The Let's Play Archive


by Seorin

Part 66

Chapter the Sixty Fifth: Clever Solutions For A Puzzling World

I exited the library, scowling a bit at my lack of opportunity to actually read anything before leaving. It's for a noble purpose... or perhaps that should be ignoble. Hmph, same difference. I noticed the archway Herzod had described to me, though I had actually noticed it on my way around the city earlier. I wandered off towards it, admiring the strange, tranquil fountain sitting between it and the massive building I'd gotten lost in earlier.

Arranged at even intervals around the fountain were more symbols like the ones I'd found on the ground earlier, familiar but differently so from the symbols of the various colleges. Those are the same symbols I saw on the mural... the larger ones. Hmm... I'd better study this whole damn thing when I get back to the library. After looking over the symbols for a short while I suddenly remembered that I had a gem to deliver and I slipped inside of the nearby building to take care of that business before it got too late. I didn't like the idea of sticking around after I'd spoken with Pelojian just to wait for some bloody mage to wake up again.

I pulled the water gem out of my pocket, heading towards V'ed Eckes room to drop it off quickly. I was proud of myself for only getting lost four times on my way to the bastard's room. "Greetings, Master Eckes. I... uh... spoke with your student out front." I handed the gem off to him and he grinned at it happily.

The man actually stripped buck naked right in front of me and folded up his robes, handing them to me in a pile. Gods, please... take this back! For the sake of decency put it back on! I averted my eyes, being rather uncomfortable in the presence of one so shameless. "Don't you care what happened to your student?"

I saw him shrug out of the corner of my eye and he mumbled in response, too distracted by the water gem to even care what I was saying. "Not particularly. He knew the dangers of becoming enmeshed in the outside world." Ugh. I beg to differ. I didn't even excuse myself, I just brushed past the rest of my companions and wandered towards the archway outside. The only thing left to do was clear out the library so I could study until sundown.

Something about the way I left intrigued Franklin and he stared into the room at the man as I departed. I could hear him scoffing offendedly. "I'm not one to pass judgment, but for God's sake, man! Put some coverings on, will you?!" So it's possible to offend Franklin after all. Good to know. He followed in my direction shortly afterwards.

As I stepped through the archway I could feel the coin in my hand take on a slight chill and my surroundings went near completely dark. It was a sudden shift; I barely had any time to feel nauseous about the whole thing. I stared about the new room I found myself in, noting a dimly lit stone pillar in the center of the room. The room itself was square with smooth, brick walls. There were a pair of chests sitting on the floor and I took a moment to rummage through them.

It seemed like a full set of equipment, minus any armor or a shield. I supposed that made sense for mages. I didn't know exactly what it would be good for, but I suspected it would be useful in the so-called 'exam' that I was supposed to be taking. I looked at the others who seemed to have been transported into the room with me. "Any ideas?"

Virgil looked at me nervously, tapping his foot with that same impatience he always did when I dove headfirst into trouble that I didn't quite know how to get myself out of. "Why do I get the feeling that you're asking me?" I didn't suspect he actually wanted an answer to that question. Even if I'd wanted to give him one, I kept getting distracted by the sound of Terry barking.

"Sebastian, do you know what Terry's going on about? You're not out of jerky already, are you?" He and Terry were sitting in a corner, Terry pawing at something obsessively while Sebastian tried to bring him under control.

"Hey! Samantha!" he shouted. "I think our little buddy here's found something! There's a picture of a ring here drawn in white chalk!" I stopped, thinking on what he said for a moment. Franklin, ever the impetuous one, wandered into the middle of the room and started poking at the pedestal. As soon as he touched it he was transported back to where we came in, looking quite confused.

"That's it!" I shouted excitedly, taking off one of my charged rings and, in its place, slipping on the strange ring I found when I entered. "Terry, Franklin, Sebastian... I owe all three of you thanks."

Sebastian merely grinned and surreptitiously slipped Terry a piece of jerky. Franklin was as jovial as ever. "Happy to be of service, Samantha!" He clearly didn't have the slightest clue what he did, but that didn't stop him from being proud of it. Sometimes it was difficult to tell if I was his traveling companion or his babysitter.

