Lords of Being
Chapter 37: The Torn Goddess
The non-humans in the party have been summoned to an elegant room with sumptuous furniture and walls in a Polynesian style, by a young-ish oriental man who has introduced himself as Dr. Fu. “I am Kahuna to her divinity Namaka. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her. She is a goddess of the sea in these parts.”
“Never met her,” replies Sylvia DeVerre, Silicon’s latest instantiation.
“I suppose not. We have a recent and urgent problem. You have almost certainly experienced the recent cataclysm a few weeks ago.”
DeVerre looks at Fu more carefully. “Most people do not remember that.”
“I would not suppose they would. But most of the people here cannot forget it. I should explain to you where you are. You are on Nuuamealani. The seat and residence of her divinity.”
“We were headed there. How convenient.”
“You surprise me. After the cataclysm, there have been a number of ‘aftershocks’ of varying duration. One of these aftershocks struck Nuuamealani and her divinity exerted herself to save her realm. I believe that she was largely successful, but at a terrible cost. You say were headed to Nuuamealani?
“May I ask where I have summoned you from?”
Hellgrammite replies, “A plane travelling from Honolulu to Nuuamealani.”
“A plane? On the mundane realm?”
DeVerre shrugs. “Yes. It appears that the island has appeared.”
Mabel corrects, “It has appeared, but not manifested.”
Dr. Fu frowns. “We were afraid of something like that. Our realm was in danger of slipping into the mundane realm and that would not do for any number of reasons. Not only for the physical damage to both of us. You say it has not properly manifested. What has appeared?”
Hellgrammite responds, “There is an island with people and trees, but once you get there you fall into the water.”
Rosamond adds, “An illusion from long ago. Nuuamealani was last seen in the mundane world over ten million years ago.”
Fu nods and looks interested.
DeVerre interjects, “It might help to correlate what’s been happening in both realms. You say here there have been aftershocks. In the mundane realms, it’s always been the case that things back up a bit and need a bit of pushing along. Since the catastrophe, there have been more substantial events. Rains of frogs, lights under the seas, and other anomalous events. They also seem to be getting larger in magnitude. The latest anomaly is the appearance of the island from our past. It might be good to know how these two sets of events correspond, if at all.”
“In my service to her divinity, I have learned much of the history of Nuuamealani. It was originally completely in the mundane realm, although richly haunted by the folk who still live here. You may have heard of the Nawao and Menehune?”
Hellgrammite nods. “Yes.”
“As time wore on, it was extended into its own realm and developed there so, as the waves wore away the mundane portions, everyone moved into the astral version of Nuuamealani. Which is where you now are. It has been so for many ages now, until the aftershocks.” Dr. Fu pauses and considers his words carefully. “I must apologize. I spoke of ‘aftershocks.’ That is only a simile. What we here have felt have been disturbances within the fabric of the world.”
This has Hellgrammite’s interest. “Did you feel more shocks to form or energy?”
“We simply know that we felt odd things in the mana of the world. Like hearing strange calls in the night, like feeling the ground shift under your feet. And with the worst of these, we began to slide back into the material realm.”
DeVerre counts on her fingers. “Frogs. Nut-walters. Ring of Light. Dogs. This.” She looks at the rest of the company, “Is that everything?” They nod, and she turns back to Dr. Fu. “Have these been distinct enough that you’ve experienced these?”
Dr. Fu inclines his head. “We were aware of five instances.”
Hellgrammite decides that these people are clearly not mundane; they know about Order and Chaos, The Breakdown, and the anomalies. It’s time to lay our cards on the table. “Hi. I am Jonathan, a Courtier of Chaos. These are my associates, Zabeth of Chaos, Rosamund of Chaos and Mabel of Order. The job of the Courtiers of Chaos and Order is to keep the energies of Chaos and Order moving from the astral to the material.”
DeVerre jumps in: “I’m Sylvia DeVerre, and I’m the Elemental Knight of Silicon. Claude here is the Elemental Knight of Neon. And this chap is Catalyst, who’s an honorary member of the Order of Elemental Knights. In the new, post-apocalyptic world, we of the Order have been responsible for directing the Courtiers to the physical location of these anomalies. Before the catastrophe, there was no mundane location for the blockages. Now you have to go to the physical location. We act as guides, they act as repair men. You seem to have summoned us to do our job.”
