Chapter the Sixty Seventh: Not Even In Death"Samantha..." I could hear my name being whispered into my ear softly, calmly. No, everything was silent, I didn't hear a thing. I could somehow feel it, feel an intense urging... somebody trying to get my attention. It was only in my mind that the urging became a whisper, for it was in that way that I understood it best. There wasn't any other way to describe it, but I knew that no words were actually being spoken. Samantha...
I opened my eyes and my heart caught in my chest. Frederick...? I saw him in front of me, smiling gently. A tear rolled down my cheek, slipping off of my chin and landing silently in the grass. I've waited for so long... is it really you? We were standing in the park, in the very same spot we'd stood on that day. I couldn't tell if I was truly standing face to face with Frederick or simply reliving my memories even after my own death.
I remembered that day so vividly... it was only 6 months after Frederick had released me from prison, and I was still trying to act as defiantly as I could. It had been warm inside the house, so Frederick invited me out with him. I was defiant, but not stupid, so I took him up on his offer... it was certainly better than staying inside.
He walked me to the park with him, holding my hand gently but firmly. That was just the way of things... he knew if he let go for even a moment that I would run off. I made a great big show of it every time he left me alone, how I wouldn't be there when he got back. Looking back on it, I'm surprised he ever put up with it. When we finally arrived in the park he simply sat there, holding my hands, staring at me while we stood next to the most beautiful tree. Then... he let go.
I stood there for several moments, stunned. I dropped my hands to my sides and simply stared at him, wondering just what he was doing. He smiled, that same, gentle smile still plastered on his face even now, and he just said, "You're free." He always did know exactly what to say, and when... I merely looked at him, feeling so lost in that moment. It was then that I realized, even if I had anywhere else to go, I truly wanted to stay with Frederick. I never threatened to run away again.
Again, the sound of words, yet not... it was Frederick's voice, yet his lips didn't move. This... isn't a memory, is it? Frederick, it's really you! I jumped forward, tears bursting from my eyes, and I wrapped my arms around him solidly. If we'd been anywhere else I would've tackled him outright, but the rules of this place were different somehow. Everything seemed so calm, so much less immediate... as I imagined how he would feel when I held him, the warmth coming through that impeccable suit he always wore, it was so. There was no jump, no motion, he was just there... in my arms at long last. I'm free? Yes... I suppose that I am... at last, we can be together again...
I could see the tears in his eyes as well, yet still he had that smile. I've missed you...
Oh, Frederick, I've missed you, too... Words couldn't describe the immense joy I felt to be with him once again. It didn't matter that we were both dead, we were together at last. I breathed in deeply, though it felt like a silly thing to do without a body... Frederick started laughing at me and I smiled in return. Why here?
Frederick felt somehow happy, then... I couldn't explain how, but his feelings were my feelings... what we shared then was not mere words, but an aura of understanding that flowed from each of us to the other. Your choice... The meaning drifted across the wordless void between us.
Somehow, I knew exactly what he was trying to say. Although I continued to interpret his thoughts and feelings into words, they were a poor representation of the communication we now had. More than just those two simple words, I understood that the park we stood in was a location of my choosing. We weren't bound by time or space... I could be anywhere I wanted to be with a mere thought. Frederick was happy that this one moment in my life had meant so much to me I would choose to relive it in death. No... I don't need this place anymore... not if I have you. I've got so much I want to say, to you and to... Nathaniel...?
As soon as the thought entered my mind the scenery shifted. I was reliving another moment of my life, but not one I ever wanted to live through a second time. No, not this... anything but this. That's when it all went wrong, when the perfect life that I had shattered... and I failed to pick up the pieces...
Frederick held my hands in his and squeezed gently, reassuringly. I could feel the pain in his heart, but also the desire... even despite the pain, all he wanted was to hold me close. I forgive you...
The tears came and wouldn't stop. No, I don't deserve your forgiveness... Even as I thought it, I knew it was pointless. I could feel his desire for me, and the sheer depth of his compassion. He held me so closely and I cried onto his shoulder. It felt like I'd been waiting so long to do that, but when we were alive I wouldn't allow myself such comfort. It was different now, there could be no secrets between Frederick and I. If I pulled away I knew it would only hurt him... if only I had known back then. ...but we can be together now... in death, we can comfort each other at last.... Frederick, take me to Nathaniel... I've missed him, too.
