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Sins & Virtues:: Do Diligence

By Christophor Rick All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Fantasy

Blurb

Diligence, the Heavenly Virtue, is captured and cut off from all Humanity by the Wizards of Renown, setting off a series of events that threaten to unravel the delicate balance and collapse the two universes. The Wizards of Renown, under orders from the Magus, capture the Heavenly Virtue Diligence and put into motion a plan that will devastate all of Humanity and threaten the delicate balance that keeps the two universes from collapsing into total chaos. The Deadly Sins, the incestuous, backstabbing, dysfunctional supernatural "family", are center stage along with their diametrically opposed siblings, the Heavenly Virtues in all their perfect goodness. When Diligence goes missing, the Virtues instantly suspect that the Sins are involved and begin investigating. But all is not as it seems and their usual suspects are apparently not involved, yet a more sinister plot is afoot. The Wizards of Renown, a small collection of Humans who have managed to harness the power of the Ley universe as "magic" are implementing some evil plan that threatens to unravel the very fabric of Humanity and destroy both this universe and the other. But the real question is, who is pulling their strings?

Diligent Pursuit

Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA - 2011

Just before the Wizards of Renown attack began, the Virtue Diligence had been touring the world, as he often did, to make sure that all was running at optimal efficiency. The Humans, however, would never push past 80% on their best day. The Wizards of Renown were an entirely different matter as he was about to find out.

‘They are a finicky, fractured creature,’ Diligence thought of the Humans as he walked down Wisconsin Avenue, ‘always torn between a wide range of emotions and desires, almost all of which generally get in the way of their productivity.’

He pondered this, as he stopped to peer into the windows of a FedEx Office, his mere presence boosted the productivity of the Humans within. Any that met his gaze, for he was very much a physical creature himself, would instantly have an abundance of thoughts on how to better achieve something they had been wanting to do, would be infused with the ambition to go do it, and usually, would accomplish it before a full day had passed. Just from meeting his gaze.

After all, he was the physical representation of good, hard work unfettered by all other desires and facets of Humanity. Staring into his eyes was almost like glimpsing a brief corner of the blueprint for the universe, the Human universe anyway, because that is where Diligence and the Humans, had been born. The other universe was as yet, still completely unknown to the Humans.

Those who did not stare into his eyes, but simply laid eyes upon him as he passed by would see a well-groomed, physically fit man in fine clothing of rather high quality, all the way down to his shoes. His hair was kept fairly short, parted on the right side and combed across to the left in a fashion that had been mostly out of style for almost 50 years. However, for Diligence, it was from a time when hard work was far more prevalent than it was in this 21st Century, as the Humans called it. He maintained short sideburns and no other facial hair because he believed that it detracted from other diligent work that needed to be done. For those who might actually bump into him while walking with their face buried in their smartphone or other portable computing device, which Diligence was quite proud of having had a hand in creating, they would notice that his outfit was actually made of finely woven silk.

What they would not know, unless they were to comment along the lines of, “my what a fine silk shirt that is,” was that Diligence had, all by himself, cultivated the silk, and then, woven the shirt in but a single day, by hand. Diligence found that actual interaction with the Humans was the best way to motivate them into doing their own due diligence, as it were. They would marvel at his telling the story of the step-by-step creation of the shirt and pants, and vest and jacket to match. If they had managed to listen to the entire thing, wrapped in his influence, Diligence knew that he had taken one from his counterpart Sloth as they ran off to do something they had been putting off for one reason or another. His telling the story of the shirt alone would set a single Human into motion for a week, the shirt and pants for a month, the vest quadrupled it and, on the rare occasion that they are so entranced with him that they listened to the telling of the jacket as well, he could set them into motion for a full decade of their lives. Steve Jobs, yes, that one from Apple Computers, was, in fact, a full story subject and look what he went on to do. Of course, some humans were already on the path of diligence and so when they met Diligence in person, it would have a very profound effect on them.

“Excuse me sir,” a voice said from behind Diligence, pulling him from his reverie, “but aren’t you the Virtue called Diligence?”

Diligence turned with mild surprise registering on his face. Few Humans actually believed that the Virtues truly walked the face of the planet as physical beings and almost none were ever able to perceive them as such. In fact, this might very well have been the first time in millennia and so he was sure that the person standing in front of him could not be a normal Human. But generally, only seeing the good in people, and being able to motivate them into accomplishing just about anything, he didn’t bother to put up any sort of defenses.

“I am indeed Diligence, my good man, and how might I be of assistance to you?”

The Human who had asked the question stood before Diligence in a deep scarlet-colored robe with familiar markings on the cuffs and hem. His head was bowed forward so that his face was in the shadow of a pointed hood down to his chin and his hands were tucked into the cuff of the other sleeve much like the monks used to do so long ago.