With the ring on my hand, I stepped forward and placed my hand on the stone pedestal. My surroundings shifted, although this time I was better prepared for it. I closed my eyes for just a few moments to let everything settle into place without having to deal with the disorientation of watching it all happen before my very eyes. When I opened my eyes I appeared to be standing right where Franklin had gotten transported to.

"Son of a bitch! I was sure that would work!" What else could that chalk outline have meant? Terry found it... it means something. That dog never paws at anything unimportant.

Virgil stammered, "I-I think you'd better take a closer look. There aren't any treasure chests in this room." I glanced around the room cautiously, trying to find where they'd gone off to. Sure enough, they weren't there at all.

"By the Gods, you're right! I did it!" Hmm, but it's not over yet. I wonder if this room has a little cheat diagram as well? I walked slowly around the room, bringing out my electric light to more closely look over the walls. Franklin set his hand on the center pedestal again, merely warping to the edge of the room as he did so. After only a few short steps I found it, my electric light quite clearly revealing a small, chalk diagram of an amulet.

I took the ring off, replacing it with my charged ring once again. Slipping Mannox's finger into my purse briefly, I put on the strange amulet and placed my hand upon the center pedestal. Once again, my surroundings shifted and I found myself in what I thought to be a third room. I wandered over towards where I'd found the diagram of the amulet and, just as I expected, it was now missing. "That's it!" I exclaimed, looking at the others. "Each of these rooms has a diagram telling me what to wear to proceed!" I slipped the amulet off and placed Mannox's finger back on in its place. It was a tad gruesome, but it was my little good luck charm.

Virgil shook his head, "I don't think that's quite it, Samantha. I suspect that magick really ought to be used in solving these puzzles, but perhaps a previous student left... uh... 'notes'."

"So, you're trying to say that I'm cheating?" I tilted my head at him curiously, almost wanting him to answer affirmatively. He nodded his head 'yes', and I grinned, glancing over towards Sebastian. "Say, Sebastian, good fellow... do you have any problems with cheating our way through this?"

He grinned back at me, "No, ma'am." Franklin laughed uproariously, his usual smarmy laugh, and Terry started sniffing around the edges of the room. I crept along the wall further, illuminating sections of it with my electric light. Virgil could only sigh in response.

"Here you are!" Franklin shouted, "This one looks like a diagram of some kind of helmet! I do hope you're carrying a helmet." I nodded, stowing my chapeau in my purse in favor of the strange, metal helmet I'd found in the entry room. I placed my hand upon the pedestal a third time, transporting the lot of us to a fourth room.

Wordlessly, everybody began searching the moment we entered. Of all of us, Vollinger was the first one to speak up. "I recommend that you try the boots this time, Samantha. The diagram is right here if you would like to see it yourself." I didn't bother checking, especially since I suspected he might've been offended if I did.

Virgil found the next one, a diagram of a pair of gauntlets. He didn't sound particularly happy about helping me cheat my way through the maze, but as usual he was willing to play along with whatever I decided. Oh, Virgil, what would I ever do without you? Once I got to the sixth room I presumptuously held the dagger in my hand and placed my hand on the pedestal without even looking for the diagram. As quickly as we'd arrived we were already gone again, this time into the seventh room.

"Wonderful!" Franklin congratulated me, "How did you know it was that one?" I shrugged, grinning at him. "No, really, I must know! That was spectacular!" He was such a flatterer.

"If you must know, then... it was the only one I hadn't used yet." He paused for a moment, mulling it over, then burst out into a fit of laughter. It was the kind of thing that would amuse him, I suppose.

Vollinger spoke, his voice calm but uncertain, "If that was the last object, how do you suppose we're to get out of this seventh room?" He had a good point. I slumped against the wall for a moment, thinking it over.

