Dealing With Dark Powers
Let me tell you about the evil of the nested macro
"So that's the story," I said to Albert much later that afternoon. We had spent the morning with the principal and certain teachers, going over the details of what happened and what we thought had happened and such. We were sitting in the cafeteria now, the harsh lights above and background noise of the people around me only a small comfort after my recent brush with death. Yasui had earlier suggested we go someplace quieter to talk, like outside or the library, but right now I wanted people around.
"That's quite the adventure you had," he replied, impressed. "I'm sorry you had to kill someone though."
Yasui and Christina looked away. "He was evil," I said, looking back and forth between them, "Right down to the core. That's why he was Unholy Chosen, if you get my drift."
"Not now Dean," said Christina, but Yasui gave me a weak smile.
"Is true," said Osman, nodding. "I am glad his wicked ways no longer will pollute the earth, and I'm sure any angel would say the same."
"But why tell all this to me?" Albert asked.
"It's one of those 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' situations," I explained. "I'm worried about the state of my soul, quite frankly. The ritual my parents did is illegal for a reason, apart from how dangerous it is. I would like to hear, from an angel, that my soul hasn't been tainted because of something that was done to me as a baby. If it is, what can I do about it? If it isn't, that's fine, I'll just keep my soul in the egg and continue to be immortal for awhile, until I figure out how to remove the power in the egg that makes me age. I could just have Osman here petition any old angel, as I don't know any personally, but I thought I might get a better answer if we called one you had already worked with. I figured in your four years of school here you might have learned about one or two that could give us a straight answer."
"You're right about that," he answered after a moment. "I have met an angel or two, and now that I think about it, there is one that owes me a favor, so we could get him here easily enough. I think he's an archangel, can you manage one of them?"
"I'm at least familiar with archangels, yes. They aren't too far up the angelic ladder, so to speak, and if you know his name it'll be easier." Albert nodded. "Good. Then with Dean's help I can probably manage it, at least for awhile."
"How can he help? You can't learn to petition very well, can you?" Albert asked me.
"Nope! I doubt I could learn to petition even a single angel, too difficult. How many have you learned, Osman? Three? And that's doing nothing else but practicing Petitioning?" He nodded sadly. "And I've made four talismans, a ward, learned a spirit, and can do alchemy stuff, and spirit energy- I don't mean to brag!" I hastily added. "I just mean that I can never master most of that stuff without years of study, and Osman can just pull an angel out of the sky; something I'll never do, and, well, uh, back on track then?" I asked hopefully. They all nodded. "Right, sorry. I don't think the Circle of Petitioning down in the summoning classrooms needs an Artificer to activate it, but I can still be very useful. I can call upon the spirit of the Ant, which lets me help anyone do anything, even if I, myself, can't do that thing. So I'll just call on the spirit of the Ant, hopefully for myself and one other, we can then help in Petitioning this angel of yours." I broke off and looked up, and everyone looked overhead to see what I was looking at. I jerked back. "Oh, hey, did you know? If I call on the spirit of the Ant, then use spirit clone, both of 'me' then have that ability? I used that technique to make the phase talisman, it was pretty nice."
"Your mixing of powers makes me dizzy Dean," said Yasui jokingly.
"Hey, right now I'm just sampling everything, you know, getting a feel for what I ultimately want to study. When you know you can't take a skill very far it's easy to learn a little about it then go on to the next thing. And the more I learn about how different people manipulate spirit energy the easier picking up new things will be, in theory anyway. Like learning a bunch of different languages. Right?" I looked around expectantly.
"So," said Christina, ignoring me completely, "How long do you think it'll take you to learn to summon, sorry petition this angel guy?"
"Honestly, I think I'll have to get a little better at Petitioning before I can even make the attempt. My draw probably isn't enough to sustain him yet. Plus there's the whole learning the ritual for archangels, which will take time, so it'll be two weeks at least. Sorry."
"No rush," I said easily. "They've been gone thirteen years now, another two weeks won't kill them, I don't think. In the meantime, I'll talk to the summoner teachers and see what they've come up with."
So almost three weeks passed before Osman declared he was ready and we all trouped down to the summoning rooms. I had put most of my efforts into classes but I did see a guy walking around with this sweet looking dagger. I asked him if I could borrow it to make a mold of it, and he said sure. Albert helped, okay he did most of the work actually, but in the end I had myself a copy made out of Concrete Luminescent sunshine. I offered to mix it up myself, but he said I wasn't good enough at Alchemy to make a proper knife, and actually hitting someone with it would probably break it if I made it. So I mixed up the ingredients under his watchful eye, but he actually put the energy into it to make it solid. The original owner was pretty impressed, and I no longer needed a flashlight or a silly light ward. Of course while showing it off Christina reminded me weapons not relating to a person's lineage were not permitted on school grounds, at which point I just grinned and slipped it into my pouch. I told her it was fine, it was now inside another dimension, not on school grounds at all. She just rolled her eyes and walked away.
