“Experience is the best teacher. So let us conduct one final experiment. Come with me, Drokor,” said the Director, waving her wand and momentarily opening a door-sized hole in the dome. Golden shafts of sunlight poured in, and the oily purple sheen of the dome glimmered beautifully in its glow. Drokor rose, wiping tears of laughter from beneath his goggles.
Sejifra waved her wand and manifested the two stones again, then wrapped her long fingers around one and plucked it from the air. She walked through the doorway, Drokor following behind her, giving Zoivox a little wave. They stood silhouetted in the light, their long shadows cast into the dome.
“Zoivox,” she said, turning back, “Take the other stone, walk to the other side of the dome, and face away from us. No peeking,” she said, nodding briefly at Drokor. “He will whisper something into his stone. You will whisper something into yours. Whisper something that I could never know, just so you can have no doubt that you are hearing the other’s live and current voice, not a recording or enchantment. Then we will close the door and repeat the process, and compare.”
Sejifra turned, and her grey robes swished as she walked farther away toward the large windows of the chamber. Drokor shrugged and followed, his heavy-booted footsteps fading.
Zoivox did as instructed, carrying the cool grey stone to the far end of the dome, then standing with her back to the door. She let go of the stone and watched as it continued to hover in the air. I don’t hear a thing yet, she thought. Then, the stone began to blur – and to speak.
“Er. Hullo, Zoivox. This is Drokor. This feels… weird. The stone is repeating what I say… after I say it… and I’m mighty distracted… by the echo. I need to say something unique enough, so… you know I’m talking to you live right now because there is a blue string on the back of your dress from that cushion.”
Zoivox ran both clawed hands down the backs of her legs, then found – and carefully plucked off – a long blue thread. She blushed, then wondered why she was blushing, and rolled it into a ball between her fingertips.
“And, er, you know it’s really me because I remember when we were Azures and our whole class went hiking in the Forest of Bellthora. I went off the trail to examine the pillars of crystalline fleurissite, and you were the only one who noticed I was gone. You came after me. Even though you said you were chasing Wimsies.” She heard his low, unmistakable laugh.
“Yeah,” she whispered back. “And we argued all the rest of the way about what was more interesting, your big stupid rocks or my little stupid animals. We were last back to camp, so we had to wash all the dishes, no magic allowed,” she said with a wistful smile. “I think that was the most trouble I’d ever been in in my life….”
“Least it stopped us arguing about rocks and animals, and gave us new things to argue about!”
She gave an embarrassed chuckle. “All the other girls were pointing and giggling at me – at us – and I just didn’t understand why…”
“…And then I explained, and you turned as purple as the dusk and wouldn’t say one thing more for the rest of the night!” He laughed again, and she grinned, feeling the color rise in her cheeks.
The color drained away as, suddenly, Drokor’s warm laugh was replaced by the much colder, much louder voice of Sejifra. “And now we repeat the experiment with the dome fully intact.”
She snapped her fingers, and the dome became whole again, cutting off the golden sunlight and the last echoes of the snap.
Zoivox blinked as her eyes readjusted to the sourceless blueish light. She stood there, her back to what was once a door, and waited, listening.
There was no sound.
She kept waiting.
“Um,” she began at last, whispering to the stone. “I don’t know if you’re even trying to talk to me. I can’t hear anything from my stone. Which shouldn’t be weird, because it wasn’t until earlier tonight that I’d have expected to hear a stone talk at all, and I’m yammering again,” she said, with a small sigh, rubbing the back of her neck. “Trying to fill the silence. Like I do.
“But it is weird,” she went on. “Because once something happens, no matter how unlikely it is, you expect it to keep happening. You don’t mean to take anything for granted, and you still know just how amazing it was, how magical it was, that it ever happened to begin with… but it becomes part of your world, and you can’t imagine a world without it, and you don’t want to.”
Her smile unfurled slowly, a blue bloom – then stopped, faded, and pursed together again like a flower closing in twilight.
“But then, sudden or slowly, it stops. And even though the silence is so weird for a while… soon, it becomes normal, too.” She shook her head, silently staring at the cold purple metal.
“I keep expecting to hear your voice again, Drokor. From out of this stone. From everywhere. Every day. I know you can’t hear this. I don’t know if you’d even want to. But… it’s been nice to talk with you again.”
She swallowed hard, and just stared at the stone for a moment.
The silence seemed eternal, and despite the vast size of the dome, she felt very confined and alone.
Finally, the door opened in the dome again, letting in the sunlight, the Director, and Drokor. His cheeks were slightly red, and there was a questioning look in his eyes.
“You… you really didn’t hear anything, right?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Nothing. …And you?”
“Not a squawk.”
The two smiled awkwardly at each other, bashful, but not looking away. Each wondering who would speak first, and what they’d say, and how to say it. Each watching the other’s lips. Zoivox rubbed the back of her neck, took a breath, and –
“As you have seen,” declared Sejifra, as stentorian as ever, “This magimaterial is impervious to all sound.”
Wincing slightly, they both turned their shattered attention back to the Director, who continued.
“Even if we were to place a resonite stone within a sphere of this material, then set it atop one of the Thundering Peaks during an ellquake, the stone in the sphere would remain completely unaffected. Since all Mountain Homes on Elarra are Conjured and delivered through the Sending Center, I will simply Conjure a sphere of this very same magimaterial around the building before we transmit our signal.”
Zoivox blinked. “Around… the entire Sending Center.”
Drokor began to chuckle once more.
Sejifra gave a crisp nod. “And, needless to say…”
She gave a snap of her fingers. Immediately, the dome became completely invisible. Zoivox gave it a few exploratory prods, which made a curious absence of sound. “It’s unlikely that it will be seen,” finished the Director.
Drokor grinned widely. “Knew it! Full brilliant, this is. But… ahh, no,” he said, shaking his head. “It can’t work after all. Our signal will send true to the Homes, wherever in all the worlds they are. Shielding the Homes here will keep our message from being screamed out to the whole Academy. But…”
Zoivox sighed ruefully. “You’re right. It’ll still get sent to all the other resonite things on Elarra. Maybe not perfectly, but surely well enough that someone, somewhere, might still hear. We can’t shield all the resonite in the world.
“But… hmm…” Her small, sharp claws drummed soundlessly on the invisible wall. “What happens when it isn’t a complete dome – when there’s a hole or a doorway, as we tested before – but when the source is not in front of the hole? What if Drokor had walked around the dome to be standing right in front of me, past the wall?”
There was a subtle glimmer in Sejifra’s amber eyes. “Tell me what you think.”
“Well… we know that resonite doesn’t care about distance,” Zoivox began slowly, her wings giving another nervous flutter as she glanced back and forth between Sejifra and Drokor. “But we know that this magimaterial can completely block all sound, even magical sound.” she said, splaying her fingers on the unseen wall. “Without the resonite, even if he shouted, I’m sure I’d never hear his actual voice. But, through the resonite… I imagine that… we would have heard each other still, but it would have been quieter. Maybe more quiet the more magimaterial stood in the way?”
She looked anxiously back at Sejifra – who nodded. “Quite so.”
Drokor beamed at Zoivox. “So we don’t just put a sphere around the Sending Center – we also put most of one around the giant Mountain Home! One with a hole up at the top, so the transmission can be funneled out to space.” he proposed. “Bit like a lampshade – but for sound!”
Sejifra nodded to Drokor, as well. “This shielding will also ensure that the message we transmit is minimally distorted by the vibrations of Elarran resonite.”
“Full brilliant after all,” he replied. “But… where can we do this? Where in all the world can you manifest a gigantic Mountain Home, shielded in an even more gigantic dome, invisible or not?”
“Why would it have to be on this world?” asked Sejifra.
“Even you can’t teleport anything directly to Earth,” Zoivox said. “We don’t have any other options.”