"Right here!" Sebastian shouted, "There's a whole bunch of diagrams over here on this wall! Wear 'em all, I say." I looked around at the others, but they only stared back with confused looks. I suppose it would make an odd sort of sense, and if the diagram says so... I put all of the various pieces on and I set my hand on the pedestal.

The surroundings shifted yet again and I found myself in another of the growing string of different rooms. Sitting on the ground near the corner, however, was exactly what I had been seeking: the chalice. I walked over to it confidently, plucking it off the ground and stuffing it into my purse. "Well now, isn't that something? A technologist passing the Phantasm final? What does that say about the education here?"

Virgil objected, "...but... you cheated..." I scowled at him and he looked away.

"Shh! They don't have to know that!" I couldn't help but laugh then, and everybody aside from Virgil did the same. I set the pieces of equipment I'd used in navigating the strange little maze on the ground and placed my hand on the center pedestal. That familiar yet uncomfortable feeling of teleportation overtook me once again and at last I found myself back outside. Now if you don't mind, I've got some bloody books I'd like to read. The library was my first destination.

Herzod stared at me curiously as I wandered in. I smirked, pulling the chalice out of my purse and handing it to him. "I've retrieved your chalice, boy..."

Hmph. You mean the methods where a technologist passes your final for you? "Good day." I wasn't going to ruffle his feathers, lest he refuse to leave the library while I still had a chance to do some reading. Word would spread fast enough even without my help, I was sure of it.

Instead I turned my attention towards the bookshelves, searching through them for a book on the basic categories of magick. It seemed important to know exactly what symbol meant what if I was going to solve the mystery of the mural. I pulled out a tome that looked like it covered what I was looking for and sat down to glance at it for awhile.

I skimmed through it hurriedly, but it still took me the better part of three hours to read everything that seemed important. During that time Franklin wandered off and around Tulla several times, each time returning empty-handed. I didn't really know what he was looking for in the first place, other than perhaps a relief to his excessive boredom. Virgil stood next to me protectively, a menacing authority about him, hushing any students that came in. Even a technologist would be put off by the sight of him in his electrified plate, carrying an electrified shield and a flaming axe. Half the students he talked to left without even reading a damned thing.

Sebastian played with Terry gently and quietly, for which I was thankful. It wouldn't have been pretty if that dog got bored. Vollinger seemed satisfied to merely stare out a window peacefully. I was thankful to have such understanding companions, willing to hang around even while I did something as mundane as read a book.

It was nearly evening by the time I finished and I decided to take one last look at the mural before trying to figure out just how in the hell to speak with Pelojian. I stalked into the grand building at the end of Tulla for a third time that day and marched towards the center room, intent on staring at that damned mural for a third time as well. Bloody Jorian's just lucky I hate violence...

I saw the mural in a rather significantly different light following my study in the library. It had been so long since I read anything that I just soaked up every ounce of knowledge that the book had to give, eager to put it to good use. In turn, some oddities about the mural became quite obvious when I returned to gaze on it. There... those symbols are the four elements... obviously they're connected somehow.... but in what way?

The five larger symbols are the ones sitting around that fountain.... hmm, that fountain must be Pelojian's pool now that I think of it. The other sixteen symbols are all magickal ones. The elements are on the upper left and the rest seem to be loosely categorized as well, though none quite so clearly. What then? Sebastian broke my concentration, "Say, I think I've seen those bigger symbols somewhere else before."

I sighed and nodded at him, "Yes. They're around the fountain just behind the archway." He placed his hand up to his chin and thought about it for a bit.

Finally, he shook his head, "No, no that's not it... the archway got me thinking, though... there are a couple buildings on each side of that archway, and I swear I've seen those symbols painted on the sides." Well, that's news.

"Really? You're sure?" He nodded. "Let's go take a look!" I darted outside and headed off to the side of the archway. Just as Sebastian had said, there were a pair of buildings on that side, each with one of the symbols painted on them. Further, each one had a magickal symbol on the ground in front of it and that symbol was always the one to the left of the corresponding larger symbol on the mural. I tried the door to one of the buildings, but it was locked by some strange, magickal force.