Frederick's pain and sadness nearly overwhelmed me then. The depth of his emotions startled me, especially since in life I had never seen him so much as cry. He had no such limitations in death, and I felt his warm tears gently splashing down on my back even as he held me. Gone...
Without even another word, I suddenly knew everything. He had been waiting for me, too, he and Frederick both. He'd wanted to apologize to me, even as badly as I wanted to apologize to him. It wasn't to be, however. He got called back... days ago, years ago... time was irrelevant to the dead. Nathaniel was gone and he wouldn't be coming back. No... not Nathaniel... why, out of all the souls of the dead, why Nathaniel...? Frederick, I am so sorry... if it weren't for me... As my thoughts turned to Frederick the scenery changed yet again. I was standing next to Frederick's grave, remembering exactly how I felt when I first discovered his death. If I hadn't been such a fool... if I hadn't run away...
Although Frederick could not hide his pain from me, neither could he hide his sympathy. He held me so closely, then, and I sighed, closing my eyes as the tears ran down. I felt so warm and safe in his embrace, I never wanted him to let me go. I forgive you... It was the second time I felt his forgiveness, but this time I felt it so much more deeply.
It was more than mere forgiveness, but words didn't do his feelings justice. He didn't blame me for his own death any more than he blamed me for Nathaniel's... the only one who did blame me was myself, as it always had been. Frederick forgave me too easily, I couldn't just accept it as though that made everything better. I could've murdered a man and stored the body in Frederick's basement, and he just would've looked at me with those kind eyes of his and said, "I'll take care of it. The police won't suspect a thing." I longed to yield to that safety he offered me, but no matter how badly I wanted it I just couldn't allow myself to give in that easily.
I felt a cold breeze on my shoulders and chest, and I looked up at Frederick worriedly. He still held me close, yet I couldn't feel the warmth of his body anymore. A horrible sadness came over him, a longing like none I'd ever felt before. He felt distant and alone, worried and anxious all at the same time. Live...
The Caladon graveyard began to fade away as I grew to understand the meaning he shared with me. I was being brought back. So soon after I'd been reunited with Frederick, I was being torn away again. I tried screaming out to him, holding him even closer, but I could barely even feel him anymore. I coudln't ignore the feeling he was sharing with me in that moment, that feeling of intense loneliness. I was returning to the friends I'd made since I left Frederick, but without Nathaniel he had nobody else... once I was gone, he would be all alone again. I'm so sorry, Frederick... I don't want to go, I want to be with you! I promise I'll bring Nathaniel back to you... I'll find him somehow and I'll set his spirit free...! Please, wait for me to return!
I breathed the stale underground air deeply into my lungs, coughing uncontrollably as my body came back to life once again. Everything seemed so loud all of the sudden, the hum of ancient machinery whirring with the slightest bit of life, the labored breathing of everybody gathered around me and waiting to watch me return, the skittering of spiders concealed in darkness just out of sight. Terry barked happily and I jumped, startled at the loud noise. My head began to ache terribly, and it felt as though I was waking up from a walking nightmare. Frederick... I'm so, so sorry... Tears poured out of my eyes beyond my control and I began to sob.
"There, you see?!" Franklin shouted enthusiastically, holding up an empty bottle of restorative. "Nothing to it!" He paused, looking down at me and realizing everything wasn't quite as well as he'd initially surmised. "Well, perhaps it's a bit more complicated than that..."
Virgil was sitting next to me, his face mere inches from mine, a pained expression on his face. At last he broke and placed his arms around me, squeezing me gently, "Gods, Samantha, I told you to be careful! You had me so worried!" He sighed even as he held me, "I-I'm sorry... are you alright? What's wrong?"
I shook my head, crying even harder as he held me. Why? Why is everybody so nice to me? I don't deserve it. Although it brought with it a horrible guilt, a feeling of comfort washed over me as I sat in Virgil's embrace. I couldn't tell if it was because of my fondness for him as a friend or if he just reminded me of Frederick in so many ways. Regardless, I still cried.
He held me silently for several moments before I finally calmed down, regaining my composure. Sitting here and blubbering like a fool isn't going to solve a damned thing... I made a promise, and Frederick is counting on me. I have to take care of this Arronax business first, but I swear... I will find Nathaniel when this is over. I breathed in deeply, coughing once again as I inhaled the dusty air. I dried my tears on a handkerchief and looked up at Virgil, "I'll be fine... I guess death just wasn't as kind to me as it was you."
A look of pain showed in his eyes, "I'll help you, Samantha... please, let me help you."