Sejifra’s amber eyes looked up to the distant vaulted ceiling. “Don’t we?”
She swirled her wand in a complex series of arcs and jabs, then closed her eyes and curled a fingertip. The entire invisible dome began to rise from the floor, ascending through the sunbeams.
Dorkor let out a whoop and covered his head with his arms. Zoivox’s wings spread out instinctively as she crouched down to a floor she could feel but couldn’t see.
She had a sudden memory of the quavva bug her parents used to keep in a beautifully-woven cage. They’d moved up the tree in her seventh summer, and as she carried the cage up the carved and curving steps, she wondered whether the bug felt like it was standing still as the world sank and spun around it. The finely-patterned floor slowly fell away below them, and the ceiling grew ever closer.
“Would you be astounded beyond belief,” asked Sejifra, “if I moved this dome, or teleported this dome, to… let us say, the Milquomb Gardens?”
“What?” asked a wide-eyed Zoivox. “What does that have to do with…”
“Would you?” insisted the Director.
“I… no? Surprised, maybe, but that’s not even that far away! We took field trips there all the time, and got there long before lunch…” she replied, her head swimming.
“Space, many are surprised to learn, is only as far away as the Milquomb Gardens. If you rose straight up in the air,” she said, as the dome continued ascending past the great arched window, “at a mundane vehicle’s pace, you could get there in a morning.” Soundlessly, it came to rest against the apex of the ceiling.
“What?! You’re not seriously suggesting…” Zoivox looked at the placid face of the Director, and her own cycled through a quick succession of expressions before settling on . “No. Of course you are. You never joke. She isn’t joking, Drokor. She wants to send the message FROM SPACE.”
A faintly weary look crossed Sejifra’s face, and she turned to look out the great window. “‘Magic hath its rules and bounds, but none more tightly bind / Than those that close encircleth the Mage’s heart and mind.’ Killdorian.” She looked over her shoulder, her features silhouetted in the magical light. “We must always ask ourselves whether we think something is absurd because it is impractical – or simply because it is unprecedented.”
She snapped her fingers again, and the dome became opaque once more. It lurched, and Zoivox and Drokor stumbled into each other. Zoivox’s heart lurched as well. Her wings fluttered, and she thought again of the quavva bug. Did it feel like the world was sinking? Or did it feel like was flying without even trying to? Or did it know it was being carried the whole time, simply trusting us to take it where it needed to be?
She felt a small jolt as the dome returned to the ground.
“Our plan is simple, in the end,” Sejifra said. “We Conjure an exponentially-scaled Mountain Home to transmit a message to Earth, and we position it in low Elarran orbit. We shield its Elarra-facing area with this magimaterial, blocking most of its transmission from reaching anything on our world. For all possible security, we invisibly shield the Sending Center itself below, preventing our message from reaching the Homes within, and we send that message in code. Thus, Earth and only Earth will receive our message. When our transmission ceases, I Banish the device and Conjure it again when next needed.
“But although the mechanics are simple, the execution may be difficult. It will still take great energy to ensure our transmission does not weaken on its way across the Galaxy, and I can sustain only so much before I must rest. I will have to draw from my every reserve of power – within myself, within my artifacts, within all those things I hoped never to need.” Her voice, as ever, was measured and calm, but there was a distant look in her eyes, just for a moment. “I am afraid I could only do this once. Therefore, we will send our message in short bursts, approximately one message every two days. We will have to trust that the Earthites hear the transmissions, decode the transmissions, and follow through.”
“What if… what if they don’t?” Zoivox’s face was a pallid shade of lavender.
Drokor had been listening quietly, rubbing his moustache between his fingertips. Finally, now, he spoke, placing his great but gentle hand on her shoulder. “Then we will have tried. That will still matter.”
She gave a wan smile and a grateful little nod.
“What about you, though, Sejifra?” Zoivox asked. “If it takes such effort, if you have to rest so often between messages… will you be okay?”
“I am sure I will be. But this cannot be the only way we communicate with Earth. It is too slow, too taxing – and we cannot hear back. I have an idea of how we can do so. It would be too risky to make it our first and only means of communication; it would reach too few and too randomly, and this first message must be cast as broadly as possible. However, once we have established the initial connection, it is a method that would work more easily, more reliably, more instantaneously.
But it is only an idea, it is not a plan: I cannot bring to fruition on my own, nor with your aid; we do not have adequate knowledge or access. We would need another on our team – someone more versed in magimechanical communications. Someone with access to Earth. Someone who is willing to take risks and to break rules – but someone whom we can still trust. I have no such connections,” said Sejifra.
Zoivox thought again of the cruel doodles she’d seen on the margins of scrolls, the callous rumors she’d heard in the halls. The way she’d had to Conjure seats when they’d visited. She thought of herself, as well: the long hours in the field and in the lab, the long hours at the Academy, the plans made then canceled, the everyday friendships that had become weekly meetups, monthly special occasions, sporadic catch-ups. She swallowed hard, and realized that Drokor’s hand was still on her shoulder. Again, she felt the blood rise hot to her cheeks, but she couldn’t tell whether it was from fondness or shame.
Not, that is, until he spoke.
“I think we do. Zoivox does better than I, that is,” he said, a hint of resignation in his voice. “But we know someone. He’s… unorthodox. And I’m not sure if he still has access to Earth. But he has the skills. He has the smarts. And, aye, we can trust him.”
“You’re sure, Drokor? I mean, I agree: if anyone could do it, it’s him. But wouldn’t it be… weird?”
“Of course it’ll be weird,” Drokor said. “It’s Izz.”
Again, on the following night, there were no greetings as Zoivox and Drokor passed through the door to Sejifra’s office. No pleasantries, no small talk, no offering of tea. Not even a hint of a smile. The Director didn’t even rise from her chair.
This is even scarier than yesterday, Zoivox thought as she and Drokor settled into their seats around Sejifra’s desk. She’d had a full day to think about Sejifra’s response. A full day to worry that it was a misunderstanding. And much of the previous night, as well; she’d barely been able to sleep. She knew that Sejifra herself had had a full day to change her mind – and to potentially get in touch with higher authorities.
Drokor looked doubtful, as well. No, not doubtful. He looks… empty. Like he’d have to dig a mineshaft 80 kells deep to find his expectations.
But Sejifra’s face was as deadpan as ever, betraying nothing of what was to come. Saying not a word, she rose, extracted her wand from her grey robes, and began to move it in a complex maneuver. The cool blue light of the room flickered slightly, and the walls seemed to distort. A hiss and a rumble filled the air, and the tip of the wand began to glow purple.
Zoivox clenched her teeth and tried very hard not to wince.
Drokor looked as if he was prepared to leap over the desk and tackle the Director if she made the smallest aggressive move.
The hiss grew louder, cut with a high-pitched, keening whine, until – with a dazzling flash of purple light, and an anticlimactic sound describable only as fwip – it stopped.
Despite his dark lenses, Drokor blinked repeatedly, muttering a few choice syllables under his breath. Zoivox rubbed her eyes and, when the spots faded, looked around the room – only to find that it, too, had vanished. The desk, Sejifra’s chair, the stone walls, all were gone, and they were sitting in the midst of a much larger chamber, vaulted ceilings arching high above them.
Sunlight streamed in from the large arched window in the back of the chamber, gleaming on the warm blonde hardwood floor. An elegantly-carved desk of honeywood stood before it, five thick leatherbound tomes resting in a recess built into its front. Below the desk lay a thick rug of pale gold, ornately embroidered with silvery symbols. Shelves, laden with books, were built into the dark marble walls, with slim, fluted half-columns of honeywood between them.
Drokor seemed too stunned to worry, for a while. He whistled appreciatively, his moustache fluttering. Zoivox’s mouth hung open.
“This is your real office?” she said.
Sejifra scanned the room as well, and tutted.
“It is the office of the Director of Conjuring. It is… impractical. My real office is the one we were in.”
