In Faust's Footsteps (Gear)

MKR

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#1
It had not been long since his return to Luna's surface. The Knights had had the courtesy to clear out his personal berth prior to his arrival, which apparently had taken two days longer than he believed much to his annoyance as it seemed that his time spent with Gail had taken longer than what it felt like. Then again keeping track of time in a place best described as between places is nigh impossible.

Nevertheless, he relented. Time had come and gone and it was for the best to hope he hadn't missed too much, for one the brute that sent him off seemed to have taken its departure in the meanwhile too. For his part the scientist hoped that departure had been to an early grave, but he had a nagging feeling that was not the case. In addition there was now the matter of the Temple of Gragios' newfound silence. A line of behavior more akin to one of its competitors.

So it seemed that for the time being Derrick got to step out of the shadow of the Astranagant and right back into that of Gragios.

However he had at least taken the time to shower and swap to a fresh set of clothes, for the most part it was the same. The ever present white coat with gold accents remained but instead of the purple shirt underneath only the white vest and black tie were there. Casual wear by the standards of his social circles but frankly, he couldn't muster enough cares to wear anything more 'professional' to a temple that may now be nothing more than a tomb.

With a sigh he set out, feeling as if today would be another long day.
 

GEAR

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#2
A curious quiet had settled in over the domain of Gragios.

The great mechanical temple that served as the flywheel of innovation, the nexus of the Dark God of Creation's power, its myriad entryways concealed behind cascading walls of ever-churning machinery... were now still. Doubtlessly, this would have occurred to Derrick as the Astranagant floated through the depths - yet nothing emerged to menace him, no DAMON or Lamalice had trod these halls - the wards and sentries, cycloptic, half-formed beings anchored from the whirling depths to our plane, lay watchful as ever, glaring out at him as he passed their ranks.

To be a patron of Gragios was to celebrate the very act of creation itself, to be the artist, the scientist, the inventor - all beings whom were blessed with the spark of creativity, the "eureka!" moment on behalf of the entity. As such, even the docks appeared to be works of art and science themselves as he approached, excessive in their beauty even by Lunarian standards, wrought of gold and silver, imprinted with shades of nobility and creeping, crawling vines.

Yet Derrick would know not to look too closely at the figures that appeared in its reflections, for those lost, tormented souls were the property of his dark master forevermore, trapped and doomed to serve as the fuel for his endless, albeit wonderous acts of creation... and destruction.

Still, the docks were... far from empty. The form of several Autowarlocks were present, hunched in their berths, suspended by some fashion of magic - yet there were no dock crews, no pilots milling about, no trolleys of magic artifacts being bustled back and forth - only the inviting, golden-lit alcove that led to the interior, waiting pleasantly for his return, as it had all along...
 

MKR

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#3
As he approached Derrick took a cursory glance over a notebook he had brought, this grimly innovative place never failed to give him ideas. Be it by design or accident Gragios' temple was a well of inspiration, befitting of the muse whom it was devoted to. At the sight of the still walls and silent dock however, the notebook was closed and put into one of his pockets.

The presence of the eyes in the abyss below, gazing at his arrival, indicated that whatever had happened was not done by external forces. Or rather by unwanted visitors. There was not enough damage for DAMON to be the perpetrators, let alone any remaining DAMON to greet him. No, something else was afoot.

So he docked the Astranagant by himself, though he was no magus it seemed that as the Autowarlocks besides him yet remained suspended the Astranagant too would be fine. The more... Artistic units that rested in the hangar of the temple were given to Gragios' dedicated. An equal mix of art, magic, and science that would seem impractical for anyone to use but nevertheless proved potent in the hands of their pilots.

And now among them rested the eyesore that was the Astranagant, its deep black crystalline form contrasting with both the surroundings and the more artistic units. One of his peers once described it as 'seeing an abstract art piece among an expose of finely crafted statues but discovering they were all made by the same artist.' The description was apt back then, but with his recent discoveries it seemed Gragios was less the artist behind the Astranagant and more the publisher.

Nevertheless, with the Black Angel docked and looming over the surroundings, Derrick began to venture deeper into the inviting bowels of the temple intending to discover the truth of the matter.
 

GEAR

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#4
Treading through the great halls of Gragios' keep, the splendor was as consistent as the outside had suggested. Sparks of data flickered through the glass and gold walls, and it seemed a place that even the moody Zivon would have grudgingly found aesthetically pleasing. Yet, it wasn't long before the glamorous consistency of the place came to an abrupt end.