“We appear to have experienced an extreme shock. My problem is not an illusion in the sea…” Dr. Fu is interrupted by screams. After a moment, a couple of big strapping Polynesian men come into the room. They have the “air” of Fay about them. They nervously talk with Dr. Fu in what Rosamund can identify as Hawaiian. Dr. Fu replies, “Try to quiet her.” He goes to a liquor cabinet and pours a shot of some liquor. “Give this to her. See if it helps. I will be along as soon as I can.”
DeVerre can tell the glass in real. In fact, now that she thinks about it, there is a lot of sand around, too.
Mabel can feel Dr. Fu infuse manna into the drink. She looks at the bottle. It says, “Bacardi.” It’s rum.
After dispatching the two men with the drink, Dr. Fu returns to our team. “Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, Her divinity. She exerted herself to keep the realm from slipping into the sea but at terrible cost. She is very unwell. I do not know how much you people would know of mythology.”
Mabel murmurs, “We pick some up here and there.”
“You bear the aspects of westerners. You have heard of the war between Zeus and Typhon? If you remember the details of the story, at first the monster prevailed over Zeus, and even rendered him powerless by stealing his sinews. So he had the king of the gods lying helpless. We seem to be in a similar situation. Her power seems to have torn loose when she succeeded in keeping Nuuamealani in its proper state. I know that it is not destroyed. So just as Hermes and Athena was able to restore Zeus’ sinews and a he was able to prevail in their second encounter, I was hoping that one of you would be able to restore Her divinity’s powers. Otherwise if there is another shock…”
Mabel completes, “It’s not clear that she or her realm would survive.”
DeVerre adds, “And if we push the island back, there would be another shock.” She’s entangled an atom the Bacardi bottle. “So you have a Deck and you summoned us here by means of it. And fairly soon we will need to take you up on your contract. And the contract is that you want us to find her missing power.”
Dr. Fu nods. “Yes. How much do you know about divine anatomy?”
“Not much. How physical is it?”
Dr. Fu shrugs. “As physical as it wants to be. Have you ever heard of an astral projection or a Ka?”
DeVerre grins. “That’s what we are.”
“Her divinity’s power resides in her astral body, which appears to have gone missing.” Dr. Fu is interrupted by more screaming.
DeVerre asks, “By any chance her?”
Dr. Fu sighs, “I fear so.” Before he can continue, the door bursts open. The two men are there, accompanied by a gorgeous, raving, naked woman. She is screaming in a language that Rosamund knows she’s heard before but can’t quite understand. Dr. Fu bows and holds up his hands and puts them on her head, then touches her at various places. The Courtiers can tell that he’s emptying all his mana into her.
While Dr. Fu is ministering to his damaged deity, DeVerre edges to the door, which leads to a hallway and a balcony. Beyond is a tropical island and throngs of people looking up. Dr. Fu goes to the cabinet and pours some more rum and hands the glass to Her, then pours himself another and knocks it back. The goddess shakily drinks the liquor. Whether as a result of the mana, or the alcohol, She’s reduced to muttering. The two men lead Her away, past DeVerre, who looks at the goddess with her metaphysical senses. The goddess is clearly a metaphysical being. There’s a structure in her like the one Simon saw in Rene, but it’s very, very dim. The two attendants in contrast have a clear structure and a gentle, steady glow about them.
DeVerre runs down the hallway and the leaps off the balcony and dives into the sand, which she finds is enchanted. She’s able to absorb mana from it at an accelerated rate; however, she can only hold so much and was already almost ‘full’. DeVerre rises out of the sand with sand cascading off her. The watching Fay are impressed. She’s risen with a handful of sand which she compresses into sandstone and stores in a pocket. She smiles and nods uncomfortably to the throng, and looks around for a stairway or ladder. There’s a door over there in the… palace. She enters. There’s guards who aren’t about to stop the crazy haolie lady who wanders about looking for a stairway.
Dr. Fu was visibly shaken when DeVerre jumped off the balcony and asks, “Is that all right?”
Mabel shrugs. “Yes, that should be just fine.”
Hellgrammite adds, “She’s diving into her element.”