Now, Diligence never forgot anything, as it was in his nature not to. So when he saw the markings, he realized they were Leyllian in origin but had been altered over thousands of years into their current form. He also knew that he was most certainly in danger, for before him stood a Wizard of Renown, the most powerful magic wielders on Earth, who, somehow, had tapped into the power of Ley and drew it forth to take shape here in this universe.

The Wizard lifted his head and fixed Diligence with a stare, eye-to-eye and only arm’s reach away. Diligence tried to shrink away, but two pairs of hands grasped his arms and held him fast. A third pair held his head in place so that he could not break the gaze of the Wizard of Renown.

They never traveled in a large number, the 13 Wizards of Renown, even though there were few who could match their power with technology and none who could do so with magic. They were a secretive and wary lot and often shunned most of Humanity and all major cities.

Diligence could feel his power channeling into the Wizard in front of him, the man had now reached out to prop open his eyelids, his fingers gnarled and charred from too much Ley power usage. Whatever it was that this Wizard was already motivated to do, was going to be amplified a hundredfold now.

The Wizard leaned forward, not daring to break his hold on Diligence’s eyes and whispered in a raspy voice, “tell me the story about your jacket,”

Belfred, the wizard, knew full well that Diligence could not tell the story of the jacket, without first telling the story of the shirt, pants and vest. Diligence, could not help but begin, because that was his purpose for existence, to motivate and create diligence in others, regardless of whether they meant to do good or ill with it.

“Hey! What is it, Halloween?” someone nearby yelled when Diligence was ending the story of the shirt.

“Wait, what are you doing to that man?!”

The voice began to draw nearer, then began to scream for help. People from the FedEx Office ran out to see what was going on and one slammed into Belfred after exiting the building, pushing him to the ground and breaking the connection with Diligence.

Instantly, Diligence’s mind went into action and he performed some of the most amazing martial arts moves any Human had ever seen. First, he bent forward with such amazing speed and strength that the Wizards holding him could not maintain their grip. He quickly reached behind him and grasped the ankles of the Wizard who had been holding his head still. What the Wizards of Renown had in magical power, they utterly lacked in physical strength and so he easily pulled the Wizard’s feet out from under him. He then twisted himself down into a crouch, grabbed one ankle of each of the Wizards to his sides and then unwound himself while standing, like a small whirling dervish, the effect of which was to fling the two Wizards of Renown into the air, cartwheeling helplessly, one into the street and one through the large window of the FedEx Office.

Once fully upright again, Diligence ran. When Diligence ran, no creature on Earth could match his speed and most Human vehicles would have been hard pressed to do so as well. Being a Virtue had its benefits. For one, he was not Human, he was a facet of Human nature, a supernatural creature and as such, was not subject to all of the laws of Physics.

As he ran, his mind raced. Now, the mind of Diligence always raced when compared to all others. But this time it raced even in comparison to his normal thought patterns, and it was filled with questions. What did the Wizards of Renown want with him? How had they known an effective way to approach him? How did they know his exact whereabouts and what he looked like? Most importantly, what was it they wanted to do?

-=≡ 7 ≡=-

In the Beginning...

Hundreds of Thousands of Human Years Ago


In the beginning, there were the two universes, the Ley, and the Other, or at least, that’s what the inhabitants of the Ley called it, for there were no inhabitants of the Other. The two universes existed apart from one another, intersecting at a single point in time/space. A point so small that nothing ever crossed between the two, at first. In fact, it was so small that neither Order, who had originally created the Universe (the Other) for experimentation, nor his mischievous twin sister, Chaos, had noticed its existence. That is, until a planet formed and went careening straight through that point, over and over and over again.

With every pass, for millions of years, the planet was awash for a single moment in the power of Ley. Over those millennia, the planet became entangled within the power of the Ley and was eventually encased in a net of Ley-powered lines that circled the blue-green globe, which its inhabitants now call Earth. The power of Ley, what the Humans of Earth now call magic, began to have a fascinating effect upon the tiny little planet. Life began to exist and flourish as a myriad of plants and animals came into existence. The Earth itself was only just becoming aware of itself when it came to the attention of the inhabitants of the Ley, two of them in particular.

A pair of scientists, who epitomized all that the Leyllians hold in high regard, had stumbled upon its existence one day when they were doing experiments in an attempt to determine why there seemed to be noticeably less energy in the Ley than that which was recorded ages earlier. Time in the Ley ran differently than it did in the Other and soon, the scientists discovered the cause of the energy problem, something no other Leyllian had done before. In fact, no other Leyllian was actually interested in the phenomena whatsoever. So, it was no surprise that these two were the first to discover the rift in the Ley. With that, they also discovered the fact that there was, what appeared to be, an entire other universe on the far side of that rift which, for lack of any better term, they named the Other and began further investigation.