“Wait,” Zoivox continued. “…It’s nighttime. But it’s sunny as a summer day in here.”
Sejifra’s mouth was a thin line of disapproval, like a sentence crossed out on a scroll. “Conjured self-perpetuating sunlight. A summer day that’s lasted for centuries. As I said: impractical.” She shook her head. “I’m given to understand it’s considered a feature of this office, so I leave it be. But we need something still more practical than even my real office,” she said, replacing the wand into her robe and drawing out a different one.
This one was a squat hexagonal wand of dark metal, surprisingly short for a wand. Something else looked strange about it to Zoivox – something she couldn’t quite identify. Not until Sejifra had raised it away from her dark grey cloak and held it high in the air. The wand was not short at all. Partway down its length, the opaque metal became like solid smoke, which faded into nothingness. Zoivox had the uneasy feeling that the tip of the wand was simultaneously there and not there at all. She tried to lean in for a closer look.
“Stand still,” Sejifra commanded. Zoivox leaned back and stood as stiff as a plank, even her wings held upright.
Sejifra began to whisper a host of unfamiliar words. The whispers seemed to echo on themselves, looping, twining. The light around the wand began to ripple and distort, like the air above flagstones on a hot summer day. Her whispering became something between a chant and a song, the syllables beginning to beat a rhythm. The distortions grew larger, spreading around the trio in a great orb that nearly reached the walls. It twitched to the rhythm, the swirling hazy distortions stiffening into tight geometrical patterns. Finally, at a last emphatic word, everything went dark and silent.
Zoivox could hear a faint click as Drokor flipped up his dark lenses.
“…Huh,” he said. His voice sounded very strange to Zoivox. Everything did. It was as if she could hear every smallest thing – the rustle of Drokor’s leather greatcoat, the slither of Sejifra’s robes, the gurgle of her own stomach.
Sejifra uttered a brief but complex word, and a ball of cool blue light appeared out of nothing and spread out to fill the chamber.
They were now on a wire platform inside a geodesic sphere of dark metal. The facets gave off an oily purple sheen in the light. Strange geometric protrusions stuck out on every side.
“Is this…” Drokor began, as he walked over toward the wall. Zoivox could hear every squeak and snap of his goggles as he flipped new lenses into place.
“Whatever you think it is, it isn’t,” Sejifra said. “This is a magimaterial, a compound not found on Elarra, but created by Conjuring.”
Drokor leaned still closer to the wall. Even from a few feet away, Zoivox could hear the faint squeak as his fingertip slid across the metal.
“It tingles,” he said, his voice hushed by awe and suspicion.
“It does many things,” Sejifra replied cooly, “but the most valuable thing right now is this: it is completely soundproof. No external sound can enter. No internal sound can escape. Not even by magical means can any sound enter or exit this dome. Here, we can speak freely and make our plans.”
Zoivox stiffened. “Does that mean we may have been heard yesterday?”
“Unlikely. But security is paramount, and I will take only the necessary risks.”
Drokor slowly turned away from the wall. “You really think we’re in danger?”
“It is… possible. There is a saying: ‘Do not attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.’ But these oversights and errors may be too frequent to ascribe even to bureaucratic ineptitude.”
“Or this may be nothing,” she continued. “Perhaps all these inconsistencies are nothing more than simple mistakes and communication issues. Perhaps all truly is well on Earth – even better than these reports would lead us to believe. But we must determine this for ourselves. We must directly observe, analyze, and communicate. We must make our own contact with Earth.”
The Director’s voice was as composed as ever, and yet the small hairs rose on the back of Zoivox’s neck, as if she’d just heard a soaring speech backed by a swelling orchestra.
“I can’t tell you how glad I am that you agree,” said Zoivox, her blue lips parting, slowly, in a wide grin. But the light dimmed slightly in her eyes, and she shook her head. “But… how can we actually signal Earth? Even if we can, how we keep that signal secure?”
“I still can’t imagine any solution,” said Drokor, giving a rueful shake of his head as he walked back toward them. “I’ve been thinking on it since you first told me about this, Zoivox, and for all I know, it’s impossible. Aye, the stone of the Mountain Homes is resonite. Aye, when you vibrate any piece of resonite, all resonite in all the worlds will resonate with it. But if our signal’s too weak, it gets cancelled out. If our signal’s too strong, we send our message to every Home in production here on Elarra. It would go to every piece of resonite jewelry – every wedding band, every mother’s bracelet, right into every ear cuff. It would roar in every mountain. Even if we send it in code, it will be noticed, and broken, and traced.”
“Not necessarily,” said Sejifra.
She took a wand from her robes and, with a casual flick, summoned two large blue cushions out of thin air, right before Zoivox and Drokor’s eyes. The cushions settled onto the metal grate with a flumph. The two scholars eased down onto their respective pillows – Drokor draping the tails of his black leather greatcoat out behind him, Zoivox smoothing her skirt against her knees. Sejifra remained standing, clearly just as comfortable in the role of lecturer.
“First, let me make clear my limitations. I can conjure matter, including forms of matter that do not form naturally on Elarra. I can also conjure energy, be it light or heat or sound. I can manipulate that energy in a host of arcane ways: speeding it up, slowing it down, amplifying it, silencing it. But, even with every magical augment known to us – even if I had access to Old Magic – I could not simply wave my wand and send your message to Earth. The most infinitesimal tremor of my wandhand could send the signal so far astray it would not even reach their star system. Even if I did, by some implausible stroke of unearned luck, manage to strike Earth… that world rotates. Our world rotates. At these scales, no one spot would receive the signal in full; it would be stretched out in an arc across their world – much of it going unreceived, lost in their strange blue oceans.”
The scholars nodded solemnly.
“Despite these limitations, we can indeed use resonite to send a message to the Mountain Homes. In fact, I can arrange it so that our signal reaches the Mountain Homes on Earth, and only the Mountain Homes on Earth. Furthermore, it will not be intercepted by any Mountain Home on Elarra. It will be virtually undetected on Elarra, and encrypted for additional security.”
Zoivox and Drokor glanced at each other, disbelieving.
“How, exactly?” Drokor asked, brow furrowed above his dark goggles.
“Consider two pieces of resonite,” Sejifra said, swirling her wand and manifesting exactly that. Two cool grey rocks now floated gently in midair an arm’s length apart from each other. Silently, she raised her wand and gave one stone a hard tap. The pebble now spun in place, blurring with vibration, emitting a faint, sonorous drone. Without having been touched, the second stone blurred and droned as well.
She stilled them with a wave of her hand and a shimmer of energy. With a wave, she sent one to hover between Zoivox and Drokor, while the other floated in front of her face. “Though each piece of resonite has its own resonant frequency when struck, each can be made to vibrate through other forms of energy, if specific conditions are met. For example, given the right size of stone, and the right amplitude of sound. STONE!” she shouted suddenly, in a clear and commanding tone.
The rock before her face shook.
“STONE!” shouted the rock between the two scholars, in a voice as loud and clear as life.
Zoivox clasped her hands to her head. Drokor, apparently having expected it, merely made the long, exaggerated nods of the tragically bored.
With a flick of Sejifra’s wand, both stones vanished, the air rushing in to their respective voids with a crack.
“The strength and fidelity of the resonance is affected by both size and distance, as you know.”
Drokor nodded long and slow again, impatience plain on his face. “’Tell your friend to hold a pebble of resonite in their hand and stand against the wall of the Main Hall. Tell them to send off a Flash Flare if they feel it move – no peeking! Go tap a small pebble of resonite against the courtyard gates. Does your friend feel it? Now smack a large rock of resonite against the gate. Does your friend feel it now? Experiment with different sizes and distances!’”
A heavy pause followed, and Drokor looked around to see a baffled look on Zoivox’s face – and an unimpressed look on Sejifra’s.