“I see… a little.” Dr. Fu shakes his head, “As I was saying, She’s not entirely herself.”
DeVerre strolls back into the room and grins impishly. “At least She’s not someone else.”
“Not entirely, no. In any case, I will give you this incentive, since your own immediate work is to banish the illusion. Should you recover Her power, I feel sure that it would be trivial for the goddess to banish the illusion for you.”
DeVerre nods. “And it’s probably a safer way of accomplishing the task. Is there anything more you tell or give us before we go off to decide whether to take the contract?”
“Can you take anything physical with you?”
Dr. Fu reaches into his sleeve and pulls out a business card. The card reads ‘Fu Yuin-Fah’ in English. There’s also Chinese characters. “You can use this to contact me. I don’t know where to tell you to seek her power, other than that it went into the mundane realm. It should not be a subtle thing to find, unless it chooses to hide. It is after all a divine power.”
DeVerre takes the card. “Do you have anything intimately connected with her?”
Mabel adds, “A token?”
Hellgrammite suggests, “Anything that her power may be drawn towards.”
Dr. Fu considers. “There are such things. I’ll need to think of an appropriate one. Please wait here.” Dr. Fu leaves the room and is gone for quite some time.
While they wait, DeVerre pulls out her lump of sandstone, pinches off a chunk and pockets the rest. She rolls the chunk between her palms until it’s a solid piece of quartz and the shapes it into a magnifying glass. Using her glass, she looks for hairs. She doesn’t find any. She back tracks the path of the goddess. Apparently goddesses don’t shed.
Catalyst asks, “Should I volunteer to donate some mana?”
DeVerre looks up from her hunt. “Certainly.” DeVerre rolls her shoulders, “And you can borrow a little of mine. I can replenish.”
DeVerre shrugs. “Go offer to do that and see if you can get several strands of hair.”
Dr. Fu returns as she says this. “That might be dangerous. But I believe you might want to use this.” He hands a necklace of champagne colored pearls to Catalyst. “It’s a current favorite of hers.”
Catalyst passes the strand to DeVerre who puts it in another pocket. “Would you like more mana?”
Dr. Fu nods, “Certainly.” Catalyst places a hand on the Dr. There’s a whoosh, and he’s now topped off.
Catalyst says to DeVerre, “Now I could use that topping off.” She places a hand on his arm and transfers the mana, and then runs down the hall to dive into the sand once more.
Turning back to Dr. Fu, Catalyst asks, “Is there any more I could give you?” Dr. Fu leads the Knight to the liquor cabinet and they enchant all of the liquor there. Once they’re done and Dr. Fu is topped off once more, Catalyst asks, “Should we be going?”
Hellgrammite nods, “Yes, I think so.”
Mabel agrees, “I believe then we have everything we need for the moment.” The Courtiers and Knights disappear, leaving Dr. Fu alone in his office. DeVerre, happily soaking up manna from the enchanted sand of the island suddenly vanishes, leaving behind a depression in the beach.
The team’s Kas return to the plane. The Courtiers are no longer tired. There are two instances of Catalyst and Si. Neon isn’t with them. Presumably his second instance has gone back to Denmark, for however long his second instance lasts this time. The two Catalysts go to the galley and begin cooking up a storm.
Neville asks, “Where were you this time?”
Hellgrammite replies, “The astral version of the island that’s appeared.”
“Did you fall in?”
Mabel grins.“This one was quite solid. It appears to have excellent sand.”
Hellgrammite adds, “The goddess was on the island.”
Mabel explains, “She was attempting to keep it from manifesting in the mundane realm, but it cost her.”
Hellgrammite says, “They contracted us to find the other part of her.”
From the galley, Catalyst says, “They kept calling it her power. Her astral body.”
Neville asks, “Her body was missing?”
Hellgrammite responds, “No, her body was there.”
Mabel adds, “Her spirit, no… Her sane essence.”
“The goddess has gone insane?” asks Neville.
Mabel shrugs, “Yeah.”
“That must be unnerving and dangerous.”
Hellgrammite explains, “Everyone was worried, but not desperately worried. She’s lost her power, so all she could do is a lot of flailing and screaming.”