There's just no understanding girls, I thought to myself.
It was past the mid-week of February, and the summoners had come to me saying they had not found anything out. I had asked if I could question one directly, and they agreed, so Mr Verochka was tagging along with us so he could summon something that might have the information we needed. I was carrying twigs and some branches to make a fire, which I explained would help me summon the spirit of the Ant, as spirits are attracted to flames. The summoning rooms were below the normal classrooms, in the basement of the school if you will, down where they kept all the perpetual motion machines.
Yes, I go to a school that has perpetual motion machines in the basement. I asked about them, and Albert told me it was sort of traditional now to try and make one someone had never thought of yet. Apparently a little less then fifty years ago an Artificer made a small one as a joke to run a lava lamp, which had just been invented at the time. Then an Alchemist worked on making a bigger one, and it just took off from there. Standing there, watching them wiz and buzz and bounce and roll I had to admit, it was pretty impressive.
"I love going to this school," I said, a tear in my eye.
"Come on," said Christina, pulling me away.
"No! Beautiful!" I wailed, one hand outstretched towards them.
"Oh, knock it off," said Yasui, but she was smiling so it was okay.
We entered the practice room and I set up my twigs in one corner. Looking around I could see not much else was done to this place but hack it out of the ground, and it was easily ten meters tall. Osman explained this was because some angels and demons (he said that part grudgingly) were quite tall, so it had to accommodate them all. There were several circles chiseled out of the floor, each with a different purpose depending on what you wanted to happen. Some could restrain a demon so it could be studied, some made it easier to keep summoned things here, that sort of thing.
"This one is one for me using," Osman said, pointing to one. He seemed to be a bit nervous, usually his English was better then this.
I snapped my fingers and put a little energy into a combust, setting the twigs on fire, then watched the larger ones catch. "Everyone ready?" I asked. They nodded back, and I started chanting for the spirit of the Ant. Almost immediately I realized I had done it wrong and started over, this time performing it flawlessly which allowed me to give the ability to Yasui as well. I chanted for two minutes, which would allow us two hours of the ability, more then enough time, and then stopped. Katrina used pyrokineses, something I hadn't learned, to put the fire out, as agreed. We walked over to Osman and he put his hand on the circle, which began glowing a moment later. Everything was in place, Osman had the sword which he had hooked into, and began the petitioning ritual, which took ten minutes. This was a sort of half praying, half chanting, basically asking the universe to please open up a hole and let this certain energy come from where ever it was to where we were sort of deal. Both Yasui and I made corrections to his ritual where we believed it would help, there was a lot of repetition and I can't explain how I knew what I knew would help him, but it must have, because ten tense minutes later, there stood a guy wearing armor, finishing a lunge with a sword he must have expected to be blocked, because he went sprawling.
Yausi and I tried to keep from laughing as he looked around, and his vision settled on Albert.
"Albert, right?" he asked, sheathing the sword. "I didn't actually recognize you at first, when you were at the Tree you were in your fighting form."
"Ah yes, I forgot about that. Sorry if it threw you." Albert answered back. "Hope we didn't interrupt anything too serious there."
"No, just getting in some training, actually. Not much else to do, guarding that tree all the time." He looked around the room. "Introduce me to your friends."
"Of course! Everyone, this is Haniel, one of the guards for the Tree of Life. Haniel, this is Dean, the one who asked me if I knew any angels, he's the one that wants to talk to you. And the girls are-"
Haniel got this really weird look on his face when he looked at the two girls. "Christina?" he asked, honestly puzzled. "And it's Yasui, right? What are you girls doing back at school? Didn't you graduate last year? And you look kinda... don't take this the wrong way but- young."
Yasui just looked confused, but Christina did the last thing I would have expected from her; sank to her knees and started crying her eyes out.
"Was it something I said?" asked Haniel quietly.
It took a few minutes to get Christina calmed down enough to get her story out of her, and the whole time Osman was impatiently looking at his watch. I leaned over and whispered to him, "Is it draining your energy to keep him here?"
"Yes," he answered. "The sword helps a little, but I can probably only maintain it a little more then ten minutes until I have to let him go back."
"Don't worry about it," I said. "I can stuff some energy into you with energy transfer if it comes to that. Just let me know when you're feeling like you can't hold him here anymore."
"So what did I say?" asked Haniel, concerned. "I didn't mean to upset you, it's just I was sure you would graduate last year, I mean you're an awesome spirit energist and everything."
"You know me? I mean you really know me?" Christina said, blinking away tears.
"Not well, I mean, you came to help defend the World Tree last year, because you were the best Spirit Energist in the school. But now here you are again, so what's going on?"