He cleared his throat loudly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Er… I guess nobody else memorized 88 Great Experiments For The Growing Grimthane when they were little.”
Zoivox tried to suppress a friendly laugh.
Sejifra seemed still less amused.
“Scholarship has progressed significantly, even in the relatively little time that has passed since you were a child,” she replied in an icy voice. “And yet all discoveries are, ultimately, built upon these foundational principles. In the interests of our limited time, I will proceed to the advanced information. I trust you, with your wisdom, will explain the basics to Zoivox’s full understanding.”
Drokor continued rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry,” he said, with a bashful sideways glance toward Zoivox.
She gave him an awkward grin, and gave a small wave of her claw as if to waft the apology away. Just like old times, she thought, then turned her attention back toward Sejifra.
“Recent research has found that the strength and fidelity of the resonance is also affected by shape and by surroundings. Vibrate one perfect cube of resonite. Hold another cube of resonite in one hand, and a pebble of the same weight in the other, and walk away. All will vibrate, yes – but the cube’s vibration will remain noticeable long after the pebble’s has gone below the threshold of unaided perceptibility.”
Drokor’s bushy eyebrows raised in genuine surprise. “So they all vibrate, like all resonite… but two identical pieces just ring truer, and from farther away?”
She nodded. “Precisely so. And it is, indeed, a matter of precision. For example: vibrate a perfect cube of resonite tied with red string. Carry three cubes of resonite stone: one tied with red string, one tied with blue string, one tied with no string. Carry a resonite pebble, as well, for comparison. Slowly walk away from the vibrating cube, and observe the four stones. What do you imagine would happen?”
“All four ring, of course,” said Drokor, confidently. “But… the pebble is first to go silent.”
“Silent, mind you, only as defined by the Elarran – and Khorvizni,” Sejifra added, nodding toward Zoivox – “range of hearing. Presumably, also, that of Earth’s Humans.”
Zoivox furrowed her brow in thought. “So the pebble goes effectively silent first. Then… the untied cube, because it is still a perfect cube, like the origin stone. The cube tied with blue string will last longer, because it’s still tied with string, like the origin stone. And the cube tied with red string, just like the origin stone, rings loudest and longest?”
“And to an alarming degree,” Sejifra added. “Many times louder. Many times longer. The phenomenon is known as the Proportionate Principle of Magical Resonance. But it is only seen when the origin stone and the receiving stones are truly proportionate. If the cube tied with red string were not a perfect cube like the origin stone – even by the tiniest chip – it would not resonate nearly as loudly, nor nearly as faithfully, for nearly as long.”
“But if it’s a matter of magical precision,” Zoivox said, “I imagine every element of those surroundings would need to be as accurate as possible? Not just two perfect resonite cubes tied with red string, but tied with exactly the same lengths of string, dyed with the same red dye…”
The Director nodded. “Woven by the same weaver. Dyed in the same vat. Cut by the same shears. Tied by the same person. The more commonalities, the stronger the connection. It is a Principle only recently discovered and understood by Killdorian Magicians.”
“Impossible. Full impossible.” Drokor sighed and rested his head in his hand. “The Mountain Homes can’t be so precise. Each stone slab is unique, with its own striations, grain levels, inclusions, maybe even enhydros… each hewn by a different person with a different tool….” His thick fingers rubbed his bushy eyebrows.
Zoivox tapped her knee with a claw. “…I’m not so sure the slabs are unique. Remember those specs? I don’t think they were for how to assemble a Home…” She cast a significant glance at Sejifra.
The Director nodded. “Correct. The Mountain Homes are products of Conjuration.”
Drokor raised his head slightly, just enough to peer over the side of his hand. “The Mountain Homes are all Conjured? They’re exactly identical? Down to the least detail?”
“Even the inclusions of chorusite are in the same places on every one,” Sejifra replied. “Quality Control prevents any off-spec Homes from being sent.”
A grin spread like a landslide across Drokor’s face.
Zoivox looked questioningly between the two of them. Slowly, realization dawned.
“Oh, no. You can’t be suggesting we…” She trailed off, rubbing her temple.
“You gave me the complete specifications,” said Sejifra. “And I am a sufficiently capable Conjuror. Therefore, it is merely a matter of scale.”
“But… that scale! We’d need a Mountain Home the size of… of…”
Drokor began to chuckle.
“I have calculated the requirements with precision,” Sejifra said, staring at a point somewhere far overhead, nodding to herself.
“But the power we’d need to put into it at all!” Zoivox sputtered, rising from her cushion. She paced back and forth along the grate.
Sejifra’s gaze drifted down again, and onto her sleeve, where she idly smoothed a wrinkle. “A trivial matter.”
Zoivox stopped in her tracks. “Trivial.” Her voice and were expression were flat, as if she had no more incredulity left in her.
Sejifra examined her nails. “Conjurors can manifest and manipulate energy as well as matter, after all. And sound is energy.” She snapped her well-manicured fingers, and the dome was filled with the ferocious roar of a Grobbit. Another snap, and it sounded as though they were in the middle of a stampede of Bruktaag. She held her hand flat, and the sound stopped.
Zoivox swiveled her bright jade eyes to Drokor, who was turning red as a ruby and shaking with silent laughter, then looked back at the Director. “You’re both joking, right? ‘Let’s see what we can make the Spectra believe?’”
“I never joke,” said Sejifra. “These are serious matters. And this is our plan: Using the specifications of the Mountain Homes, I conjure a Mountain Home of the very same proportions, only scaled up approximately three orders of magnitude.”
Drokor guffawed loudly and slapped his knee, wheezing with helpless laughter.
Zoivox’s eyes widened. Her jaw dropped, cobalt lips hanging open. She tried to regain sufficient control of them to ask one of the many questions that were now filling up her brain – like “Where?” and “How?” and “What?!”
“Whrrr…?” she managed.
She closed her eyes, shook her head, and tapped her toes on the ground, just as she so often did when she caught herself falling asleep in a lecture and was sure she’d actually been dreaming.
“Even if that works – even if it lets us signal Mountain Homes and only Mountain Homes – the Sending Center has a storeroom full of them!” she declared, sweeping her arms and wings wide. “With the kind of sound energy we’d need to reach Earth, we’d set off every Home on the shelves, loud enough to deafen the entire Academy. We’d set off every Home on Elarra!”
Drokor tried to contain himself long enough to explain, but he could only manage to gesture broadly at the walls and wheeze.
“…I’m missing something,” Zoivox murmured to herself, as Sejifra looked at the faceted dome and nodded thoughtfully to herself.
Zoivox blinked, then slowly swiveled her head to stare at the closest facets of the dome. “Oh. Oh, no no no. You… you really do have to be joking…”
“This is a bad idea.”
“You’re right. This is a horrible idea.”
“Zoivox, it isn’t! We’re doing what is right. We’re putting this in the hands of people who are more equipped to deal with the problem.”
The Hall of Directors in the House of Killdorian was completely empty at this hour of the evening, save for the two friends. Their tense whispers and steady footfalls echoed off the dark and glossy marble of the vast and vaulted hall.
“Sejifra, though! She’s stubborn, she’s demanding, she’s otherwise emotionless, she’s… she’s…” Zoivox waved a clawed hand vaguely in the air, as if trying to waft the right word toward her head. Her other hand tightened its grip on her armful of scrolls and notes. It trembled.
“Scary?” Drokor’s moustache twitched – whether by a smirk or a wince, Zoivox didn’t know.
“Yes! She is! And so is what she can do to us!”
“That isn’t much.” the Elarran said with a shrug.
“I think your brain’s had a cave-in, Drokor. She’s the Director of Conjuring. She can make matter and energy out of thin air! All she’d have to do is point at us, and…”
He shook his head, a little more dramatically than was necessary, and the trailing ends of his long moustache swayed with the motion. “She won’t. She is rational.”