Snaking along the paneled walls to his right... was a long, dark crack. It grew in width and intensity as he went further down, before opening up into a grand Hall, a mind-melting display of techno-aristocratic art, technology, and sorcery that was the central hub of the complex. No macabre temple was this, but a monument to the glory of creation, full of warmth and the fierce interplay of ideas, the promise of what could be, and a shining beacon of hope for the universe...

Or... So it would normally have been.

The great twin staircases, weaving up through the complexes like a DNA helix, were tattered and broken. Shards of glass littered the floor, and scattered about the hall were the crumpled, dark-robed forms of his fellow peers, numbering at least eight. The data-screens and holograms that had normally decorated the chamber had been smashed, blown to absolute pieces, as though rent with a particularly large and menacing claw, leaving only scattered, hazy phantoms that chattered a staccato static.

Burn marks and rent furniture in all directions indicated there had been some form of a struggle - even now, the faint tang of residual mana expenditure, of expended catalysts and relics filled the air, a caustic, metallic scent reminiscent of work Derrick was all too familiar with.
 

MKR

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#5
As he followed the crack in the wall, the scientist wondered the cause and upon seeing the main hall he cringed at the display. The warmth this place held was in all respects faux, the only connections the men here held were their debt to the mutual muse and their appreciation of science and art. It was a workplace not a friend club, at least except for a few.

On the grand scale of things this temple, while no dark gloomy cave where some blood sacrifice was being conducted, stood as a monument to science, arts and the narcissism of all those that dwelled within. That of course also meant that of the one living man in the room.

With a sigh, Derrick went to see if he could get some of the screens and devices back up and running. His time among the number here meant he could at least recognize the use of mana and catalysts, but technology was his playing field. As he approached one screen he noted the claw mark. Internally he wondered what could've caused it, and hoped it had long since vacated the area.
 

GEAR

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#6
With some effort, Derrick was able to get one of the nearby floating holograms to cooperate, its distorted surface hovering back towards his beckoning grasp, the Lunarian nanomachines coursing through his veins identifying him as one of the cult's own. Yet, were he to work away at its display, searching for its records, he would find only empty folders and bare documents, broad swathes of white, as if the entire resource had been erased.

This in itself was deeply worrying enough - Gragios' adherents kept their secrets close, and the computer network that ran through the complex was heavily guarded and nigh-impenetrable. For all of its data to be scrubbed in so little time was almost unthinkable, even if the archivists themselves had made the decision to do so - such was Gragios' value of knowledge as a vital component in creation.

As he pondered this, however, a low groan came from a short ways away, emnating from one of the collapsed figures, his fingers moving slightly against the carpet, trying to find purchase of some kind.
 

MKR

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#7
An inconvenience, an annoyance and a major setback to many sciences. Those were his thoughts on the emptied archives, it was something that should've proven to be nigh impossible too be it for anyone within or outside of their ranks, but if anything it showed that no mere beast had rampaged these halls, unless the monster devoured data.

His thoughts however were pulled away by the groan and Derrick ran over to his peer, aiming to help them get on their feet, leaning against something or otherwise. Someone's luck pulling through was good in many ways, not only would they live to see another day but they could also explain who, or what, had done this.
So, as Derrick worked to get them up on their feet he would look over his peer, guaging his wounds and what medical apparatus would be best suited for use here and should the formerly unconscious cultist seem to not be on the verge of death, he would pose a question to them.

"What happened?"
 

GEAR

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#8
As Derrick reached out to grasp his peer's arm, the long sleeves of their robe would come away loose in his hand, with a tearing sound leaving him holding a mere strip of cloth as they sagged forward onto their knees. Within his grasp, the material had an almost liquid like quality to it, dripping through his fingers, the blessed fibers of its being on the brink of collapse.

There was a soft, wet, schwump noise as something fell from the end of it, onto the floor between them.

A human hand and bone, its surface gray and gleaming, as it dissolved into a black, inky mass. The texture of the skin was unmistakeable, ripe and amethyst - it was the same as the dread creatures that were spreading across the solar system, destroying everything in their path.

The remaining sleeve reached out, touching his knee weakly.

"The... Grand Archives..." Gurgled an indistinct voice.