"I'm not crazy." She turned to us. "Do you hear that? I'm not losing it, something did happen to me, finally I can tell someone, oh thank you." She grabbed Haniel up in a big hug, almost knocking him over. Albert shook his head. "Should she really be hugging an angel?" he asked quietly.
"Tell us what?" Haniel asked, trying to loosen her hold a little.
"Sorry about that." She stepped away. "The thing is, on my way to Demongate this year everything changed. I don't know how better to explain it. I was on the plane before the plane that was going to take me to the island and suddenly there were all these different people there. I thought I was going nuts, but everything went smoothly after that- the plane came, I got to the island, I started school. I've been trying not to think about it but something went wrong on my way here. I couldn't tell anyone, don't you see? I talked to my parents, they said everything was fine, so I thought- You understand, right? They would have said I was imagining it, or that I was going crazy or something. You believe me, right?"
"I have to, here you are," answered Haniel. "Don't worry, we can figure this out. But Yasui, I recognize those boots, you were there too, but you were only a third year, so technically this year you should be graduating."
"Well nothing like that happened to me," she replied, concerned. "Not that I remember, anyway."
"All right," said Haniel, "So you guys have something to look into, and I'll see what I can find out from my position in the heavenly realms, but we got side tracked, this isn't what you called me here for, is it?"
"No, actually I asked Albert here to introduce us, so I could show you this and ask you some questions." I pulled the egg out of my pouch and handed it to him, who took it seriously.
"What is it?"
"It's an egg my parents made to house my soul, for some reason, when I was just a baby."
"Soul transfer," he said dubiously, "They must really have been desperate."
I knew Osman couldn't hold out forever so I gave him the three minute summary of my life to put things in perspective.
"Wow," he said, impressed. "That's some story. And you're a descendant of Cain? What was that kid's name- Toby! I was a descendant of Cain at the Tree as well, basically anyone they could get with a lot of power came that day. He was an Inheritor, though, not an Artificer. Weird, Cain must have been busy lately or something, to have so many of his descendants running around at once. Poor Cain, the All-Father's wrath can be terrible. Now you're saying this Unholy Chosen guy attacked you, killed you, but dropped a hint he knew your parents?"
"Exactly. And as all the Seers in the school can't see them here..." I trailed off.
"You think they're in the Demon World. They could be behind a barrier though, in this world."
"I know, but it would take a pretty amazing Artificer to keep out every teacher that's a Seer or an ESPer, right?"
"You're right. Yes, I see why you've come to me, I think. You're worried about what could happen to your soul?"
I nodded, and he handed the egg back. "Firstly, if something destroys that egg, your soul is gone for good, so keep it safe. If your body is destroyed your soul can be transferred to another body, but that's not recommended, generally. First of all if there's a soul already there it's shoved out, so you're basically killing someone. Second, someone else has to do it, and they could put you in a ninety year old, and there would be nothing you could do about. Now if the person you trusted to reanimate you managed to get a dead body, heal it with Alchemy or something so it could sustain life and then put your soul in there, it would be fine."
"Okay, but what about if I put my soul back into my body? Is it destined for the demon world because I had the ritual performed on me?"
Haniel shook his head. "We aren't that harsh about it. It was done to you, and for a good reason, so there's no evil in your soul, at least, none from having this done."
I breathed a sigh of relief. "That's a huge weight off my chest, thanks a lot."
"Sure thing. Glad I could reassure you. Was there anything else?"
I shook my head. "No, apart from the whole mystery surrounding the girls, anyway."
"I will check that out, no problem."
"Fine, thanks a lot."
We talked for a few minutes until Haniel's Petitioning duration ran out, and he vanished back into heaven.
"I guess it's my turn," said Mr Verochka. "I can summon you up a Simurgh, but you'll have to have knowledge to trade with him, he won't tell you stuff for free. He won't even tell me stuff for free, and we've known each other for years."
"Do you think all this oddness will be good enough?"
"I have no idea, but we can find out easily enough!"
He turned around and brought out three feathers, each a different color, and asked if I could set them on fire for him. I did, and he spoke some words, and there was a tremendous tearing in front of us as reality spilt open to reveal a huge bird looking thing with the head of a dog, easily seven meters tall. He glared down at us.
"Who summons me?" he boomed.
"Oh drop the act, it's me, Stephen."
"What?" He crouched down lower, taking in Stephen with one eye. "Oh, it is you," he concluded.
"That was pretty amazing-" I started to say to Osman, but when I looked he was sitting on the floor, gazing at the Simurgh in wonder. "Uh, Osman, you okay?"
"He summoned that huge thing, just like that," he managed.
"Don't worry about it kid, you'll get there." said the simurgh. "Now, what can I do for you all?"
Mr Verochka nudged me forward. "I'm hoping to find some information about my parents, I've recently learned they may be hanging around the demon world for some reason."