“Exactly, Drokor,” she said as assertively as her whispering would allow. “We’re an intern and a miner who are about to ask one of he Academy’s most-feared Magicians to help us make clandestine contact with Earth and investigate – maybe even influence – the super-secret program designed to save Magical life and Elarra itself, and nothing about this is rational!” she hissed, her small wings fluttering involuntarily.
“We must try. I do not know her that well, but I have read her works, and I trust her wisdom. She is thorough. She thinks beyond the surfaces of things – and of people. I think this is precisely why she is feared. She sees people as they are, instead of as they want to be seen.”
Zoivox gave him an appraising glance. “Perhaps. That’s a good insight on behavior, for a Grimthane,” she admitted.
He grunted. “I’ve read Briony’s Fortune. ‘So Worth unearned doth quickly pass / When Rubies be revealed for glass.’ We’re not all rockbrains, you know.”
“Of course not! I know. I didn’t mean… I’m just… I’m worried she’ll say we’re wrong,” she said, her jade-colored eyes staring blankly down the seemingly-endless hall. “I’m even more worried she’ll say we’re right. Either way, who are we to be involved?”
“We are who we are, and we can do what we can do. When we aren’t enough and can’t do enough, we can seek the help we need.”
Zoivox grimaced at the familiar adage, a look of doubt seeping across her face. She grimaced at herself for grimacing. I believed that so readily, for so long, she reflected. And now…
“Let’s hurry,” Drokor said. “Her office hours are about to start.”
They quickened their pace through the empty hall, claws and boots echoing on the stone.
At last, they reached a door in the middle of a hall and paused a moment. Glowing green letters reading “Consul Orwa Sejifra – Director of Conjuration” hovered a short distance away from the wood.
Below them, orange letters burned in the air: “Wait.”
Zoivox and Drokor stood before the door. Seconds passed, then minutes. She slowly raised her hand to knock, but Drokor held his own hand up, shook his head, and nodded toward the orange words. Wings fluttering in frustration, she lowered her hand again and waited.
When nearly ten minutes had passed, they heard a voice from within the office.
The syllables were precisely enunciated, devoid of emotion or inflection, like a crisp fitted sheet wrapped tight around the idea.
Zoivox reached for the dark metal handle, but again, Drokor shook his head. He walked into the door – and through it. Zoivox followed suit.
Zoivox wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting. A vast, dark, and candle-lit chamber, maybe, with dribbling taper candles that guttered in an unfelt breeze. Glowing sigils, above which hovered luminous blobs of matter that shifted from shape to shape, color to color, texture to texture. Shelves festooned with a perplexing array of improbable objects, fashioned of pure energy and will.
What she saw instead was a stone-walled, windowless room lit with a cool blue light from an unseen source. A room barely large enough to contain its only notable feature, a dark wooden desk, sturdy but devoid of ornamentation. On it, a datacom tablet. Behind it, a chair. And on that chair sat Orwa Sejifra, clad in slate grey robes.
Sejifra was short, even for an Elarran. Though cruel notebook doodles always depicted her as being a scraggly-haired, hunchbacked crone, her ice-white hair was coiled in a taut bun, and thick tufts of pale fur stood out against her smooth and dark brown skin. No laugh lines bracketed her thin lips, no frown lines furrowed her brow, no crow’s-feet crinkled the corners of her amber eyes. Zoivox stood before the desk, trapped in the amber of her gaze, and managed a courteous nod of greeting.
Sejifra stared at them both for a few moments, then took a wand from her robe and waved it. Two wooden chairs appeared behind the two friends. They sat. Zoivox set her array of scrolls and notes onto her lap and clutched them as if they were the railing around an abyss.
“Identify yourselves,” she said, in a voice curt and clipped and slightly gnarled by age.
“Yvyx Vynsylanor Zoivox. House of Spectra: Biology. Intern for Director Qwello.”
“Drokor Ivvit Hodge. House of Grimthane: Elology. Assistant Analyst, AcadeMine Unit Three.”
After a few more moments of awkward pause, Zoivox cleared her throat and began. “Thank you, Director Sejifra. I appreciate your allowing us to speak with you ab-”
“Make your point.” Sejifra’s response was brusque. There was no malice in her eyes – but neither was there patience.
Zoivox rubbed the back of her neck with the rough scales of her hand and glanced over at Drokor. His carefree attitude seemed to have evaporated: the stolid, steadfast Elarran appeared too stunned to look anywhere but at a fixed point on the back wall. He gulped and said nothing, his hands gripping and releasing his thighs.
“We… need to contact Earth without the Magic Academy’s knowledge,” Zoivox ventured. “We suspect there are issues with the Mystics Program, and we wish to investigate.” The words fell from her lips like a book tumbling down a flight of stairs. This is absurd, she thought to herself. This is completely and utterly absurd. And nobody hates absurdity as much as Sejifra. She can conjure anything imaginable, and she spends her days here. She’s going to wave that wand, the floor is going to drop out, and we’re going to fall straight into the dungeons. Or the core of the planet.
Sejifra made no immediate reply, but simply closed her eyes.
“Present your evidence.”
Zoivox rose and began to unfurl the scrolls on Sejifra’s desk, pointing to them one by one.
“These surveys of Earthite opinions have almost no variation. The names are not common Earth names from any of its cultures. Survey data here indicates many thousands of Earthite participants rearing a wide variety of Species, but this is inconsistent with Census data here. These instructional materials about raising Mystics are… poor translations, at best. This map is simply wrong. There is no single item of irrefutable evidence, but -”
Sejifra raised her hand, and Zoivox cut off her sentence. Unsure whether to stand or sit, Zoivox slowly lowered herself back onto the chair. If I move gradually enough, maybe she won’t notice me. It works on Grobbits, at least….
In silence, Sejifra pored over every scroll, every print, every page. She then closed her eyes once more.
Zoivox looked to Drokor. He seemed to be gritting his teeth.
“Why have you come to me?” Even Sejifra’s questions sounded like commands.
Drokor rose from his seat and spoke as if reciting a well-rehearsed line, still staring at the back wall. “We want to send a message to Earth through the Mountain Homes. Their stones are made of resonite,” he said, handing over the small slip of paper with the building specifications. “Since all resonite vibrates together whenever any resonite vibrates anywhere, and since vibration – sound – is energy, we thought we could… well, we couldn’t, but that someone – that is, that you, could… uh… help…” His eyes darted to Zoivox, and she quickly stood beside him.
“Director Sejifra, we’ve come to learn answers that we don’t know how to get in any other way. Is such a transmission to Earth possible? We don’t know. What energy would it take? We don’t know. Could it be concealed from the Academy? We don’t know.”
Sejifra looked down at a scroll, her expression blank as ever.
Undaunted by the complete lack of reaction, Zoivox continued. “…Is this even the right thing to do? Are we seeing patterns where none exist? Are we wrong?” She glanced at Drokor, a pained expression on her face, and shook her head. “…We don’t know.”
Sejifra looked up again and locked eyes with Zoivox once more. Admitting that was either very wise or very, very dumb, Zoivox thought, licking her dry cobalt lips. Probably dumb. She’s probably decided already. She probably decided before we even walked in. If we’re right, the fate of the world is at stake, and we had no better plan than to bumble into her office, babble like juvenile Pratefish, and admit we have no idea what we’re talking about – while simultaneously acting like we’re the only two people in all the Academy capable of correlating this data.
And that’s if we’re right. If we’re wrong, we wasted her time and ruined our reputations for absolutely nothing.