I shook my head, standing to my feet and pushing him away gently. I felt badly for doing so, but I had to be strong no matter how I felt. "Perhaps afterwards, Virgil. Destroying Arronax is far more important than any of my personal problems, you can't argue with that."
He only sighed, sadly, "Let's be on our way, then. I'm glad you're all right at least." I'm sorry, Virgil... I just can't right now... I'm sure even Frederick understands...
I sighed, stretching out my limbs and making sure I would be all right for travel again, despite my untimely death. When I really thought about it, I actually felt great. I was wide awake and not tired at all from the hours of battling through the underground caverns of Vendigroth, and I didn't have even a single scratch on me. I'd seen the schematics for restoratives before and I knew they weren't that potent, so it had to have been the blessing of Velorien. Velorien takes all/And Velorien returns all. I decided to keep that little secret to myself.
Slowly, I willed my feet to move. I had to continue onward regardless of the feelings stirring around inside of me. I've come this far... it's almost finished. I'll get the device and then go to the final confrontation. If Arronax kills me, then I can go back to being with Frederick. If he doesn't, then I'll search out whatever bastard pulled Nathaniel's soul from the afterlife and make him sorely regret it. That last thought more than anything was what kept me going.
At first I took only a few short steps, and then somewhat faster I began walking towards the far end of the cavern. I could hear Franklin's excited voice behind me, "Looks like we're off then! Not a moment too soon, either, I was just starting to get a bit drowsy!" Thanks for the sympathy, old chap. Reaching the doorway sitting in the opposite corner from the altar, I walked through it and into a long, wide hallway.
No sooner had I entered than I saw a two-legged machine charging at me rapidly from down the hallway. It was not unlike the machines I'd fought in the caverns of the Iron Clan, although I suspected if I could find a more deadly machine than the ones in the Iron Clan it would be in Vendigroth. I pulled my axe off of my belt, holding it out in front of me firmly. I don't bloody care how well you're built, you won't stand in my way.
I whirled around like a tornado as the machine charged past me, deftly sidestepping its rapid flurry of strikes and bringing my axe quite severely against its back. The metal cracked beneath the force of my attack, and the crack spread throughout the whole of the machine in seconds. It whirred, attempting to turn around and continue fighting, but the metal bits that made up its legs began to crumble apart and it clattered to the ground uselessly. It merely sat there, spinning in place, completely helpless to do a damned thing. A single shot from Vollinger stopped it from moving forever.
The hallway stretched on for as far as the eye could see and I knew that I was getting close. In addition to the straight path there were also half a dozen side passageways, each of them containing several smaller rooms. Each side passage seemed to be guarded by another automaton, in addition to even more of the bastards continuing to charge from the far end of the main hall. Terry paced back and forth by the scrap left by the first automaton, whining pitifully. It's all right, boy, you learned your lesson last time... Samantha will take care of these for you. That's just what I did.
They attacked from nearly every way they possibly could, except for from behind. Virgil tried getting in their way and distracting them with his axe, but they seemed to be smarter than the others we'd faced... I'd have expected no less from Vendigroth. They knew Virgil's plate would've absorbed the majority of their strikes and instead turned their attention to Sebastian, Franklin, and myself.
Franklin didn't mind in the slightest. He kept firing at distant machines with Old Mary until she siezed up on him, then he charged in like a madman, wielding some kind of sword. I had no bloody clue where he found the damned thing, but he was Franklin Payne so I didn't really question it. He took a good beating from the machines he attacked most viciously, but his armor was second only to Virgil's, so he could certainly take what they dished out.
Sebastian kept his distance, continually firing off those strange green orbs from the gun I gave him. Unsurprisingly, the gun worked incredibly well against the automatons. They noticed it, too, as well they should have. They tried surrounding him and, when that failed, they tried disarming him. He kept on making strategic retreats, blowing apart automatons as soon as they could approach him and take a few swings.
Although the side passages were cluttered with almost as many automatons as the main passage, exploring them despite that paid off in spades. Whereas the rest of Vendigroth had been mostly destroyed and useless, it seemed like that might've been an artifact of the spider creatures. The automatons, for all that I despised them, protected this area well... and that meant the junk to be found was in primarily excellent condition. For each side passage I explored I found just enough of use to make me want to explore the next one, even after spying the three bastard machines guarding it.