From the back of the plane we hear DeVerre yell, “What do you mean you didn’t bring them here?!” Then silence as she and Si flit to Silicon Valley. A few moments later, Sylvia and Si appear out of Neville’s phone, still arguing about the fact that the two previous instances of Silicon hadn’t prepared to equip a third instance. They go over to the communications closet and start ransacking it for the Knowledge Navigator.
As the two instances of Silicon bicker, Hellgrammite goes to his workbench and starts building a compass that will point at the owner of an object.
Once DeVerre and Si finish extracting the Knowledge Navigator, they contemplate the card from Dr. Fu. They’ve realized that they still have some questions for him. DeVerre asks, “Can we use it more than once?”
Si shrugs. “Assume no.”
DeVerre had entangled one of the atoms in the rum bottle in Dr. Fu’s office, which is in a different plane of existance. Perhaps she can swap atoms with the one in Dr. Fu’s office? She tries, and vanishes from the aircraft.
Dr. Fu is startled when Syliva DeVerre steps out of his liquor cabinet. “Dr. Fu?” He nods, uncertainly. “When she became disempowered, where was she?”
“Down at the seashore.”
DeVerre presses, “On sand?”
“Yes, of course. Is that good?”
“Yes.” DeVerre finally registers that Dr. Fu was not expecting her to appear suddenly in his office. “Do you have piece of glassware that it be more convenient to appear at? The bottle was so convenient.”
Dr. Fu moves the rum bottle to the corner of his desk and waves his hands to indicate that the bottle is as good as anything. Sylvia disappears.
DeVerre stops out of Neville’s phone. He mutters about wishing she wouldn’t do that without warning, but before he can raise a stink, DeVerre calls out, “I have an idea! We can retrocog for exactly what happened when she separated. She was on sand, which makes it so much easier.”
Catalyst calls from the galley, “Good!”
Neville grumbles “Why didn’t you do it?”
One of the instances of Catalyst appears at the galley door, wiping his hands on a dishtowel. “Do you want both of you?”
DeVerre replies, “In part I thought it would be best if we both did it, and in part I’m trying not to go haring off on my own like some people. Any other ideas?”
Hellgrammite calls from his workstation, “Find out her favorite haunts in the real world.”
DeVerre grins. “Yes! And Fu would probably know.”
Catalyst comes forward with a tray. “Do any of you need to be topped off?” DeVerre nods. “Eat this.” He hands her a bread roll, still hot from the oven. DeVerre pops it in her mouth and is topped off.
Si hands DeVerre a glass ball off of the rail gun which he has entangled. She’s also got the glass shotgun. The two of them blink out.
DeVerre appears in Dr. Fu’s office, followed an instant later by Si. Dr. Fu happened to be looking at the bottle when they arrived and comments, “That looked… very peculiar.”
DeVerre rolls her shoulders. “It’s still feeling peculiar.”
“Who’s the gentleman?”
“That’s Simon. He’s me. We’re Glass. Silicon? Normally we only instantiate once per planet.”
Dr. Fu raises an eyebrow, and then shrugs. “You were asking where She was working when the accident befell Her. Follow me.” He leads them to the beach. “I believe it was about here.”
Si gestures, “Ladies first.”
DeVerre replies, “Age before beauty”
Si retorts, “Pearls before swine.” When DeVerre frowns and can’t come up with a comeback, he grins and retrocogs.
They see the woman who’s been identified as the goddess. She looks sane, but desperate. She’s doing some sort of dance. It’s a hula, but not the kind shown to tourists. She’s dancing like crazy and they can somehow tell that the dance is aimed at the horizon. Looking towards the horizon, they see masses of clouds swirling as if they were in fast forward. The sky is also swirling. The goddess seems to be trying to do something about it. DeVerre focuses her metaphysical senses to see beyond the Fay-appearing body. Metaphysically, Her lights are blazing. DeVerre has never seen a Fay so full of mana. Her aura is flaming like the sun, and mostly projecting out towards the horizon. As the goddess’ hula conjuration reaches a frantic peak, the blaze flares and DeVerre sees a copy of Her astral anatomy fly out of her, taking the blazing energy with it. With a cry, the goddess collapses. DeVerre sees the energy dive towards the horizon; in the “normal” world, that would be to the south-east. Looking back at the goddess, DeVerre sees that there’s still a scintilla of energy left in her. Looking up from the prone body, DeVerre sees drummers who are faltering as they register that their goddess has fallen. The last thing seen is Dr. Fu hastening towards the stricken goddess.