I'm beginning to see it now... so stepping on the symbol to the left must be what opens the door... then how do the other three symbols fit in? I suppose the position of the man's arm could be referring to a clock. That's it! I should travel the symbols clockwise! It made an odd sort of sense to me, and so I did just that.

Starting with the elements, I first found the symbol of Earth. As I stepped on it a strange light began issuing forth from underneath and around the stone that it was engraved into. I suppose that's a good sign. In turn I found the air and water symbols, growing more and more confident as each one lit up with their own strange colors. Finally I approached the building once again and stepped on the symbol of Fire. Like magic, the door opened.

Inside I saw an amulet sitting on the ground as well as a book labeled 'Verses of the Wanderer, Canto 1'. I knew it... Pelojian's poetry! This is it, I'm on the right track! I flipped open the front cover of the book and saw a symbol matching that of the building I was in. Beneath the symbol was a simple poem.

All that comes before
Is rooted in this earth
In this water
In this fire
In the air that surrounds us
Not thought of
As last
But as what came first
And the final step
Before you come
To me.

"Well, that's strange," I remarked aloud, "I get the obvious reference to the elements... clever, that. But the rest of it almost seems like it's beckoning me. 'The final step before you come to me'? It almost seems like it's ascribing an order to the symbols around the fountain... Gods, that's it! His poetry really is the key!" Without waiting to hear my companion's thoughts on the matter I dashed off again.

Conveyance, Forces, Metamorphosis, and finally Phantasm... I stormed inside of the second building, picking up 'Verses of the Wanderer, Canto 3'. I flipped it open and began reading excitedly.

Not first above, but just underneath... so the swirl is second and the cross is last. I continued stepping on the engravings, slowly watching the whole of Tulla light up in strange colors as I activated all of them. Necromantic White, then Black, Summoning, and lastly Nature earned me 'Verses of the Wanderer, Canto 4'.

The tie that binds
The first to the last
The first to its child
Is the Spirit of all
The Spirit that calls
And the way
Much brighter
Before you.

If this were the symbol that bound the first to the last, then that meant it could be neither. I already had the second and the last symbols, so that meant the star had to be the third symbol. The only symbol I was missing, the sunburst, had to be the first symbol. I wandered over towards the fountain purposefully.

'Before you come to me'... that fifth symbol must be the symbol of Pelojian, and I'll step on that last. I wandered over towards the sunburst and I stepped on it firmly. Much to my regret, nothing happened. Blast! Do I need to get the last book before it'll work? Vollinger cleared his throat and handed to me the amulet I neglected to pick up in the first building. I took it from him sheepishly, "Of course..." Placing it on, I tried stepping on the sunburst again and I was quite delighted when it lit up beneath me.

In turn I stepped on the swirl, the star, the cross, and finally the symbol I had deemed to be Pelojian's symbol. A bright light emanated from the fountain the moment I stepped on the last symbol and I turned to see an illuminated figure slowly rising from the pool's surface, a shimmering wall of water rising around it as it emerged.

The figure formed into a red-hued specter, casting a strange light upon the whole of the pool beneath it. The shimmering wall of water cascaded down back into the pool, disappearing without even a splash. I glanced across the reddish stone and above the reddish waters, staring at the figure that now looked upon me. Its voice was but a whisper and I could scarcely tell if it was even speaking at all. "Greetings, traveler. Long have I waited for you to come."

I shook my head, confused, bewildered at the ghost's sudden appearance. "What? What do you mean?" Waited for me? But... you died so long ago... how could you have known...?

His raspy whisper issued forth yet again and I could not be certain that it was anything more than a figment of my imagination. "The signs, traveler. You read them, did you not? The Mural of Enlightenment, the Verses of the Wanderer, the objects you have assembled here today... all of these were signs I left for you. And they were also signs for me... so that I would know you when you came..."

Is this what Simeon meant when he said Pelojian was a diviner? But I'm a technologist... how could he possibly foresee...? "So you knew? All this time you've just been waiting for me?" I could scarcely believe what I was hearing.