It was perhaps fortunate that their features were hidden behind a golden, ceremonial mask, evidently interrupted in the middle of some ritual or another, for given the condition of the rest of their body, their face could only have been a gristly sight. Black liquid dripped out about its humanoid, stoic features, dribbling onto the floor.

"...A traitor... brother..." He choked, seemingly with great effort;

"Returned..."

The crease of Derrick's clothes brushed his skin very faintly, as the cultist gave a weak squeeze, though whether it was one of pain or reassurance, it was impossible to tell from the mere slits that were present on the faceplate.

"Be... careful..."

...And with that, they were gone. The body bent forward, head dropping onto its lap as the robes collapsed, the dark liquid now flowing out in all directions as their body dissolved, leaving only foul, silvery vapors streaming into the air before Derrick.
 

MKR

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#9
It seemed his judgement was mistaken. Whomever is, was, behind that mask would not live another day. They suffered another moment instead and Derrick was forced to watch in grim horror as the tapestry of their life unwound in a morbid fashion. Their flesh warped like that of Lamalice, falling apart at the seems. The Lunarian, now lone survivor in this mess, let go of the liquid clothing.

His stomach churned at the display, throwing up in his mouth ever so slightly as the dark liquid began to stain the floor. This had been a few degrees worse than anything he'd seen before, oh he had been fine bringing grievous wounds upon DAMON and attempting to erase the very existence of the monstrosity that came out of the ZONE. Even crushing the Zelvoid, and its pilot, had not made him sick.

Because in all of those cases, it had either been a monster or he did not have to see the effects and deaths bestowed upon the unfortunate. This however... He could smell the corrupted flesh, see the liquids pouring out of the former person. This was not impersonal or efficient, by all means those were the gifts bestowed upon pilots. They were not forced to watch a slow painful death unfurl before their eyes in combat, but this. Someone had done this to another person, warped their existence in such a manner.

Derrick did not dare look at the pile of clothing as he stepped past it, pushing his mind elsewhere. Lamalice had avoided Luna like the plague before, why was an existence similar to theirs forced upon its denizens and by a traitor nonetheless. Derrick put his hands inside his pockets, took a deep breath and continued inwards. The computers would not levy any information, the denizens had likely all been subject to the same as he had just seen which left him with notably less avenues of information gathering.

It was due time to determine if this traitor had been here solely to settle a score, or if they had come for something else and for that on his priority list were the vault of items both magical and mechanical and the personal studies of his colleagues. If anything was missing from either the next step was determining what had gone missing.
 

GEAR

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#10
Derrick traversed the halls of the great temple, as they wound ever deeper. Here and there were scattered more remains, more signs of struggle, lying in pools of dark, shimmering liquid that had once constituted their innards in what could only be thought of as a truly horrific, agonizing death. Here, even the demonic sentries had been dismantled viciously, their great marbled edifices pulverized into shattered rubble that littered the hallways, the spectral, wounded remnants of phantasms left frozen in place, mere residue of what had once made for intimidating guard dogs.

Holographic steps hummed to life beneath his feet as he moved ever deeper - some treacherously fading moments before his feet touched them, not a test for the unwary, but a sign that even the temple's power sources were damaged. It would only be a matter of time before the protective wards about the place would fade, and their presence would be discovered by the unbelievers. What would follow... was best not yet contemplated. Outsiders had little understanding of the ways of the great creator, and like all else, they would destroy that which they were ignorant of - the Lunar Royal Family in particular would brook no challenge to its authority, and it was perhaps something of a blessing that the computer networks were as bare as they were, as it would make him and perhaps others all the more difficult to track down.

Eventually, his steps would take him to the spiral center of the place, the crown jewel and heart of Gragios' presence in the waking world: The Grand Archives.

A crescent hallway leading out from one of several staircases funneled him closer to the multi-tiered, almost cylindrical chamber that was at the center of the temple. Unlike the vault of Volkruss, with its curated artifacts of nightmare and deathly silence, punctuated only be the occasional dying scream as an ignorant cultist failed to treat a volume of malefic power with the respect it demanded, Gragios' vault was open to all to celebrate in great works of creation - a joyous pavilion of discovery, where the artist need not fear censure, and the scientist be free to experiment to his heart's desire.

A symbol of hope for the universe - such was the almost contradictory nature of the Dark God of Creation, Gizos Gragios.