Eventually, they reached a point in their research where they could simply, go no further. They had done all the remote investigation and measurement that they could do through the means available to them, which was quite vast indeed. You see all Leyllians are made of the stuff, an energy-infused form of matter, that the Ley consists of and can tap into it whensoever they choose. Since they were in agreement that nothing further could be learned about the Other from within the Ley, they decided that the only thing left to do, was to travel into the Other and continue their research there. Not being ones to break, or even bend the rules, they did all the necessary steps to get the proper clearance from the Elder Ley but none of them seemed at all interested in what it was the scientists wanted to do. So, the two scientists took it upon themselves to determine the best course of action, which they agreed was to go to the Other and continue their research, and so they did just that.


***


After some length of time in the Other, the Leyllian scientists began to realize that Ley energy was still pouring forth from the Ley into the Other and onto the planet. The area of the planet where they had set up their base of operations was beginning to exhibit some very strange things. Plants grew at enormous rates, new species emerged regularly and new creatures had begun to come into being and started roaming the land. The immediate area of their egress from Ley had become a veritable font of new life.

The scientists were amazed by this phenomenon. All of this had to be due to the Ley energy now encompassing the planet. It seemed that, when they themselves passed between the Ley and the Other, they opened a wide enough hole that the rate of Ley energy streaming into the Other grew exponentially.

What they did not know, was that the large amount of Ley energy was beginning to affect the workings of the entire Other universe, so much so, that Order became aware of a problem deep in the center of the Other. Something was beginning to skew expected results of which he was 99.999% certain.

This, in the mind of Order, could only mean one thing and so Order deigned to pay a visit to his sister, Chaos, who lived outside of his universe in the roiling black nothingness.

“You have been toying with my creation again,” Order announced upon entering the roiling darkness at the edge of the universe.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” said Chaos as she focused on the point where he intruded upon her domain.

“I have been but a quiet observer out here at the edge. I wouldn’t want to track any of this unpredictability into your place of light and structure,” she said as she began to draw all of her presence near him.

The universe, to Chaos, was simply a small bubble of order that broke up the unending chaos that was everywhere. It had certainly been growing at an alarming rate, chewing up chaos and spitting it out into structure, but it seemed to have begun to slow considerably compared to its original pace. She was confident that it wouldn’t last forever and would one day simply collapse in upon itself, like several of his previous experiments had done.

“It has to be you, I am having problems compensating for some unknown variable and putting the system back into perfect balance.”

“Are you saying, that, in essence, I’m winning, dear brother? Chaos is overcoming your structure and Order?”

“What? No! I’m saying that you have once again tampered with the fabric of space/time and the matter which make up the Universe I created and you must stop.”

“And I tell you, dear brother, I have not been in your toy and have done nothing. While I think it a harsh and hostile destruction of my domain, I won’t begrudge you this toy. After all, your last universe didn’t fare all too well and I didn’t really need to do anything to make that one collapse in upon itself.”

“You call crushing a galaxy of stars into a black hole and then letting it run loose in the universe nothing?”

“You have no proof of that. It probably just happened spontaneously. We both know that all of existence wants to be in a chaotic state and this is why all of your toys have destroyed themselves so far.”

“I know you have tampered with them.”

Lady Chaos merely turned her focus away from him in a show of indignation.

“In this case, I have not been doing anything. You need to look elsewhere.”

With that, Chaos sent solidifying tendrils of her domain spiraling out toward Order. The tendrils became blunt ended and pushed Order out of the demesne of Chaos and back into his universe.

Order fumed at her impertinence. He turned away from where she has pushed him back through the skin of the universe and stared out at it in all its vastness. That was when he noticed it.

‘It’s crooked,’ he thought to himself, ‘there’s a lump over there.’

He focused his powers of observation on the area where he sensed the unevenness and his presence zoomed in across light years, through galaxies and dust clouds, through quasars and white dwarfs until finally, he observed a small blue-green planet.


-=≡ 7 ≡=-

Modern Day

Milwaukee


“Belfred, Diligence, he’s getting away!” Wilhelmina yelled as she tried to drag her fellow Wizard of Renown to his feet.

Belfred said nothing as he stood and turned to look upon his fellow Wizards. Every one of them involuntarily widened their eyes when they looked upon the face of Belfred, whose hood had been thrown back in the tussle. His eyes, normally a deep purple and often quite bloodshot from endless hours of research and reading, were lit with a bright green energy that leaked beyond the outer corners of his eyes and left trails as he turned his head from one to the next.

“It matters not,” Belfred said ominously, “the incantations worked and I am filled with the power to do something and that something is to capture the Virtue Diligence!”