One man's junk is another man's treasure. I picked up a particularly ancient sheet of metal, noting its use in one of the schematics I'd found. When I got back to a good workshop I would easily be able to fashion it into something quite useful, and that pleased me. "Well, what have we here?! Excellent timing!" Gods, what has Franklin found now?
I wandered over to the other side of the room and saw Franklin fiddling with a Vendigrothian rifle. "Hey! Stop that! Give that here!" I shouted at him, grabbing after the rifle. He was so surprised at my actions that he didn't even pose any resistance, and I snatched the rifle away right quick.
"I say, that was rather rude of you! If you needed a gun, you could've just asked." He actually did sound a touch hurt, as much as Franklin ever did anyhow. I felt a bit bad, but I couldn't have him going off and breaking such a useful piece of technology before I got the chance to fix it up.
"It's not that," I tried to explain, "I can combine that with my spare chassis, fix it up real good, and make it into something even better! You'd like that, wouldn't you? Come on, isn't it about time for Old Mary Mark 2?"
He grinned at me widely in response, "You're absolutely right! The old girl has served me so well, I think it's about time I retired her... I've got just the place on my wall to honor her years of dedicated service!" Uhm, yes, do with that blasted thing what you will... I'm certainly tired of fixing it.
We all continued onward down the main hallway, dispatching countless more automatons as we progressed. Certainly what they lacked in strength or durability they made up for in numbers, and they didn't lack a whole lot in the other categories in the first place. After a procession of them that seemed like it would absolutely never end, we finally came to a staircase spiraling upwards in a small room on the end of the hall.
This has to be it... the automatons could only be guarding the Vendigroth device... nothing else here warrants such vigilant protection. It may be Vendigroth, but that many machines had to be costly even for them. The hollow, metal stairs rang out as I climbed upward. Step, step, step... sweat formed on my brow as the anticipation grew. What would such a device even look like? Will I know when I've found it?
Even as I reached the top of the stairs I was assaulted by another pair of automatons. My goal was in sight, however, and nothing would stand in my way. On the far end of the room I could see it, a massive, green sphere suspended in a pool of cool, blue liquid. Yes... yes I will know when I found it. Simply being in the same room as the device filled me with a sense of purpose and confidence the likes of which I had never felt before.
I dodged to the side of the first automaton, but I wasn't fast enough... somehow it had managed to strike me solidly on the left shoulder and I dropped my shield reflexively. Son of a bitch, this one can really hit...! I growled underneath my breath and struck out at it violently. My axe burst into blue flames as it sailed through the air, striking the automaton so fiercely that it made my entire arm ache in pain. The automaton exploded violently on contact, the metal bits that fragmented and scattered across the floor glowing bright red with the intense heat.
Holy hell... my axe has never done THAT before...! Sebastian took aim at the farther of the two automatons, his gun having a similar reaction to my axe. The green orbs that launched from it normally hung in the air slowly, almost floating towards their target lazily compared to how a normal bullet might fire. At the moment, however, that was not the case at all... those orbs fired across the length of the room with an incredible speed and the metal frame of the automaton bent and warped beneath their assault. By the time the automaton stopped moving it was a twisted wreck that couldn't have even walked let alone harmed anybody.
With the last of the dangers finally out of the way, I stepped forward and gazed at the orb-shaped device in awe. This... everything any technologist might ever aspire to... the greatest achievement of science, and also the most evil... our last remaining hope for defeating Arronax.
I wrapped up the orb carefully in the magickal robe I'd received from V'ed Eckes, doing my best to dampen the chilling effect it had on its surroundings. It certainly wouldn't be pretty if I tried dragging it into Tulla as it was, or worse... Tarant. Who knows how the local machinery would act if suddenly bolstered by several magnitudes above its original specifications? The whole city might go up in flames!
I gave the orb to Sebastian to carry, continuing the trend of giving him just about anything I didn't feel comfortable holding myself. As usual, he didn't mind in the slightest. I rather liked that about the fellow. He was willing to tolerate whatever I had in mind for him, and with a smile, too.
The way out of Vendigroth was wholly easier than the way in had been. I shook my head sadly at the massive number of crumbled piles of metal that I passed on the way out. Gods, they really wanted to protect this thing, didn't they? I can't really blame them... After passing by the defeated automatons and the altar to Velorien I still had several dozen mutant spider corpses to cautiously step around. I was still covered in the nauseating muck that issued forth from their wounds, now dried, but I certainly didn't care to get even more on me. Bloody hell, I really hope it rains.