The level he had arrived at, in his experience, was the uppermost balcony - the eighteenth floor, and there were three entrances before him on the inside of the crescent shaped room, decorated lavishly with gold and hard-light doorways. Unlike other areas, this place at least appeared to be untouched - the culprit, perhaps, had entered at a lower level. In his experience, the one located on the left would lead to an elevator that could take him down to any of the below floors, in multiples of three, the sacred number. The door immediately before him would allow him access to the top level of the archives, and the one to his right would lead to a set of stairs that would afford him a slower, yet perhaps more subtle form of descent.
 

MKR

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#11
The newfound treacherous nature of the complex was not one Derrick liked, nor was the prospect of the temple's discovery. It would mean the likely destruction of over two thirds of the projects here, to the world in large the items here would be seen as heretical in nature at best and to everglory, finding such a structure and organization had been hiding under their nose for who knows how long at this point, would cause a notable backlash to say the very least.

A sigh escaped Derrick's mouth as he traversed the defiled halls, his pity was with the artists, both affiliated and non-affiliated as science and magic could avoid scrutiny easier but the artists would likely be faced with a much more intense vision, to make sure none of them had any funny ideas about Gragios. For nonbelievers the worst would be technology falling in the wrong hands and at that point those would need to fancy themselves tomb raiders, which given the piles of oozing formerly people adorning the deeper halls, was likely to scare off most non-knights.

That may be someone he would need to resolve on his way out, but for now his focus turned to the room he was in. The grand archives, specifically its upper balcony, seemingly remaining mostly intact. Currently using the elevator was likely out of the question, using such a device in a building whose power is beginning to fail was likely to end with him stuck in between two floors with no choice but to climb to the last one via cable. Not an exciting thought to the physically inept scientist.

So first, the center door. The top level of the archives, while due to the undamaged nature of his surroundings it seemed unlikely something was wrong in there, he did not want to chance being wrong when it came to the literal eradication of the main temple of Gragios. Especially not when the implication seems to be that it was all done by one individual, the supposed traitor. Not stalling any longer Derrick went towards the center door.
 

GEAR

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#12
Derrick made his way out into the heart of the archives, a large circular platform spreading out beneath him. Three equidistant points were set into its frame, ones mirrored in the several floors below it - and of course, above. In fact, were he to crane his neck upwards, it would have seemed as if the sky - the great library, spread on forever - evidently the very space in which he dwelled had been altered in some fashion by their deity. Yet, if he were to do so-

There was a quiet sound as he entered, a sort of churning on the wind, a whispered, faint shuffling. Something crunched gently underfoot.

A white paper, its sides shorn, completely featureless.

All around Derrick, blank papers rained down in a constant, silent hail. They varied in color, in composition, and state - some were rent to shreds, some appeared pristine, with marks suggestive of paperclips or staples, but all were blank. On either side of him, rows of books that had once been pristinely kept archives of magic and knowledge were in various stats of disrepair - as if great claws had sunk into their guts, tearing free pulpy viscera, leaving the precious vessel spilled out across the floor.

Yet, even the once great and terrible magic tomes that had been bound with enchanted chains of gold and silver, eternally rattling against their restraints, were now deathly silent in their restraints. The entire Archive... felt like nothing but a silent tomb, a crypt. And at the heart of that was-

Something moved beside the young man's foot - a book, it seemed. It cover snapped open, pages aflutter - before the very words themselves melted off the page, forming the same black liquid that he had seen before. It snaked down across the floor, being dragged... Somewhere, just past Derrick's feet, further along the circle beyond the bookcases - and there were more like it. Thousands of tiny black serpent-like trails flitting across the walls, the floors, all of them wriggling, writhing their way towards a single, central point.
 

MKR

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#13
A endless echo of knowledge, stolen, obtained, traded. Going on ad infinitum in all directions except back, though it was no maze getting lost within the depths of infinity was a danger in and of itself. The classic saying of 'Do not gaze into the abyss for too long' felt apt. For while none of the knowledge within was forbidden one had to remain mindful of the borderline hypocritical nature of the god of creation and his knowledge.