At that, Belfred willed the motivation to do diligent work forward from his eyes into those of his fellow Wizards and each soon had eyes that glowed with a greenish hue, while his own still burned and exuded energy. Now, they were all ready for some diligent work to be done.

“I know where he is. I can find Diligence,” Belfred said in his raspy whisper of a voice, yet his friends heard him clearly enough, as if he were inside of their heads, pushing them into action.

“Hey! Why were you assaulting that man!” the FedEx Office worker said as he pulled himself up from the ground where Wilhelmina had pushed him.

Belfred did not bother to turn his gaze upon the Human, he simply extended his right hand and performed several arcane gestures which attuned his will to the Ley lines and allowed him to channel its energy through the Leyd Stone grafted to his palm. A scarlet beam shot forth from his hand and into the chest of the man who screamed in agony. The scarlet light eventually made its way through his chest and shot out of first his mouth, then his nose. His eyes soon began to burn with a reddish glow before scarlet beams shot from them into the night sky and finally light showed from his ears before his whole body began to glow and then exploded with a pop.

“Nothing will stop me from achieving my goal,” Belfred whispered, “I will capture Diligence.”

With that, Belfred cast a spell that tore up a large section of sidewalk, upon which they all stood, and floated it into the air. All of the Wizards teetered and cast their own spells of adherence to help them stay standing on the concrete slab as it sped in the same direction that Diligence had fled.

The chase to capture Diligence and do him in, was on.

Diligence’s pace never wavered and soon he was far from Milwaukee, far from the Wizards of Renown and in fact, far from America altogether and running at incredible speed across the surface of the Pacific Ocean. He was making his way toward Humility. As the oldest of the Virtues, he would perhaps be able to shed some light on the questions Diligence had.

Humility made his home in Tibet, where he often found peace among the high peaks of the Himalayas. Aside from his yearly trek around the globe, and Sunday brunch with the other Virtues, that was where he was to be found, often brooding over what it meant to truly be humble.

Suddenly, a large chunk of cement hurtled into Diligence’s left shoulder breaking his concentration and sending him crashing into the water. He knew that this was bad news as it meant that the Wizards had caught up to him. As his head rose above the water, he could see seven of them standing on a large chunk of floating cement just meters above him. Even from this distance he could see the green glow in the eyes of the scarlet-robed wizard and knew that the Human was still filled with the effect of Diligence and that was a bad thing, especially if the one thing the wizard wanted to accomplish was to capture or harm him. The eyes of the others also radiated a slight greenish glow in the gloom of the evening sky which meant that Diligence was definitely in danger.

“Might I inquire as to what purpose it is that you seek me in such a fashion?” Diligence called out to the Wizards as he tread water.

“We have need of a captive audience,” one of the Wizards replied and several chuckled.

This was completely unprecedented as no Human had ever purposely been able to fully, consciously recognize a Virtue’s existence, let alone attempt to do them bodily harm or capture them in physical form. The power of the Ley must have given these Wizards of Renown some manner of exceptional perception for them to be able to recognize Diligence and attack him thus.

Another chunk of cement came flying toward him at remarkable speed and he only just managed to shove it aside before it struck his head.

“You have given us the ability to do diligent work, good Virtue Diligence, it would be easiest for all involved if you just, came with us,” the scarlet-robed, glowing-green-eyed Wizard called down.

“I see no reason to do so,” Diligence called in reply.

At that instant he made a decision and dove deep, swimming at incredible speed downward until the pressure made it difficult to continue, some hundreds of feet below the surface, he then turned back to a westerly course and continued on toward Humility’s home.

Thoughts raced through his head about the Wizards, their intent and most of all, how they came to even perceive him for what he was. It had been a very long time since anything of the sort had happened.


-=≡ 7 ≡=-


The Story of Diligence

5000 B.C.- Khabur Valley, Sumer (modern day Syria)


“So, if you cut the land from where the river runs, the water will run into the cut. That will help extend the green region and we will be able to grow a vast amount of plants.”

“What kind of plants?”

“I suppose any kind of plants we wanted, medicinal herbs, crops for food and even plants that could be used for other purposes.”

Kingu Halaf stroked his short dark beard at this proposal. It seemed like a lot of work for what might be no results. Still, Halaf was wise. He had banded his people together and they had existed semi-nomadically for a very long time. Now, on the eve of his union with the daughter of Kingu Khaburia, it seemed that his people were going to settle down. The land was workable and there was ample water with the two rivers that flowed here. This Khaburian man standing before him had a plan to make much more of the land able to grow crops.

“Please, continue,” Halaf said as he pondered the possibilities.