As the retrocog fades, DeVerre realizes that Si didn’t have on the specs. She yells at him for the lapse, and then stoops to scoop more of that lovely enchanted sand into her purse. Dr. Fu looks at her oddly, but says nothing.
Si points towards the horizon. “That direction. This would correspond with south-east in the mundane world. So the most obvious place to look would be is Hawaii.” Dr. Fu nods. “I assume that the volcanism is important?”
Si grins, “I’m very fond of lava.”
Dr. Fu says severely, “That might be an opinion to keep to yourself. Are you familiar with her family relations?”
“Have you heard of Pele?”
Si shrugs. “Good.”
Dr. Fu shakes his head. “No. Family squabbles.”
DeVerre says sweetly, “You know about those.”
Dr Fu adds, “Over a boyfriend.”
Si sighs, “Oh.” Elemental Knights tend not to know about those.
Dr Fu continues, “She likes Oahu. She doesn’t go to the big island. On the other hand, family is when you have to go there; they have to take you in. Or is that ‘home’?”
DeVerre looks at Dr. Fu. “This thing about Pele…” She pauses and gestures at herself and Si. “We’re both really personifications of lava. It’s all me you know. I’m silicon. All of it. Personified. I am silicon. I always have been. You know, before there was dirt. So we’re sort of cousins, Pele and I.”
Dr. Fu allows, “Or she’s a very faithful client of yours.”
“I hope your lady won’t hold that against me?”
“She doesn’t seem to mind your aspect as sand.”
DeVerre grins. “I was hoping that would help.”
“Have you need of anything else?”
“No, I think the token and access to this sand… I can see the past if it has occurred on sand quite well.”
“Ah. The sands of time.”
Dr. Fu grins back at her. “Fond of soap opera?”
“No. I haven’t been around much.” After a pause to consider if there was anything else, she remembers, “The card. Can it be used more than once?”
“Drop a bit of mana on it and I will hear you.”
“More than once?”
“Yes. Do you want to take the bottle?”
“No. It’s what allows me to come back here.” And with that, they vanish once more, leaving Dr. Fu alone on the beach.
But only for an instant. As Dr. Fu turns to head back to his office, DeVerre runs out the balcony overlooking the beach. They’d forgotten to ask about Her favorite haunts in the mundane world.
“She likes Honalulu. That’s her favorite place.”
“Sorry I was distracted by all this lovely sand.” DeVerre disappears again.
Back on the plane, DeVerre reports on what they discovered to Hellgrammite, and then wanders into the cockpick. “Captain?”
Captain Barron looks at her without recognition. “And you are?”
“I’m Sylvia DeVere. Glass III.”
“It turns out we have new mission. We need to go back to Honolulu.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Captain Barron clearly isn’t sure about this new person, so he calls out, “Is that all right with everybody?” There’s a chorus of assent from the cabin, so he starts laying in a new course.
DeVerre hasn’t left the cockpit. Captain Barron cocks an eyebrow at her, so she asks, “You know about the magic island?” The Captain nods. “It’s the haunt of an ancient Polynesian goddess. The island was on its way here which would have been a bad thing. She managed to hold most of it back except for its image. She was torn asunder in the process. Apparently it drove her nuts. We need to find her other half, which was last seen headed towards Honolulu. If you see anything unusual, giant birds, flying humans, please let us know.”
Captain Barron dryly remarks, “Unless it’s in the cabin.”
“We might pass right through her, but yes.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He turns back to the task of flying the plane.
Meanwhile, Hellgrammite has finished his compass and picks up the necklace. He concentrates on it. It feels like it’s Hers. He applies the compass to the necklace, and the needle points towards Hawaii through the length of the plane.
DeVerre makes her way to the galley where both instances of Catalyst are still cooking. “You know, we haven’t formally accepted the contract.”
One of the Catalyst instances looks up from the dough he’s kneading. “Do you want to say it? You’ve been doing all the popping back and forth.”
“Sure.” She sets her shoulders and declaims, “We accept the contract.” And disappears.