That, was something he understood better than most, it was why he retained an air of caution when it came to Gragios, as while he had the intention to fulfill his end of the bargain he struck. That debt had turned into the one thing he had not hoped for due to Zivon.
The sound of paper shook him out of the moment, as he looked down, and then back up to see a new hail of paper he held his palm open to receive a page, empty and shredded. Eyes scanning for the source only to find that the library was now in tatters. Calling it a library was unjust now, no this was a graveyard of knowledge. Given the situation below that was likely for the better as the secrets held here would now not be taken by the ignorant.

As he felt something besides his foot he instinctively pulled it up, responding akin to how one would to a mouse on the floor. But this was no mouse, the words turned to mush and began snaking to a particular spot on the floor collecting in a pool, or Alphabet Soup if one were comically inclined. Derrick for his part steered clear of the snaking ink spills, taking a step back but remaining on guard.

When it came to personal defense he was sorely lacking, there were some basic Od usages for combat he knew but it had neither interested nor seemed useful to him at the time, instead opting to focus his efforts on a more fundamental science, a decision he was currently regretting ever so slightly. The Lunarian decided to take a few deep breaths and keep himself in between the door and the mysterious pool of liquid, in case a tactical retreat was in order.
 

GEAR

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#14
For a little while, there was nothing - only the soft sounding fall of paper, and the constant trickling of the former words across the floor. Then, however... It was joined by a sound -a dull, rhythmic thumping. Footsteps.

From behind a bookcase emerged... a familiar form. The dark, close-cut garb was standard of those that had been "rescued", for lack of better word, by Gragios from some circumstance or another. The ones that dwelled in the isolated cells below, conducting experiments that were taboo and outright insane, even to the most enlightened of the order's number, and whose isolation served as a form of protection for when these inevitably blossomed out of control. Yet, its plastic-like lined collar and other characteristics were... smudged, almost, as if they had been recreated from a very close memory, but the material was no longer that of this world.

The hooded figure took a few steps forward, silently. In their hands turned something bright, a sphere of off-white energy with tessellated, boxy surfaces that clicked in and out at intervals - a mage's puzzle, at first glance, but to his trained mind, a highly sophisticated lock designed to keep out even the most powerful of truthseekers. Black-gloved fingers flexed back and forth across its surface, turning it this way and that in a set of rotations that caused the blocky surface to whirl and churn, seemingly in no hurry.

At length, the figure stopped its pacing, and slowly turned to look up at the man.

It was at that point he would likely have recalled the mask.

Those that were reborn through Gragios gave up their previous lives, and the adornments upon their features were symbolic of this fact. Derrick's previous experience with the man would have him familiar with the off-white coloring, the curious inscriptions across its being - yet, this too seemed now chalky and course, the edges fraying and cracking, leaving chunks adrift on a dark mass, like tar, which was neither cloth nor flesh but somewhere inbetween.

The eyes, at least. Those had been normal before. Flecked with the madness and insomnia of their colleagues for certain, but they were at the very least human. The two crimson orbs that affixed him now were anything but, as if they had been crafted by someone who had only had the idea that "the eyes are the window of the soul" explained to them only in passing.

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"Derrick." Said the Sorceror known as Abramelin Zahed, his voice tinged with slight, yet inoffensive surprise.

"It has been... quite some time."
 

MKR

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#15
Robes, though different from those that were worn by the others here, entered his vision and Derrick narrowed his gaze for a moment before placing them to belong to those 'rescued'. Yet while this somewhat soothed him there was a certain degree of uncannyness about it, as they were less what he was familiar with and came closer to someone's vague recollection of how it was supposed to look.
For example what someone would say if they had to describe it on the spot without details.

And then there was the mask, fractured and floating over... Someone, or perhaps more apt: Something. Somewhat cautiously Derrick inspected the man before him and the box within his hands, as the man's voice, the man most definitely known nowadays as Abremalin Zahed, one of the many lost souls who like himself had turned to the allure of the dark muse whose halls they walked through. Yet unlike him had given up everything material for it in addition to spiritual.

The Lunarian shifted his footing, the wrinkle of paper coming underneath his boot as he did so. The warning of a traitor doing this yet fresh in his mind. And here the only living cultist was, looking like a vague sketch of himself. And last he heard there were some rumors Abremalin has finally lost it and vanished. A tale of gossip to keep in mind.

"That is has Abremalin, and it may seem both of us have had our personal problems in the meanwhile." He replied, the understatement of the last line apparent to him. Caution, while not in his words, leaked from how he gazed at Zahed.
"While I would love to recollect, I don't believe this is the best time or place. I take it you've seen the situation outside these doors, is there perhaps anything you know of it?"