It was he who had been able to band together the seven tribes, without a single drop of blood spilled. It was he who had bound together the leading families of the tribes with each other through marriage and promises. Since he then had loyal followers in all of the tribes, it was easy to pull all the ties at once and create one large clan, all of whom were beholden to him.

The man before him was slight. Definitely not a hunter, thought Halaf. His hands had worked, but did not have the appearance of a builder. No, this man was something else.

“By expanding the flow of the water, we are able to create a wider area that could support good growth. That food could even produce an excess which could then be traded away to other tribes who have not thought of this type of growing. It could not only mean more than enough food for the assembled peoples of the Halafite and Khaburian tribes, but it could also bring other opportunity to us.”

Halaf saw the immense, potential value in this. There would be food aplenty for his people, his peoples, and if there was food to spare, it could be bartered away for other essentials that the people needed. Within a short period of time they could be the reigning power in the region.

“I agree, it is an excellent plan. You sir, you...”

“Agarak, my lord.”

“You, Agarak, will lead the project. It is evident that you have done much thinking on this. We will task all the peoples of the tribe to create this system you speak of.”

Agarak was taken aback. His advice had never fallen on such open ears in the past. He bowed deeply as he stepped backward from the Kingu’s presence.

“Five days hence, once we finish celebrating my binding with Harharasia Khaburia, we shall begin this grand plan of yours.”

Agarak ran to his abode, almost dropping the three stone tablets he carried with him that were his life’s work. Those three stone tablets were the culmination of years of studying the climate, the landscape, and the plant-life and experimenting with soil. He was sure it would work.

Five days passed and so too did the celebration of the binding of two tribes under one kingu, Halaf. On the sixth day, Agarak was called to attend Halaf, who was venturing out to where the rivers met, as he wanted Agarak to join him and explain it all.

While they wound their way along the small river Galad’ea, Agarak told Kingu Halaf of some of his other thoughts about how they might strengthen their position in the region, expand their influence and perhaps even their rule.

“You are a wise man Agarak, I will be sure to keep you close at hand. First, to this plant growing.”

"Agaros, my liege,” Agarak offered a term he had been pondering for what they were about to undertake.

“This... agaros, very good.”

Agarak and Halaf stood on a ridge just above the confluence and looked upstream, surveying the land below. Agarak explained where and how they should begin the agaros, where the river should be cut, how the lines should be made, how deep they should be, how many and how often they should intersect with other lines and their specific depths.

Halaf listened intently and took it all in readily. He called forth scores of his people to begin the work and from sun up until sun down, the Halafites toiled hard.

A month passed and Agarak looked down once again from the ridge. Dozens of lines had been cut and forms were beginning to take shape. The soil had become moist and planting could begin.

“It is an excellent plan,” a strange voice said nearby.

“Thank you good sir, I am quite proud of it,” Agarak said without turning.

“You have many skilled people there working very hard, it truly is a sight to behold.”

“Again sir, I must thank you, if not for the patronage of the good Kingu Halaf, it might never have been anything more than a simple man’s crazy plan.”

“Oh, it is much more than that I think,” said his new companion, “it is the beginning of something altogether new. I believe that you are on the verge of changing the entirety of the world.”

“You are far too kind,” Agarak said, turning to face the voice.

Before him stood a man bereft of any clothing. While not a thing altogether uncommon, many generally wore some sort of garment when out in the sight of others.

“You seem to be without even an animal skin to your name, and here I am with several. Please won’t you take one of mine?” Agarak said, slightly embarrassed for the man’s nudity.

“I could not, it does not seem proper, getting something for nothing.”

Agarak thought about this for a brief time.

“I am in need of a personal attendant to help me with a variety of work that must be done. Would that be something that might interest you?”

His strange companion’s eyes lit up as if a spark had just been ignited within him.

“That would be something I am extremely interested in,” the strange man said.

“Then please, consider this a prepayment for services that you will render in that position with me.”

The man thought about it for a moment and then nodded in agreement before taking the cloth and throwing it over his shoulder as if he had no idea how it was to be worn.

“Surely you come from the poorest of settlements where even a loincloth is a luxury?” Agarak asked.

“I know not where I came from,” the man replied, “I only remember standing here moments ago.”

Agarak took pity on the man. He must have hit his head and lost his way, or perhaps there was something wrong with him and he was not altogether whole in the head from birth. Either way, they had a pact now and this man was to work for him.

“And what is it that I shall call you good sir? Surely you have a name?”

“I have not an idea as to what my name may be.”

“Indeed, that is quite a problem. Very well, we shall attend to it in due time, for now I shall call you Amel meaning worker.”

Amel bowed.

Over the next several days Agarak began to call him Darisamel meaning forever worker. The man never slept, never broke to eat or drink and did the work of ten men in a single day. Before seven days had passed Darisamel, had pushed the agaros project almost to completion, something that had not been expected for another two cycles of the moon. It was as if Darisamel were a god made human, a god of work and industriousness. Some of the other workers began to mumble amongst themselves that it was unnatural that someone should do so much in so little time. Kingu Halaf was more than pleased with it all and when he was informed that they were far ahead of schedule, came out to the area to meet this amazingly diligent man, Darisamel.



-=≡ 7 ≡=-


Modern Day

Over the Pacific Ocean


“What do you mean you lost him?” came the ominous reply to Belfred’s statement that they could not find Diligence, cutting deeply into his mind.

“We are on his path, he seems to be traveling along a Ley line to the west,” Belfred’s mind projected into the pulsing scarlet Leyd Stone in his palm.

“Hmmm, he is probably trying to reach Humility. You must stop him before he makes contact with any of his siblings or the plans will be in jeopardy and your rewards will be pain and suffering instead of what was promised to you,” came the reply from the stone.

“The Wizards of Renown have profited greatly in power, wealth, and knowledge because of my patronage, surely you would not wish to be the reason that it all disappears, would you?”

“No, absolutely not!” Belfred quivered and sweat began to trickle down his forehead even though the air through which they flew was cool and moist with sea salt.

“Then Belfred, you need to redouble your resolve and use that power which you captured from Diligence to again catch his trail. If he is traveling upon a Ley line and heading for Humility, you know his direction and path. Get him, and do it quietly, he cannot alert the others!”

With that, the scarlet power stone in Belfred’s palm flared hotly and the presence was gone from it.

“Qayin is not pleased,” Wilhelmina said in Belfred’s ear noticing his state and the flare of his Leyd Stone.

He only glared at her statement of the obvious.

“Increase speed and continue following this Ley line. I will focus upon Diligence and pinpoint his exact location.” Belfred said to the other Wizards controlling the concrete slab.

Belfred sat down, closed his eyes, and called to mind an image of Diligence. The image had been burned into their minds through magical means so that they would be able to recognize him. It was about the only way it could be accomplished or his power would affect them and they might lose track of him after making eye contact.

With his eyes closed and the motivating power of Diligence still coursing through him, Belfred’s mind sped through scenarios and possible outcomes. Again, thanks to that power, he was able to see the Ley line which they were traveling along. He could see its pulsating purplish-pink power and its ebb and flow. He let his mind travel along it, ahead of them, until he saw what looked like a tendril dipping down from the Ley line and snaking into the water. It traveled at great speed so he pushed his mind to follow that tendril into the water. Down, down it went, surely to a depth that would have crushed Belfred had he physically been there. The tendril finally ended, attached to an incredibly fast swimming Diligence.

Belfred had found his quarry and he physically smiled. At that moment, Diligence looked up at him as if he sensed his presence and Belfred’s consciousness sped back to his physical body at such speed that it jolted him from a sitting position and threatened to topple him from the cement slab. Wilhelmina was there to grab him and keep him from slipping over the edge.

“We have him,” Belfred said, wiping the sweat of exertion from his brow, “we have him.”

Belfred stood and threw his magical power into the propulsion of the cement slab, increasing its speed to double what it had been. At that rate they would be upon Diligence in a matter of minutes.


Diligence had the feeling that someone was spying on him, but could hardly turn from his focus on swimming to look around. Plus, he was deep below the surface of the South China Sea, surely there was no one around him, it was just a manifestation of paranoia on his part. Yet, he was sure that someone was there. He spun himself over so that he was facing up while maintaining his stroke and there, along the Ley tendril was... something. He couldn’t allow enough of his focus to wander from swimming to determine who it was as he would slow down. Diligence desperately wanted to reach Hong Kong and then on to Lhasa and Humility. A moment later and the nebulous presence was gone. But Diligence knew that the Wizards were coming and continued on as fast as he could until he finally reached dry land on the eastern edge of Clear Water Bay Country Park.

Hong Kong would empower Diligence, the amount of productivity and varied work done in that city made it one of the few in the world that was able to empower him on any given day. Some of that might have been due to the fact that it also sat directly below a major Ley line nexus and was one of the centers of power in the world. He could already feel energy flowing into him, just being this close to it.

Reveling in the extra energy coursing through him, Diligence failed to sense the Wizards of Renown arrive until the giant cement slab slammed into him, pinning him to the ground. The Wizards quickly began incantations and arcane gestures over the cement slab as Diligence bored his way out, clawing through the cement with his bare hands until he stood upon it. But it was too late, the Wizards were ready. Colored beams of power blasted into Diligence from every direction, too many for him to fend off and deflect at the same time.

The power began to encompass him in a shell of multicolored light and he could feel his connection to the Ley power, and Humanity, being severed. As he fought to free himself, he managed to deflect several beams of power back at the Wizards and knocked a female in a gold-colored robe to the ground with the backlash of one.

Another male Wizard, in a sapphire-colored robe was sent sailing into the sea as he crossed another power beam back up the sapphire one and blasted it into the Wizards chest. But in the end, there were too many of them and they were well prepared.

‘Far too well prepared,’ he thought, surely they had to have had some help from one of the Sins. He ran through possible scenarios in his head of who it might be and just when he was about to come upon it, the multicolored shell shrunk tight against his body preventing movement. The shell then seemed to harden into an opaque substance. Motivation was completely sapped from Diligence and his entire being shut down into a coma-like state of inactivity as he was completely separated from the world around him. Slowly, Diligence tipped forward and landed with a loud thud like a statue toppling over.

In an instant, Human productivity across the planet dropped 5% and slowly continued to decline.

“Diligence is ours!” Belfred yelled and stood upon the cocooned Virtue.

“The Magus will reward us greatly for this mighty victory!” Belfred shouted to the exhausted Wizards around him.

He extended his hand toward Wilhelmina helping her off the ground from where she had fallen. Hubbleton rose out of the cold seawater and walked over to where the gathered Wizards of Renown stood. Casting a quick spell, he pushed the water soaking his robes rapidly down his body and soon him and his robes, were completely dry.

“It took just seven of us to take down Diligence,” Belfred was saying when Hubbleton arrived, “with the might of all thirteen Wizards of Renown we could take on any of the Virtues, or the Sins for that matter!”

Belfred laughed wildly while posing with one foot on top of Diligence’s back. Several of the others joined in the laughter.

Half a world away, in New York City, at 40/40 Club, Pride’s ears pricked up, someone was certainly doing a large amount of boasting and was certainly in love with their own excellence. He smiled broadly, exuding some of the power that flowed into him, which instantly started several men in the club bragging about some accomplishment they had managed that day on Wall Street, or deals they had cut with Hollywood recently. Pride turned back to his entourage, all of whom instantly started complimenting him on everything from his well-manicured nails, to the decision to wear a particular shade of blue today. Of course, every day was a power suit day for Pride, eldest of the sins.

Lying on a beach in Ibiza, Sloth took a long slow drink of his tall pink cocktail before lazily dropping it back to the table next to him. His shabby clothing made him look like he lived on the streets and his matted hair added to the image. A strange sensation washed over him, as if all of Humanity were suddenly, less motivated. It warmed him from the inside which caused Sloth to stretch, and with a big yawn, spread out on his chair, and nod off.

Anger was in the midst of inciting a riot in Cairo, but a wave of anger so powerful, it could only have come from one of her own kind, washed over her momentarily and then completely ceased. She stopped kicking the protester at her feet, lifted the visor on her riot gear helmet and sniffed the wind. Her grin widened at the taste of it, showing off the empty sockets of several missing teeth and a couple chipped ones. She took a flashbang grenade from her belt and tossed it into a nearby cluster of protesters where she knew there to be a large percentage of women and children, before pulling a pack of Lucky Strikes from her pocket and lighting one up. Her eye again wandered to the prone protester at her feet. With a swift kick, she cracked three of his ribs and then sauntered toward the crowd drawing a club from her belt.

‘Something interesting is coming,’ she thought as she flicked the cigarette away and snapped the visor down wading into the protesters, all fists, feet and club.


-=≡ 7 ≡=-The Story of Humility & Pride

Hundreds of Thousands of Human Years Ago

The Leyllian scientists noticed that there were many changes taking place on the planet they had come to. Once they had found the location of the rift, Shakaddos and Apolyev had decided that they had to pass through into the Other to continue the research they had begun in the Ley. When they did, they found it was extremely difficult to return to the Ley, yet they managed it several times. They also found that the rate at which Ley energy was streaming into the Other had increased since they had traversed the rift. There was now enough energy wrapping the planet that they could still tap into that flow and achieve all manner of wondrous things. Being energy-infused matter themselves, they realized that perhaps, they could now use the Ley energy to fashion new objects which they might use to help them in their on-site research. They began quickly crafting all manner of objects, some they had no use for which were mere experiments and which quickly dissolved back into Ley energy and some they found great use for and became invaluable parts of their research helping them delve even further into the mystery before them.

While all of these objects were conscious creations of the Leyllians, there were other creations that were not conscious. The Ley energy, being foreign to the Other, reacted in unpredictable ways and the scientists did not at first notice it. They went on with their work, marveling at all they were able to accomplish in this strange land simply by the manipulation of the Ley energy. Eventually, they began to slowly forget the purpose of their excursion to the Other. They had certainly proven their theories correct, the Ley was definitely leaking through the rift into the Other. They now even had physical manifestations to use as exhibits, and yet, they did not return to Ley to report their findings. Everything they had made in the Other could easily be replicated in the Ley and so they had to continue on.