I suppose that's not so bad after all... at least he's a lot more straightforward than the damned Silver Lady. "Actually, I did have a few questions.... I suppose the most important one being, where are the Vendigroth Ruins?"

His haunting husk of a voice crept forth again, "The Vendigroth Ruins? That's very easy, traveler." He gestured towards my purse and I pulled my map out, watching him point to a location about three days to the southeast. "A place of sorrow. A place of death."

I was almost stuttering, the specter easily intimidating me with his raspy words. "What can you tell me about them?" It's going to be all right... I was told to ask questions, and ask them I shall.

Pelojian hovered silently above the pool for several moments before answering. "Vendigroth was an amazing place, traveler. There are wonders now, here in your time... but I tell you, Vendigroth was a city of marvels and wonders. This thing you call technology... the people of Vendigroth mastered it long before the dwarves. I can't even begin to describe the things they created..."

I shook my head, sadly, "But then Arronax became angry with them. He feared technology..." If only Arronax had been like Pelojian... willing to tolerate and accept mutual existence...

The specter nodded its ghastly head slowly, a particularly grim and chilling gesture, "Yes, and he annihilated them because of it. Tread carefully in the ruins of old Vendigroth, traveler. The blood of its people still screams for retribution, for revenge. It is an evil place, twisted by pain and fury. Your journey there will not be an easy one..."

If it's all the same to you, I'd prefer to not think about it... that'll just make me want to turn right back around and head in the opposite direction. "Could you tell me about the Vendigroth Device?"

I had come to quite the similar conclusion previously. Surely a mage would have an even more vehement opinion, however. "What does it do, exactly?" I shuddered, remembering Nasrudin's explanation of it, but I needed to learn everything I could before fully committing to my own banishment. I still hadn't decided for certain if I could really go through with it.

Pelojian was pensive yet again, not easily being able to put his near limitless knowledge into a form that I could readily understand. I, at least, appreciated the effort... being cryptic about things helped nobody. "Put very simply, it severs a soul from this world forever. A person killed with this device can never return to the lands of the living. It is the true and final death... the last step in the dark journey..."

Gods, how many different ways can you keep saying the same, horrible thing? "Uh, right...." I needed to change the subject so he would stop talking about how godawful that damned device was. "I'm confused. What role do I play in all of this?"

So I'm either the only one without a damned choice in the world, or the only one with one? Those are somewhat exclusive to each other, good fellow. "An interesting viewpoint." I was trying to be tactful. I wasn't very well going to tell an ages old shade that had been waiting for me since his human death that I thought he was full of it.

I thought about what to ask next for several moments. It seemed like all of my questions had been answered, though there was one last thing I simply had to try. "If you can see the future, how does all of this end...?"

His laugh was a horrible noise, like a thousand voices all screaming out my name, and I shuddered uncontrollably as it came out of his mouth. Even after he stopped I couldn't stop shaking. I could still hear the voices, sometimes distinct and sometimes overlapping each other, still calling out to me.

Why would I have really expected him to give me any other answer anyway? "I suppose not. Well, I think that's all. Thank you, Pelojian, for answering my questions. I will be off to the ruins of Vendigroth, then." No matter how badly I tried to tune it out, I couldn't help but still hear those damned voices.

The ghost hovering in front of me nodded slowly, yet peacefully, "Yes, I must go as well. My long vigil is over, and I can finally go to my rest. Fate has not yet chosen, and Death himself awaits. Farewell, traveler..." Even as the final words exited his mouth, he slowly sank back into the pool. His body became enveloped in a bright, white light, yet the water beneath him remained stained red. Slowly he sank beneath the surface and, with one final flash of light, he disappeared.

I stared into the placid waters nervously, watching the red slowly fade to clear. Still, in the background, I could hear the voices calling out to me... calling out my name. I felt a tightness in my chest and stopped suddenly, holding a hand over it as if it would somehow make it go away.