He intentionally avoided a accusatory tone, keeping more to that of slight surprise not dissimilar to what Abremalin had used as he tried to take control of the course of conversation.
 

GEAR

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#16
"Ah, yes."

Abramelin gave a slow, dry chuckle. The sorceror raised a hand to an imaginary foe... and pinched his fingers, as if snuffing out a candle.

"They came at me... One... after another." He explained, repeating the gesture twice more, as if to indicate the ease with which he had ended the lives of their colleagues.

"Clearly... They did not value their lives, nor their minds. All this knowledge, simply resting here, trapped in these pages... all these words... waiting... waiting to serve..."

He trailed off, and lowered his hand, still cradling the curious puzzle in the other, the light from its surface casting gastly, jagged shadows across the plane between them.

"It seemed like such a waste. So... I took them, you see."

As if this neatly explained it all, he gave another short chuckle. Abramelin had never seemed quite as sociable as the rest of them, but there was no wonder why he was kept under lock and key. Others admired his brilliance, but kept their distance, for fear that the dread darkness he had steeped himself in would taint them too... but he had, at the very least, been respectful of Derrick during their time together. Perhaps it was the young man's knowledge that had kept his strange co-conspirator transfixed, but there had always been something different in how he had treated him.

"The Godshard has shattered, if that is what you are seeking. But... the will of Gizos Gragios is no longer of concern."

The so-called Godshard. A seemingly mythic chunk of enchanted ore, believed to be the beating heart of Gragios itself, that had long resided at the heart of their complex, yet few had ever laid eyes upon it. If what Abramelin had said was true, then his attack had indeed pierced the very depths of their order... Yet, he barely seemed interested in it, instead turning to affix Derrick with a stare.

"Tell me... What was it that you saw in the void?" He said, drawing closer, the black rivers of "words" as he had said trickling across the floor, snaking up to join the mass that now as his form.

"What did the Ain Sof whisper to you?"​
 

MKR

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#17
Derrick put his hands in the pockets of his coat as Abremalin spoke, opposite to him stood a deranged genius and confessed killer. Yet, that meant they stood on equal ground on that matter, the way he compared their peers to candles to be snuffed however meant their outlook was vastly different. It seemed that to Zahed the men in these halls had been flickers of light, snuffed for their attempt to overpower the darkness while Derrick believed them to be faux colleagues. United by their mistakes and quest.

Yet, it was no falsehood that knowledge here was wasted. Though to what extent was once again a seeming point of contention as draining the literal pages dry for their knowledge was a few steps beyond what Derrick would suggest, let alone act on. Knowing that the Godshard lay broken, ironically, put him at ease. It meant he would not need to conceal a possibly nonexistent artifact of immense power and, Gragios being the dark god of creation, Derrick reasoned his muse could fashion himself a new heart.

And yes, there was no doubt about the truthfulness within Abremalin, there had been an odd mutual respect between them and given the prelude of a murder confession the Lunarian saw no need to doubt the man. Though the mention of Ain Sof made him furrow his brow somewhat. While Zahed has supplied parts of the Astranagant himself, Derrick had not imagined that knowledge to be held by the man.

The scientist did not flinch as the sorcerer approached, looking him in his inhuman eyes and speaking up.
"The void. What I beheld there was a road with all exits closed, all bar one. The road home."

"As for the whispers. Heh." He shook his head, looking to the word snake and following it back to Abremalin before meeting the gaze once more.
"The turning of a million, billion, turning gears in unison, all to power the world's deadliest flash light. Wheels and levers that keep moving raising the question 'Am I the last cog, or the operator' without ever saying a word." Derrick gave a slight smile. One of self pity. "Or I could just be both."

"Which brings the question to you. As while I was gone my life turned to shit. And frankly, you don't look too good either Abremalin. So. What happened to you?"
 

GEAR

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#18
Abramelin listened intently to Derrick's explanation... or at least, appeared to be. It was difficult to say, given the state of his anatomy, exactly how much of one foot or another he had in this plane of existence at any given moment. As Derrick turned the subject to Abramelin himself, the Sorceror seemed surprised, looking down at his own form in mild amusement before responding:

"I have achieved understanding... by shedding the limits of our frail forms." He said matter-of-factly,

"The human mind was insufficient to contain the full extent of the Black Knowledge... Yet there is still so very, very much I still need to know, to understand."

That term might have tugged at the edge of Derrick's consciousness, as it was something which had come up in their conversations before. Abramelin had, in his own words, come into contact with a source of unspeakable cosmic knowledge - something which existed prior to his contract with Gragios, and to even speak of this event filled him with a nameless, depthless dread, for ever since he had been a man drowning in utter madness. In that sense, his confinement by Gragios had been something of a relief, allowing him to act out the knowledge that had been forcefully, traumatically carved into his mind

"The cosmos is a diseased body. It is tired, Derrick. It is sick. Those creatures... those Lamalice... are proof of this. I have seen the dark, beating heart of the universe for myself, in my 'journeys'..."

Here the Sorceror trailed off, his speech still somewhat fragmented, perhaps drawn to recollection of whatever distorted things he had seen beyond the fringes of reality... Only to continue, wondering aloud, as if to share in his speculation with Derrick himself, saying:

"Yet we are pulled forward nontheless, guided by destiny... by the Ain Sof itself. To what ends...?"
 

MKR

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#19
Understanding by shedding his form, a trade of knowledge in exchange for humanity. Abremalin had done what so many before him had in these very halls but had gone beyond them. Given his exposure to the so called 'Black Knowledge' he might have needed to. But that was neither here nor there, the latter part of the man's statement interested Derrick most.

"I am inclined to disagree and yet agree, because in my observations what I saw was not an infected cosmos, but the starting onset of a disease. Innumerable realities consumed by these Lamalice and Damon, forever at odds like two carrion-eaters fighting over the same corpse. We are but in the beginning stages. The onset of the coming disease."

He crossed his arms, milling over that last line.

"Destiny, something inherently non compliant with free will." He tapped his lower arm with his finger as he contemplated it. "Its pull is there, but not absolute. Nor caused by the Ain Sof. I can attest to that."

"The best I can compare it to is a machine left alone and running, the firm grip of destiny was running smoothly, but the machine stopped being maintained and now it is running on fumes. Running still, but breaking down. In this metaphor the Ain Sof would be equal to an emergency stop button that by design causes irreparable damage to the machine."

"As for the end, I suppose death? Either the machine breaks down or the cog that is humanity breaks first. It may seem grim but it is the one constant in life."
For the time being it was better to not mention the true purpose of the universe, as it seemed a bad idea to relay that they only existed to fuel some long gone inter-dimensional empire. Besides, even in that case the 'death' answer wasn't wrong.

"What I truly want to know is how we escape our corner of that machine we call Destiny and not cause our world to die in the process."
 

GEAR

Administrator
Staff member
Jun 15, 2018
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16
#20
Abramelin gave a loose, gurgling chuckle, his whole body quivering with mirth at Derrick's response. Perhaps he had been anticipating something more along the lines of those he had claimed before in these halls - hurling curses and magic, attempting to claim vengeance - but Derrick wasn't like that at all, was he? No, he was cold, dispassionate...

...and a perfect candidate for the Guardian of Causality.

The Sorcerer placed the item he had been cradling on a nearby table, its curious, tessalating surface growing still. That piece of the puzzle was not his to solve - but he would leave it for Derrick, for his mind would certainly be able to divulge its contents through getting in touch with that man... the one with the silver knife.

"This world is divided into men and Gods, and I am both, yet neither."

As he spoke, something crawled over his shoulder. It was a construct of some kind, with long, curled horns and a bony body shrouded in a cape. He plucked it from its perch almost lazily, and flung it out behind him, causing it to billow out like a curtain - one that twinkled with the blackness of the distant stars he so loved to decry. It was as if he had opened a window into another place, using that thing, the Zenadye, as a medium, and the entity itself seemed to watch him with its own eyes, its thoughts... inscrutable.

"So as I am, so shall you be, Derrick." Said Abramelin, gathering the last of his conquests about his form. He stepped back into the darkness, letting it cloud about his form entirely - but the very last thing to disappear was that mask, and the lingering sound of his voice.

"I shall be watching your studies with great... great... interest..."

The sound of his laughter echoed through the abandoned halls of the temple... eventually leaving only Derrick, the only survivor amidst the gently falling rain of papers, in a silent crypt of knowledge.