But… we don’t know. We don’t know anything…
Her clawed hands clenched into a fist. “But I do know this: I tried to bring this to Director Qwello, and she gave me nothing but hollow happy words, encouragement to let it go, and promises to put it in the ‘appropriate hands.’ She wasn’t even sure whose hands those would be. So, if I let this go, I can’t be sure that it won’t disappear. And if it does, and if we’re right that there are problems with the Program… then the Mystics and Magika on Earth could disappear, too, and our way of life on Elarra would follow. It would be my fault. Sure, nobody would blame me, but only because nobody else would know – and because, in time, there might not be anybody left.” She gritted her teeth. “So. No, mine are not the ‘appropriate hands’ to do anything, Director, but they’re the only ones I control. I need your help to know what to do with them next. And, all things help me, I came here to learn.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she realized that Drokor was staring at her, his mouth slightly agape. Her cheeks flushed a still-deeper purple, but she refused to look anywhere but dead in the eyes of Sejifra until she gave some sort of response.
The old Conjuror spent a few moments in silence, then broke the gaze to look at the scrolls and notes once more.
At last, she spoke.
“I’ve heard enough. I’ll be keeping these. You are dismissed.”
Zoivox felt as though her heart were plummeting to the center of the planet. She wanted to yell, to claw, to curse – Sejifra, herself, the Academy, anything, everything. But all she could think was It’s over. Over and over, it’s over; it’s only a matter of time. Her body vibrated with shock and humiliation.
Beside her, Drokor was red with rage.
Nodding as politely as they could, both turned toward the door and began to leave.
Behind them, with the faintest of sounds, Orwa Sejifra rose from her chair.
“Return here tomorrow. We will discuss our plan.”
Zoivox’s claws gripped the doorway as her legs gave way. Drokor stumbled into her. They disentangled themselves and turned to look once more, their mouths agape, at the small, old Elarran behind the small, plain desk in the small, cold room.
“Th…thank you, Director Sejifra,” Zoivox managed. Drokor could only open and close his mouth silently.
“Thank you,” came her reply.
As the two friends walked, dazed, back through the empty hall, they debated whether or not they’d seen her faintly smile.
“What I know about the Mystics Program is… not a lot,” Zoivox admitted. “But I have seen this, and it’s why I thought of you.” She palmed a small scrap of paper from an interior pocket of her coat, then reached out to hold Drokor’s hand. He cleared his throat awkwardly, glancing around the courtyard. Zoivox made a great show of blushing and looking demure when a Consul caught her eye. To her relief, the Consul simply smiled warmly, pointedly looked away, and walked on.
Zoivox released Drokor’s hand, then leaned against the wall as he casually peered at the scrap, adjusting his goggles to zoom in on the tiny writing. “’Mountain Home Specifications, Mk. 01,’” he read aloud. “Components: Den Stone – Thundering Peak resonite slab, 50 jots, measuring… ‘” He trailed off. “What’s this?”
“Every Mystic adopter on Earth has at least one of these Homes,” she explained. “It’s designed to emulate the Mystic’s natural environment as faithfully as possible, in as small a space as possible. I’ll spare you the biology lesson about their habitat.”
“But each Home is absolutely identical: the same size, the same shape, the same color; the same tree species, the same Mystika Berry Vine, the same substrate, the same stone. It’s one of the only things – maybe THE only thing – all our Earthite volunteers have in common. If there’s any chance of reaching the Earthites, it has to come through the Homes.” She clenched a clawed fist in emphasis. “I know all about everything else in these Homes, and they just can’t help us. So… it’s got to be the stone. Please, for the love of Elarra, tell me you know something that can help us.”
Drokor stared again at the specifications in his hand, and a hint of a smile began to tug at the corners of his mouth, twitching his long moustache. “Thundering Peak resonite… you’re absolutely sure? It’s definitely resonite, not any other stone?” Excitement was already creeping into his voice.
“These are the only specs that are approved. There’s no other Home available. What’s so great about resonite?”
A grin as wide as a mountain spread over Drokor’s face, and he puffed out his chest and began to orate. “Resonite is incredibly abundant, easily carved, yet durable. Most notable, though, are its small inclusions of dodecahedral chorusite that –”
“Spare me the Elology lessson?”
“Sorry.” He deflated a bit, but continued, still grinning. “The point is… resonite can sing. If hit, it can make a tone and hold it for a long time – like a stone bell. If you control how it’s hit in just the right way, you can change the sound.”
“No kidding?” asked Zoivox, a look of childlike wonder on her face. “That is incredible! Still, I don’t understand how it’ll help us now.”
Behind his dark goggles, Drokor’s eyes were gleaming. “When any resonite is rung, all resonite, everywhere – everywhere in all the worlds – will resonate in unison.”
Zoivox’s wings fluttered slightly. “Fantastic! …But shouldn’t the mountains be absolutely deafening?”
“They don’t call them the Thundering Peaks for nothing! Whenever there’s an ellquake, the mountains roar for days!” Drokor chuckled. “But the effect gets weaker based on some factors. Size. Shape. Distance. Other things. I can’t explain it exactly – Killdorian stuff, that is – but a small piece of resonite on the opposite side of the world would only ring a little bit, even from the biggest ellquake in the Peaks. So quiet you can’t even hear it or see it, except through a motescope. But it’s doing it.”
Zoivox’s face fell. “So even if we shook a whole mountain of resonite with our message…”
“I doubt they’d even see it on Earth. Not even if they were already listening close. And there’d be all the other ringing and echoing, muddyin’ up the signal…” The mountain of an Elarran shrugged his shoulders and rubbed the back of his neck.
Both Scholars stared at their respective feet for a moment.
“…Killdorian stuff,” Zoivox said, distantly.
“Who can you trust in the House of Killdorian?”
Drokor grunted. “Bunch of noodle-armed doofi with their noses stuck in their tomes…”
Zoivox shot him a cold look. “I don’t have time for this ‘Killdorian inknose, Spectra softheart, Grimthane rockbrain’ vekh, Drokor. Your two Houses have always been closer, and until recently I’ve spent so much time in the field that I barely know anything going on in my own House, much less the others. So who can you trust in the House of Killdorian?”
He reeled back, as if a pebble had just tried to bite him. “Sorry,” he rumbled. “Not the time or the place.” He rubbed his ear absentmindedly. “Well, out of all that lot… It’d have to be Sejifra.”
It was Zoivox’s turn to reel. “Orwa Sejifra? The Director of Conjuring? You must be joking. I’ve heard that Qwello has to take two Serenity Potions and cast Binding on her own hands just to keep from strangling her at every meeting!”
Drokor laughed. “Stoneface has that effect on people. But that’s exactly why I think she’s trustworthy. She doesn’t care about being popular, she cares about being right. And doing right.”
Zoivox bit her lip. “What if she thinks this isn’t right, though? We’re going behind everybody’s backs, we’re messing with stuff we’re not remotely cleared for, we’ve got no proof…”
“Then we get expelled and probably go to the dungeons.”
“You’re not reassuring me.”
He shrugged. “I’m not. But I am telling you the truth.”
She gave a solemn nod, and a small, weary smile. “You always have…. Okay. We’ll talk to Sejifra.”
A chilly wind blew through the courtyard of the Magic Academy, where students and Consuls passed from building to building. All were bundled up in cloaks or surrounded by dimly glowing bubbles of magical warmth.
It was colder still in the north corner, where the shadows were deep and lasted most of the day, and where the wind whipped up whirlwinds of fallen leaves and frost.
That was where Zoivox stood, her back to the wall, with a burly Elarran nearby.
It was coldest of all between them.
“Drokor.” Her wings gave a tense flutter of irritation.
“Zoivox.” His voice had little more love.
“I… would like to ask a favor of you,” she began, staring off at the fountain.
Drokor grunted. “For once, you get straight to your point. Still, you can’t even look at me to ask? Whatever it is: no.” He waved a pale and well-scarred hand in a dismissive gesture, then turned to go.
Zoivox reached out and placed her own hand on his shoulder, somehow resisting the urge to dig in her claws. “Please,” she said, a little more loudly than she meant to. “It’s not for me. It’s for something bigger than us. It’s for Elarra.”