A bright light shone forth from the pool, reddish-orange in color, and I collapsed onto my knees, staring at it. "Samantha!" I heard Virgil shouting, joining the chorus of voices all calling out to me. What's happening to me? What is this feeling, this light? The light grew brighter and brighter, yet I could no longer even turn my head away from it. I squinted against it reflexively, shielding my eyes from its intense radiance. My eyes began to ache, such was the force of that unbearably bright light. I could feel Virgil's plated hands on my shoulders, and he shook me worriedly, "Samantha! Snap out of it!"

I tried to answer, but I could not speak... could not move. The ache in my eyes was too much and I slammed them shut, still unable to simply turn away. The voices in my head grew clearer and clearer, and they were those of my friends. Sebastian, Vollinger, Franklin... and still the voice of Virgil, calling out to me, "Samantha! Samantha, say something!" I took a deep breath and my eyes snapped open rather suddenly, but I immediately squinted against the bright light, though something seemed different about it now. It was no longer clouded by the waters beneath the pool, even though it still had that same, reddish-orange hue.

I slowly became aware of the fact that I was lying on my back, my head resting against something solid and cold. Virgil's head ducked in front of my face and he stared into my eyes with worry, blocking out the blindingly bright evening sun from my sight. "Samantha! What's come over you? Are you alright?!"

The feeling was slowly returning to my arms and my legs, and I continued focusing on breathing. I pushed away from the ground, sitting up, slowly looking around to take in my surroundings. It was definitely daytime once again, though the sun was already setting. I could only conclude I must have fallen unconscious after Pelojian disappeared. My head hurt terribly, but I had been resting it against the stone walls of the pool so that only made sense. I looked over towards Virgil again, rubbing my head as I tried to find the words to respond to him, "I think... I'm fine, Virgil... thank you for asking. How long was I asleep?"

Sebastian snorted, "Well, I guess that depends on what you call 'sleep'." I gave him a rather perplexed look and grasped onto Virgil's hand, accepting his help in pulling me up to my feet.

Vollinger pulled out his pocket watch and studied it carefully for several moments. "I would say you first started exhibiting signs of strange behavior right around three and a half hours ago. You quite suddenly dashed out of the library without a word and you've been darting around the entire city of Tulla since. Further, we could all hear you muttering about magickal colleges and reciting strange poetry without responding to a single one of us. At last you seemed to have a rather odd conversation with the fountain here and then you simply... fell."

Magickal colleges and poetry...? But that was the puzzle... the mural of enlightenment! "No, no... you misunderstand... I was just activating the symbols on the ground, and reading the books... it all lead me to Pelojian. Don't tell me none of you saw him...? He appeared above the pool right around midnight, just like Simeon said he would!"

Franklin cleared his throat purposefully, "I do hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we've only been in Tulla since this morning. The sun's only set halfway, so you couldn't possibly have visited anybody in Tulla at midnight! If I didn't know any better I would say you're as crazy as a loon!"

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Franklin. I looked around at the others but they only nodded at me, slowly and worriedly, in response. Damnation! I know what I saw! That was NOT a dream! "I do think this place is having a rather unfortunate effect on me, then. Must be all of that magick about, not agreeing with my temperament."

Virgil patted me on the shoulder gently, "Yes, that must be it. Let's get out of here for awhile."

I grinned at him, "I've got just the place in mind... if you all wouldn't mind following a crazy woman for just awhile longer."

Bonus Content

Also, more books! I've got 5 more after this one:

Treatise on the Nature of Reality

that it is so?

No, we cannot predict with 100 percent certainty that the sun will indeed rise in the east and set in the west each day. We can only predict that it is extremely likely that it will do so. Thus the reality around us is only the reality we perceive. We mages are able to alter our world around us, because we alter our perception of it. If we need a spoon to exist, so that we may take in our dinner, we will perceive a spoon, and it will be reality for us.

Of course this is no easy task, because we have seen that there is no spoon, and experience show us that spoons do not simply materialize out of thin air. But should we forget this fact for now, and expect a spoon to materialize. Should we expect this with sufficient force, then it WILL materialize, because reality is only that which we perceive.

Was there a universe before sentient life? Did reality exist if there was no one to perceive it? According to my arguments here, no. This universe came into existence as soon as sentience perceived it. The Gods looked upon the universe, and it existed.

Now we exist too, and we too perceive the universe. I cannot believe in the death of magick. I cannot perceive a future without magick, and so I will never experience a future without magick. But the reality you perceive may be different from mine, and it is here, that the conflict lies.
There are troubles in the world today because of the many sentients inhabiting it, and because of all the differing beliefs.

Therefore take comfort if you feel reality itself is against you. Reality is never at odds with what anyone does. Another persons reality may be at odds with it, but your own reality will never be at odds with what you do, as it changes to fit your own perceptions.

Double bonus! You all get a second book today.

The Horrors of Technology

already nervous mind with further apprehension, and I said as much to my companion. Underwood, however, merely chuckled to himself and advised me to take one of the glasses of excellent Halfling wine that were being proffered by a servant. He had already consumed two himself, and was halfway through a third. I took his advice (indeed the wine was of a superior quality), and turned to see Dr. Robert Harraway enter the room, followed by another servant laden with various bottles and vials.

Harraway was an eminent scientist, said by many to be leading the field of discovery, and upon this occasion he was also our host. He was a handsome man of around fifty years, with lively blue eyes and silver hair and whiskers. He would seem to be one of the more charismatic members of the Technological fraternity, which I assumed was why he was chosen to front a showing of some of its latest advances.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," he intoned to the assembled crowd with a smile. "Tonight, you will all witness certain things which, only weeks ago, would have been deemed impossible." He paused. "Unthinkable, one might even say. And perhaps, then, even certain cynics in the local press will see the advantages that may be gleaned from the work of myself and my fellow scientists all over this nation." He glanced briefly in my direction as the knowing members of his audience laughed politely.

Harraway bid us be seated, and proceeded to talk in detail about recent discoveries in the fields of anatomy, respiration, blood circulation, and the functions of the brain. All the while, his assistants were busily assembling a complicated network of bottles and glass tubes, into which they poured the contents of various coloured vials. When they had finished, Harraway cleared his throat, and gripped his lapels tightly. "All of this, I'm certain, you all find very interesting, but I have noticed how everyone's attention has at some point rested on the covered cadaver on this slab." He indicated the corpse. "Now, you will all see how these advances can be put to actual, incontestable use."

He pulled the sheet from the slab with a flourish, revealing to us the twisted body of an orc. There were several gasps: the creatures are even more horrifying in death than in life. "This specimen was shot and killed a week ago by a member of this city's police force. It had attacked a citizen."

Harraway walked back to his desk. "My assistants have just concocted a mixture of powerful chemicals. These, we have extracted from other corpses, and even other living orcs and humans. Some, we have created almost completely ourselves." While he said this, Harraway's assistants

unnatural life. Before it could strike again, there was a sharp crack from the back of the theatre, and the creature's chest erupted in a plume of red as a bullet ripped through its reanimated heart. It fell back on to the slab, dead for a second time. I turned to see the grim-visaged police officer holding a smoking gun. Harraway, howling as the tears streaked down his now-scarred face, was led away by his assistants. It had not been the successful demonstration that he had anticipated.

As myself and my companion strolled back along the wood-panelled halls, now busy with police, we contemplated the evening's events. Why had the orc attacked? Who can be sure: perhaps its brain still contained the vicious or evil instinct that had led it to a violent end in its natural life? Underwood smiled, and nudged me on the thigh (may I remind you, gentle reader, that he was a gnome). "You must be pleased, eh, Sam?" he said. "You were always skeptical of this kind of thing."

That I was, but I did not feel the satisfaction of vindication; one isolated and relatively small event like this could not stop Technological progress. It sped on powerfully like one of the steam trains to which it had given rise. Tonight's occurence was no more than a matchstick placed on the rails. I was even more fearful of what the future held. Dr. Harraway, if you are curious, never worked again. He retired early and went to live out the remainder of his days in Caladon, far from the scientific advances that had left him mentally and physically scarred.