Contrary to my wishes, the wastes were as dreadfully barren as ever the whole way to Tulla. I was a bit nervous about how the Vendigroth device would take being transported through the magickal gate they had in place, but it seemed that as long as it was wrapped up in V'ed's robe it would be fine. Sebastian received more than a few odd looks from the students and teachers that wandered about the streets of Tulla and even the guardian beasts growled at him as he passed. They can definitely feel it... even through the robe.
I climbed the stairs at the far end of the main hall of mages and approached the door to Simeon's room carefully. Knocking gently, I headed inside and he looked up at me with disgust in his eyes. Although it was hardly polite of me, I couldn't help but grin. "I do believe you said I could have free use of your portals once I'd succeeded in my mission?"
He grumbled under his breath, "Please, make it quick. I do not wish to suffer the presence of the machine you carry with you any longer... it is a horrible thing." Believe it or not, we agree.
I gazed through the portals thoughtfully for only a moment before making my decision. There's no faster way to get Cynthia that werewolf cure, and I just so happen to have landed my ship in Caladon anyway... I can always sail to Tarant to make my preparations after the fact. I slipped through the portal to Caladon and the others followed closely behind.
Bonus ContentSpeaking of making a good thread, I do believe I promised a rather adventurous tryst (to coin Madam Lil's phrase). I'm pretty sure this is how the voting turned out, but if not feel free to correct me.
Why hello lover... [licking her lips in anticipation]
I think I'm ready for some fun, Bunny...
Oh yeah! I thought you'd never ask! Are you ready for the wildest time of your life?
Oh yeah! Let's go!
Anything for you... Who do you want to join us?
You walk to the back room with them and talk to one of them. Bunny says "Let's get hopping!" or something like that (can't get a screenshot because of the immediate fadeout) and then the screen fades to black for several moments. Time passes (you don't hear anything, unlike some games) and then you get this.
Essentially, the screen fades back in with you passed out on the floor at zero stamina
Also, have a book.
The Great Work
be for naught. Therefore, dedication of all that one is and all that one has to the Great Work, without reservation of any sort, is of the ultimate necessity. This truth must be constantly kept in mind.
It is altogether wrong to allow yourself to be worried by "spiritual, moral, and artistic problems." All is worth nothing unless you can see clearly into the simplicity of truth. All humming and hawing about things is moral poison.
The Great Mage is put into this life to do what he will, and this shall be the whole of the Law. The laws of man are for men, the laws of Fate and Spirit are the only things binding the Great Mage - for they can not be broken, they are the Way.
PRACTICE OF THE GREAT WORK
The first requisite for causing any change is thorough qualitative and quantitative understanding of the conditions. The most common cause of failure in Magick is ignorance of one's own True Will, or of the means to fulfill that Will. A man may fancy himself a Necromancer, and waste his life trying to become one while his Will is aligned toward the Summoning. One can only attract and employ the forces for which he is really fitted.
To know one's True Will, he must find an answer to the question: "How did I come to be in this place at this time, engaged in this Particular Work?" If undertaken in the Proper Spirit, this will start him on the discovery of who he really is, and eventually lead him to recovering the memory of pre- vious incarnations. For all our incarnations are focused in one direction, as an arrow pointing to our destiny. To deny the Spirit is to deny the gods themselves, and one will never reach the Apex of The Great Work if one spends his life struggling against the gods.
Real Power is not Stagnant. All life is con- flict. Every breath that one draws represents a victory in the struggle of the whole Universe. One can't wield Power without perfect mastery of circum- stance. One must have Great Will to achieve this mastery, all of one's life must be concentrated towards the Great Work. One will be immensely stimulated by having all the useless trim- mings stripped from his thinking apparatus. And only then will the Great Work come into focus.
One may learn to use his power so as to serve any purpose, by taking advantage of the above theorems. He may attract to himself any appropriate force of the World by making himself a fit receptacle for it, establishing a connection with it, and arranging conditions so that its nature compels it to flow toward him - if his Spirit is aligned in the direction of those forces. We must remember one cannot go against his destiny and achieve the Power that is due him.
One's sense of self as separate from, and opposed to, the World is a bar to his conducting its currents. It insulates him. There is no limit to the extent of the relations of any man with the World in essence; for as soon as man makes himself one with any idea he has gained the Power of that idea. But his power to utilize that force is limited by his Will Power and Constitution, and by the circumstances of his environment. Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in all Action. Every Great Mage must make Magick the keynote of his life. He must learn its laws and live by them!