He brushed the hand off his shoulder, and with one thick finger raised to point, he rounded on her. “Of all the overly-dramatic, manipulative, ridiculously unlike-you things–”
The words died on his tongue as he saw her face. The wide and worried eyes behind her spectacles, the pallor of her purple skin, the way she was biting the inside of her lower lip.
Drokor was one of the House of Grimthane’s most promising scholars of magimechanical mining, able to craft devices that would delve into the hardest stone. He had a knack for finding ore in unlikely places. He could sense a cave-in long before it happened. He could tell when a machine was underperforming, and knew just how to fix it. Perhaps there was some magic involved, but he readily admitted that a lot of his talent boiled down to noticing things and finding patterns. The stone had secrets, he liked to say, but it also had its tells. Zoivox’s tells were undeniable.
He wrinkled his nose, and his long and bushy moustache wriggled like a Woolipede. “All right, talk. I’m not saying I’ll believe you, but I believe YOU believe whatever this is.”
Drokor noticed the thankful skyward glance and the relaxed droop of her wings as she took a deep breath. In a low whisper, she spoke.
“It’s the Mystics Program. Something’s… suspicious.”
He reeled as if the words had hit him right on his bulbous nose, then looked from side to side. “The Mystics Program?” he murmured. “Zoivox, that’s a Kelv-class operation! Of course it’s suspicious! The fate of Elarra IS at stake; you think they’re going to just tell us all everything?”
“Of course they’re not telling us everything. They’re barely telling us anything. But… there’s a lot of information that goes over my desk every day.”
Behind his dark goggles, Drokor rolled his eyes. “You’re an intern, Zoivox,” he grumbled. “We both know you’re not cleared for classified information. It’s not like you’re the High Elder. Yet.”
She gritted her small white teeth and hissed at him. “This is NOT me trying to sound important! I’m talking about the little things! All those little bits and pieces that don’t seem important enough TO classify: Flipsy’s Earthite Satisfaction Surveys, her old transmissions, expense reports, things that have been forwarded from desk to desk and House to House a thousand times because nobody knows who’s actually responsible for it…” She took a breath. “The little things matter. You always told me that. I live that. It’s why I… why we are both good at what we do. And I’m telling you: the little things aren’t adding up.”
Drokor shifted his weight on the flagstones of the courtyard, wiggling his toes in his boots. He listened to Zoivox. He listened to his conscience. And he tried to listen to Elarra.
“Okay,” Drokor said, “But such matters are still beyond us. We should take it to a superior.”
Zoivox had expected this: wanting to take things through official channels, not seeing the futility in the effort. But she couldn’t quite keep the smile from her face as he said “us” and “we.” He was hooked and she knew it.
“Director Qwello?” he ventured.
Giving a grim little laugh, Zoivox shook her head. “I tried. She said it was nothing. Well… not entirely nothing. She admitted that something’s sketchy about Flipsy’s surveys. But she insisted there was nothing more to it than Flipsy wanting more rubies. Can you believe she even talked to me about her pay at all? That’s definitely not anything I should be told about!”
A sigh escaped her cobalt lips, and she stared at the west corner of the courtyard. “I… I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I think she knows something’s gone strange with the Mystics Program. Or, at least, she suspects something. So she’s trying to make it sound like she’s really taking firm action on the little things – based on my input. And she’s trying to make it sound like I’m privy to confidential information. She’s really singing my praises, trying to say my work here is done. But I know it isn’t. I can tell she doesn’t want me looking into this any further.”
“So that’s exactly what you’re doing.”
“Pretty much,” she replied with a beleaguered laugh. “Drokor… I need to talk to Earth. Without the Academy knowing. If anyone could help me do that – would help me do that – it’s you.” She looked over her spectacles at him, green eyes gleaming.
“…This could cost you, you know,” he said.
Her reply was swift and expressionless. “I’ll pay you whatever you need to be paid.”
Drokor grimaced. After a moment, in a quiet voice, he replied, “That’s not what I meant. I mean… this could cost you your future.”
Zoivox said nothing for a time, but simply looked down at her claws.
“If I’m wrong… yes, it could. If I’m caught, yes, it could. But if I’m right – if someone is trying to sabotage the Mystics Program – just think about what that could mean, Drokor. Whatever the Gray is, it’s not stopping. Maybe it can’t be stopped, and all these relocation efforts are only stalling for time. The Mystics Program might be the only thing giving Magical life – giving Magic itself – any hope for survival. What’s my future compared to that?”
Drokor was, for a moment, very glad he was wearing his dark-lensed goggles. When he was sure he could speak without his voice cracking, he replied.
“I’m with you. All the way. First things first: tell me everything you know about the Mystics Program.”
“Consul Qwello. A moment of your time, please?”
Good, Zoivox thought to herself, my voice didn’t quaver too much.
Hunched over a desk cluttered with papers, scrolls, and quills, Somana Qwello didn’t look up at the intern in her doorway. She merely raised a finger of one hand while the other finished writing the last sentence of yet another memorandum.
As the visitor waited patiently, a scroll clutched in her clawed hand, Qwello performed a ballet of bureaucracy: ink-stained hands applying an official embossing here, a codestamp there, initializing there, there, and there, then retrieving a bright green wax disk from her desktop jar and placing it in the long-handled metal scoop designed to rest on top of her oil lantern. At last, Qwello plucked an auburn hair from her head with one hand and placed it carefully on the paper, then grabbed the scoop, dripped on it the now-melted wax, and pressed her thumb upon the warm molten glob. She raised her thumb again, then lifted the paper itself, turning it side to side in the lantern-light to make sure the ridges of her thumbprint were visible.
Satisfied, she set the paper down again, then took one of many wands from a cluttered cup. A flourish, a whispered word, a tap on the green wax seal, and the paper rose off the desk, shivered, and split into four copies of itself – which vanished.
Qwello took a deep breath and exhaled, slowly, ruffling the papers and quills even as she soothed her nerves. Tucking a stray lock of red hair behind her long and pointed ear, she gave an abashed but genuine smile to her visitor.
“Zoivox. I’m so sorry to keep you waiting.”
Zoivox smiled back, feeling slightly more encouraged. “I understand completely, Consul Qwello.”
Well, not completely, she thought. Consul Qwello was one of the higher-ranked members of the House of Spectra, only a few rungs away from High Elder Aria Aventis herself; of course she didn’t fully understand what Qwello was dealing with. Zoivox had, however, picked up a lot of information during her internship. She knew bits and pieces about the relocation of the Wintergale Kraida and the Darkmere Grobbits, the blight in the tarva crop, the latest attempt at the Skavyn Accord, and the ceaseless applications for research funding.
But she also knew, if dimly, that the High Elders had concerns that were beyond secret – concerns so huge, so dire, that the fate of Elarra was at stake. Concerns that nobody understood completely, perhaps not even the High Elders themselves. Zoivox’s eyes darted to the scroll in her hand. This, she feared, might be be another one.
The smile faded from her face, and her talons clicked a fretful rhythm on the flagstones. “You know I wouldn’t bother you in person if I didn’t think it was important. And… urgent.”
Somana took a long look at her intern, seeing her through the eyes not of a boss but a biologist. Though she’d traded fieldwork for paperwork long ago, she still knew how to judge the temperament of creatures based on their movements – even when those creatures were people. And so she noticed all the subtle signs that Zoivox was trying to hide: the stiffness in her shoulders, the tension in her wings, the tapping of her talons, the restrained but evident shaking in the hand that held the scroll. She saw the fear in her eyes. But she saw the resolute determination to face that fear. Somona pursed her lips slightly, then gave a resolute nod of her own.
“My time is yours, Zoivox. Take all of it you need.” Somana gestured to the thick-cushioned chair before her desk. “And… shut the door.”