“The Elder Ley aren’t at all interested in what it is we do here,” said Yev.

“Still, we must make them aware of it,” said Addos, looking up from a new kind of plant that he had been working on, with small red berries and prickly leaves, “after all, it could be detrimental to the entire Ley if we were not to. We have already demonstrated that Ley energy is leaking into the Other.”

He stood up and waved his arm at the myriad of things they had fashioned from the energy and the enormous amount of strange new plants that had sprung up and been rapidly changing over time.

“I agree,” said a third voice which caused Addos and Yev to both nod in agreement. They looked at each other before realizing that neither of them had said a thing and so, turning round behind them, they were quite shocked to find a third being there with them.

“Are you from the Ley?” asked Addos.

“I do not know, what is the Ley?” asked the newcomer.

“The place where we are from, surely you would be aware of it if you had come from there,” Addos said in reply.

“That does seem proper does it not?” replied the newcomer, “however, I am but a single, small being who is not knowledgeable in such things. You seem to be and so I bow to your knowledge in the matter.”

“Did you not realize that you had traversed through a rift and shifted from the Ley to the Other?” Yev asked as she took several steps forward.

“I do not have any remembrance of such a trip.”

“What is the first thing that you remember?”

“Standing here saying I agree.”

“How very strange, we must find out where it is you came from and how you arrived here with us.”

“I am not sure that I will be of much help in the matter, but I am willing to try either way.”

The newcomer seemed in every way to be similar to Addos and Yev, his physical form was bipedal and he had two arms just as they did. His eyes, ears and mouth were in the same place as theirs and each arm ended in a hand with five digits. He even exhibited genitalia like those of Addos. Yet, he had no knowledge of where he came from, how he had arrived there or even what his name was. It was all very strange and Addos was extremely interested and spent long, long hours and days on end speaking with the newcomer in hopes of trying to find out more about him.

The man was very agreeable and often agreed outright with whatever they themselves said without thought or care for his own ideas.

Yev, too, was interested, but to a lesser degree and eventually went back to her study of what she thought was more important, the using of Ley energy to create new things. She thought that the continued pursuit in finding the identity and the origins of that stranger seemed useless as he was surely just a lost traveler from the Ley. She believed that their intellect would be put to better use on more important matters, after all, they were the ones who had found the rift between the Ley and the Other. They were the ones who had dared to travel between the two in order to expand their awareness and find out what it was that was happening when no one else was brave enough or intelligent enough to do it.

“What a waste of my intellect, continuing on that path to simply determine the newcomer’s identity,” she said aloud to herself.

“Yes, it certainly does seem like something far beneath one of your stature,” a voice said in reply.

Without looking up from her work she nodded agreement.

“The Elder Ley need to listen to what we have to say,” she said, again to herself, “there are an amazing amount of findings we have compiled that they need to understand.”

“Those fools aren’t intelligent enough to realize what is happening. None of them are as intelligent as you are Yev.”

Again she nodded in agreement and when she stood to continue the conversation, there was no one there. Yet ,she was sure that she had heard a voice other than hers. Yev shrugged her shoulders and turned back to her work, which she was confident was far more important and for which she was the only one intelligent enough to do. Even Addos wasn’t smart enough to realize the truth of the matter.

“He can’t compare to you,” that strange voice said.

“It’s true, he would still be in the Ley if I hadn’t pushed him into coming here with me.”

“He lacks the bravery and the thirst for knowledge that you have.”

Again Yev turned to see who was speaking and found a man bent over a nearby pond admiring his own reflection. His hair was short and orderly and his body seemed to be built for just about anything being muscular and strong.

“Greetings stranger.”

“Yev,” the man said as he stood from where he had knelt gazing into the clear water.

“Who are you?”

“In my opinion, I am something completely new and unique.”

“Except that you are the second stranger to appear since we have arrived here.”

“That does not mean I am anything like the other one,” he flexed his muscles and indeed he was well muscled and straight backed, and well endowed.

“You do not resemble that other one physically and your manner is indeed quite different than he.”

“That is because I am, as I said, unique in this world.”

“So it would seem,” Yev said admiring his naked body, “the other is thin and frail and his hair is unkempt.”

“That is because he has no...” the man thought for a moment.

“Mada? No thoughts for his own person?”

“Yes, something like that, he is without it and I am nothing but it.”

“So then I shall call you Mada.”

“That sounds like a grand name for one such as I.”

“Let’s go tell Addos and the other!” Yev said excitedly.

“We have far more important things to do Yev and they are not worthy of our energy.”

Yev thought about this for a moment and then nodded in agreement.

-=≡ 7 ≡=-
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