"Doesn't sound too bad. Name?"
"Ah yes, Mr and Mrs Chesterfield. Quite famous in the right circles, I can tell you about that. What have you got to trade?"
"If I tell you some things, and if it's worth more then the information about my parents, can I ask some other stuff, maybe later?"
"Good question. You're no dummy kid, I like that. I can agree to those terms, but I warn you, there's not a lot I don't know."
"There's a new type of power people are practicing now, we're calling it Dreamers."
"What? There hasn't been any new power types in thousands of years. You're pulling my leg."
"It's true. There's at least 6 people in the world that can go to sleep, start dreaming, and then step from that dream into reality. Then they can manipulate reality as though they were dreaming."
"You're telling the truth," he said, astonished. "How was this power found out?"
"Not long after the school was founded, every so often a bus would disappear into some weird dream space and everyone would forget it. That dream space was protecting an evil talisman, which we destroyed. Doing that brought everyone out of that space and back into reality. The teachers started investigating why those busses were taken, and strange stuff started happening in the dorms. Basically, a creature was created from negative dream energy and took form, attacking people. We, well, Christina killed it, we all just helped. When researching the creature to find out how to fight it we ran across an old article about some guy doing research on his daughter's "under the bed monsters", and emailed her. She's like in her twenties now, she was I think three then. She explained it all to us, and found that on every bus there was a Dreamer. So now she's training people."
"Astonishing," said the simurgh. "How complete is this control of reality?"
I shrugged. "I heard she showed off some pretty impressive stuff, but I didn't see it. As I understand it, she could create a car out of nothing because it's a real object, and it would stay around forever. But a faster then light spaceship she would have to concentrate on because it doesn't exist. Yet."
"I will have to look into this, that could be a very useful power to make use of. Okay, I think-"
"Oh?" He seemed very interested. "Do tell."
"I tell you this because maybe, with your knowledge and connections, you can make some sense out of it. We just got done summoning an angel who remembers Christina and Yasui from last year as upperclassman. But here they are as freshman, and Christina remembers reality actually changing around her as she flew here. He also said there was a kid named Toby who was a descendant of Cain like me, but I've never heard of the guy, and no one else has mentioned him in my classes, so where did he go? You would think someone who knew him would compare the two of us, right?"
The simurgh peered intently at Christina. "You fell through time?"
"Not exactly," she answered after a moment. "If I fell through a crack in time, the plane wouldn't have been there anymore, so I would have fallen out of the sky at that point. And as far as I know the date was the same when I left home as when I arrived here. It's just "here" is apparently four years in what I would call my future."
He pondered for a moment. "All I can say now is I'll ask around, see if anyone else I know has heard a similar story. Sorry I can't help more with that, it must be pretty weird for you. What about the other girl?"
"I didn't notice anything, but Haniel says he saw me at some tree, so..."
"I see. Any other bizarre happenings you want to throw at me?"
"An Unholy Chosen infiltrated the school and killed me. I got better."
"Well, that makes total sense. Okay, I can tell you about your parents, like I said, I know about them, but I don't know them myself. See, after they had this kid, I guess that's you, the story goes the baby got sick. Being an Artificer the woman, I mean your mother, tried all kinds of things to cure you. But nothing worked, so they took you to the Foundation so Alchemists and Holy Chosen and who knows what all powers could be tried on you. Didn't help. So the story is, she had a summoner call up a a devil to make a deal to save you. Naturally the devil was more then happy to oblige, and for a price put your soul into an object so you wouldn't die of the disease. Girl was smart enough to not give up her soul, instead she said that she and her husband would work for the devil in the demon world, until such time as her son came to claim them. He agreed, but said the son would have to perform a task for him, something that would give him equal value to her soul, which is pretty pricey, let me tell you. So they bustled the kid up, I mean you, and went to fulfill their contract. End of story."
"So they are still alive," I said, stunned.
"Yup, far as I know. Don't worry, the devil that made the deal wouldn't want to, couldn't really, renege, so he would need to keep them healthy if not happy until you show up to do your service."
"So why does an Unholy Chosen killing him make sense?" asked Yasui.
"That's easy. Get the ball rolling, so to speak. He doesn't die, he looks into it, he finds out about his parents, he wants to rescue them, he goes charging in, get it?"
"But he got killed."
"Maybe he underestimated you. You're all first year students, right? I mean apart from the bouncing around time thing."
We all nodded.
"Okay," I said. "Unless you want some specific info on him, which I doubt as he's dead, I still owe you some info, but I can get you the devil's name and where he is in the Demon World."
"That would be much appreciated!"
So the Simurgh gave me the information and he too disappeared from this dimension, going back to wherever he came from. Yasui turned to me.
"Your parents are alive! Isn't that great news?"
"It is," I said, nodding. "So pack a bag, we're going to the demon world."