Pop. DeVerre appears in Dr. Fu’s office in the same place the crew originally appeared. The Dr. is sitting behind his desk and looks up. “I thought you might be back again.”
“We realized that we hadn’t accepted the contract, and thought we should.”
“Ah. That’s good.”
“Jonathan has created a compass and applied it to the token and it’s pointing back to Hawaii. The plane is heading back that way. We ourselves are no longer planning on pushing the illusion back, which might have created an aftershock.”
“Do you know of anyone who might be able to hide the illusion from the world at large?”
“In a mundane way, I’ve done that. Are you up on modern technology?” Dr. Fu nods. “I’ve tinkered with all of the satellites but one. I’ve pirated that one. The onboard computers are editing the island out, except for ours. It’s always possible that a passing airplane will see it, or the owners of the satellites will come up with a way to defeat my hacking, but for now we should be safe.”
“Thank you. I’ll convene a council of the chiefs and see if we can do something from this end to keep things hidden. It will be interesting laying a mirage on top of another mirage.”
“We have a second team. I’ll see if they can assist with the cover. Oh, please excuse me. I’m in essence Simon’s ka, but since he’s a ka himself... just before you summoned us, we contacted the Fay. Perhaps they can assist in concealing from the island from the mundane world.”
“There are of course populations of Nawao and Menehune on the Hawaiian islands.”
“Perhaps they might be able to provide intelligence.” DeVerre pauses for a moment, then asks, “Is there a chance that there’s a malignant influence behind this?”
Dr. Fu cocks his head. “I’ve wondered about that.”
“Did we mention the dogs?”
“You mentioned something about that.”
“Do you know about Tyndale Hounds?”
“I’ve heard rumors. Bizarre creatures sometimes spotted… having to do with time. And we have an island, floating in the sea… what about them?”
DeVerre explains about the last anomaly. When she finishes, Dr. Fu considers. “How… delightful.”
“Time you say.”
“They are attracted to temporal magic.”
“So it might be a temporal attack or a temporal tear. I’ve let that go rusty. I used to specialize in temporal magic, but that was quite a while back.”
“Are you sure you have not attracted them?”
“You can’t be sure, but I didn’t split and become anything more peculiar than is my nature until well after these things started… Oh dear. I’ll have to think about that.”
“So shall I. You say you did them in? How?”
“We shot them.”
“That works? That’s encouraging.”
“We blew them up. This is one of those details that I’m a little hazy on and they’re his memory and… never mind. If you need to know, ask Simon or one of the others.”
“But you can shoot them and they die. Amazing.”
“You have to be good at it. They’re fast.”
“I assure you, we have good shots here.”
“Someone had the theory that … he wasn’t in his best socks… he wasn’t in his best mind, top form… he was afraid that the Maskim would come through one of these anomalies and something had to be done to fend them off.”
“I shall have to look up the Maskim.”
“If you find any indications of them, please let us know. I should be going.”
Dr. Fu stands. “I’m sure we’ll meet again soon.”
“Ah. I wonder if this works.” DeVerre pulls out her phone. “Damn, no bars.” And she disappears.
Pop. DeVerre steps out of Neville’s phone. “Sorry, I tried to call but couldn’t get any bars in the other plane.”
Neville looks at her. “You’re not supposed to use your phone on a plane.”
“No. The other dimension.”
DeVerre leaves Neville and goes to the workstation where Hellgrammite is still tinkering with his compass. It’s still pointing towards the front of the plane. “We should talk to the Fays again. We should see if they can help cover the island. And there are a number of Fay in Oahu and Honolulu who may be able to help us locate the goddess.”
Hellgrammite nods, “Yes. I’ll contact Said.”
“Good. It wasn’t me. I should go to work until I’m needed.” As the Catalysts pass by with a platter of sandwiches, she asks, “How are you doing, Catalysts?”
One of the Catalysts responds, “I don’t like this. I’m going to drop it soon.”
The second instance says, “I’m going to whip up a bunch of power cookies.”
The two instances look at each other, and the first says, “Dealer and Decker have a lot to answer for.” They continue on their way to the cockpit. Won’t Captain Barron be surprised?
DeVerre goes to one of the workstations up front, seats herself and starts typing.
Last Updated: Feb 21, 2010
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved