double clock on one wall.”
“Isn’t that the name of the clock in Glyph, too?”
“Yes. The early Order of Hermes made it in homage to the original.”
“The Glyph Orloj is a Portal, too?”
“No. It’s just a UT chronometer.”
Drago looked doubtful of that, but Abram couldn’t bring himself of care.
“What happened here before the blast?”
“The Earth Woman made a Portal out of the clock.”
“I suspected as much. Ah! It is to weep.”
“Was this ‘Orloj’ special?”
Abram turned to him, not bothering to hide his tears. “It was the first Portal ever made.”
“The Templars were here?”
Abram shook his head and dried his face with a cloth. “The Templars built the Portal network, but were not responsible for its technology. An obscure Mage in Praʒski named Muklas Kadri was the genius responsible for that. The Templars scoured the Multiverse through all time looking for a way to anchor the Aions together. They found what they needed here.
Now, it’s gone. Almost three thousand years UT, it lasted.”
“Surely Hermetists can remake it.”
“We have. A working copy is in Aʒure’en. This—” Abram pointed to the empty air above the pit—“was an irreplaceable piece of Pleromic history. Gone, now.” A heavy sigh. “No time for grieving. Let’s press on.” Knowing that it had been his decision that had ultimately destroyed the Orloj was worse than the realization that he would now never see this great wonder with his own eyes.
Drago, wisely silent, led them along the rubble to a street going the way he wanted and back down to a clear street.
After some minutes, Abram asked, “Where are we going?”
“There,” Drago pointed to a structure that rather looked like a smaller version of Aʒure’en. It surmounted a hill across a broad river. It was difficult to make out details in the late afternoon light. Something besides the low angled sun obscured the outlines of the structure. A shimmer in the air formed a bubble around it and the top of the hill.
“What—?” Drago was interrupted by the sound of wind.
The air darkened very rapidly. Abram saw blackness, not cloud-like at all, stream in from the horizon. “Mother of gods! It’s found us!”
Drago looked less than serene for the first time in Abram’s memory. “What?”
“The Void. The Spirit of the Æthyrs.” Over the tempest, he swore he could hear the sound of malevolent laughter. “The NOTHING.”
“What can we—?” Darkness overtook them both before the Water Man could finish.
I sat on stony ground in a black fog, my mount curled around me. Millennia of work had just been violently destroyed. I contemplated just dissolving back into the Earth. I considered attacking Aʒure’en, venting my rage at the authors of my pain.
In the end, it was the NOTHING that saved me.
I felt its stirrings as a kind of wind. It didn’t disturb the leaves of the near by trees, nor my clothing. I felt the soft ripples along my skin, though. I heard a sighing that spoke of purpose and inevitability. I felt its power as the horizon to the north blackened and the terrestrial wind finally picked up. The dragon raised its head and sniffed in the direction of the wind. A sound like a basso grunt escaped it.
I stood and faced my fellow Element. A grin I didn’t bother trying to modulate spilt my face.
Raising my arms high, I laughed as the Void overtook my steed and I. My glee echoed along the edges of the tide as the storm swept toward Praʒski.
To Be Continued