Zoivox pulled the Myrridan ore handle of the heavy ghova-wood door. Even though it closed without a creak, the click of the latch seemed as loud as a tolling bell. As Zoivox sat, Somana rose and took a wand from an inner pocket. The stone walls began to gleam in iridescent colors as she uttered a series of incantations to cast the protective wards. With a final swirling gesture, she surrounded the desk and chairs in a swirling, translucent bubble barely tinged with lavender.
The barrier was barely visible, but when Somana spoke, her words resonated strangely, as if they were being whispered directly into her ears. “One can never be too cautious.” Her smile was warm, but there was a tiredness in her eyes as she tucked the wand back into her vest.
“Still,” she continued, “if any of your anxiety is about talking to me, please let me put you at ease. You’re an extraordinary Scholar, Zoivox, and you’ve been an exceptional assistant. You’re thorough, you’re attentive, and you catch things that nobody else notices. I’ve seen it in your records and your fieldwork, and I see it now – and I’m sure I’ll continue to see it as you soar through the ranks of the Academy.”
Zoivox blushed a deeper purple and tried to understand why the Elder’s kind words were only making her more anxious. She swallowed hard. “Thank you, Consul Qwello.”
“And now, you’re going to tell me something I don’t want to hear.”
Zoivox failed to suppress a nervous laugh. “I am, Consul. It’s about some transmissions from Earth,” she began.
Somana Qwello leaned forward. “The Mystics Program? It’s not entirely our department,” she sniffed, “but I know we receive transmissions from Flipsy every day. Everything seems nominal, according to my briefings. The breeding is going well, the Elarran isobiome is shaping up nicely, and Magika is easily available. And the Earthites are pleased – they rank Flipsy very highly on her surveys. It’s no surprise – she’s so happy and friendly, just like the fairies in their stories!”
“That’s just the thing, Consul. I’m noticing some… inconsistencies in those surveys.” Zoivox unrolled her scroll to a certain point, then placed it on Somana’s desk. She pointed to one line with a claw. “Like this date.”
“February 31st, yes.”
“Don’t all their moonths have 31 days? I’m sure Flipsy said they did.”
“It would make more sense if they did, but they don’t. Some months have 31. Some have 30. But February… even when they put an extra day in it every four years, it only has 29 days.”
Qwello pursed her lips. “Perhaps these Earthites are just forgetful. Flipsy seemed to have… misgivings.”
“All of them, though? Twenty Earthites, all writing the same non-existent dates for two straight days? I know that’s still possible, but look at this comment itself.” Her claw tapped alongside another line.
Qwello read it aloud. “’Flipsy is the most wonderflupus Tour Guide everever! Everything is awestackular, and we are having another sparkle day!’ That’s sweet; they’re really learning from her. Who sent this in?” She squinted at the unfamiliar name that followed. “Well, it’s in one of their languages, all right; I just can’t pronounce it. Kan-TELL-oopy… TAO-trook?”
“Er… that’s ‘Cantaloupe Towtruck,’ Consul.”
“According to my research, that is… not a name.”
Qwello looked further down the scroll. “What about… Lompe-SHAW-day Pane-KILL-kass?”
Zoivox closed her eyes. “Refrigerator Centipedes.”
Qwello’s expression was inscrutable. “None of those are names?”
“Not unless their parents named them after eating half a field of Hillburpie weed. Consul, these are the names of everyday objects.”
“Well.” The Consul’s mouth became a thin, grim line for a moment – then unfurled into a smile that didn’t touch her eyes. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Zoivox; I’ll pass the word along through the proper channels; it’ll get to the Earth Committee, and they can discuss it in a future meeting. I didn’t tell you this, of course,” she added, casting a significant glance at the swirling lavender bubble, “but I’m sure Flipsy’s performance-based stipend of rubies will be adjusted accordingly.” She rose from her seat.
Zoivox looked at Qwello, then back at the scroll. “Consul, I’m afraid there’s more to it than this. Flipsy is a Tour Guide, an ambassador. She’s the person who links Earth and Elarra, chosen after a rigorous selection process. These inconsistencies are inexplicable. If she wasn’t reliable with this data, then… what about the rest of it?”
“She has a difficult job. Mistakes happen. Besides, Fairies are playful, Zoivox. I wouldn’t expect you to understand. And it’s not like we can tell the Earthites everything. Goodness, even I’m not cleared for anything but the most basic briefings!” She giggled.
“But we ARE both Scholars, you and I,” she continued, reaching out to pat Zoivox’s hand. “We know strong evidence when we see it. And just because there’s an inconsistency in one place, that doesn’t always mean there are inconsistencies in everything. If you tell me that two plus two is four, that a triangle has three sides, and that a tribe of Florbs live under your toenails and sing folksongs… well, there’s no need to rewrite the math tomes, now is there? Even the best of us are wrong sometimes.”
Zoivox could only shake her head wordlessly. Slowly, as if dazed, she rose from her seat, then picked the scroll up from the desk with fingers she scarcely felt. But as she rolled the scroll tight, the fire rose in her eyes once more.
“But, Consul… What about Earth and the Mys-”
“I’m certain there’s nothing to worry about. I assure you, the proper authorities will make sure this little matter is taken care of.” Her smile was a scythe, and it cut the conversation short. She took the wand from her vest again and banished the bubble and ward. The ghova-wood door swung open.
The room suddenly felt very big to Zoivox. Or perhaps, she thought, she just felt small.
“I appreciate your time, Consul,” she said in a careful, measured voice. “And I’m certain everything is in good hands.” Her clawed fingers gripped the scroll tightly.
Good, she thought, as she stepped out of the door, her voice hadn’t quavered at all.
Due to low turnout, we cancelled August’s inworld Community Meeting – but we’re still eager to share what’s happened this month! So here, in our own words, are the August updates from the Dev Team:
Neo: The Code
Since I’ve joined the project I have spent the majority of my time either heavily optimizing or completely re-writing scripts for the project. This was necessary to make more memory available for the traits patch. While I was in there I used every trick I know to make the scripts faster and far, far, far more memory efficient. This has allowed me to squeeze in the traits patch, and a few more surprise features! All with the same 5 scripts in pet that we have now — with room to spare for future updates.
Just after last months meeting, I spent my time “stitching” together all the individual scripts that I’ve been working to optimize. Aside from a few easily fixable cosmetic issues, such as the color of the arrow when you click a pet, I’m pleased to say that the test pets in testing appear to be working just fine and better than before. 🙂
However, I’ve had some RL issues during the past two weeks that have kept me from working on the project as much as I’ve wanted to. Don’t worry, I’m happy and healthy — it’s just that RL obligations are holding me back. These things should clear up this week, and I can go back to full time work on this. Right now as time allows, I am currently testing the new traits on the server and inworld, which means that the patch is coming soon if there’s no unforseen issues.
I’m thinking that once I have a patch to “Release Candidate” status, I will make an official notice in the group. After that notice the patch should land about a week later — but only IF there are no major issues with the RC. During that time the patch will undergo constant testing. If there are major issues I will send another notice, remove the patch from RC status, and start the timer again at a later date once the issues are fixed. Minor issues that I can fix and test on the fly, and they shouldn’t delay the RC.
Just like you, I’m not thrilled with how long this has all taken — but I’ve found the perfect gif that reflects the nature of this traits update:
Kaz: The Art
RL has caught up with me, and I’ve been working outside of the Mystics project for a little while but I’m almost ready to dive back in again. You can expect some more progress being made on the sim in particular soon!
Apo: The Words
Wordwise, I’ve been doing a lot behind the scenes! I’ve been working on three fronts:
1) The Mysticology Field Guide
I’ve been starting on the Field Guide, which will have photos, facts, and lore for every Type! It’s my number one priority, because, well, “What Mystics are available and what do they look like?” is the number one question any new player will have. In fact, without a clear and complete answer to that question, how’s someone to decide whether they want to start playing at all?
But that clear and complete answer is a long one – there are more than 30 Mystics, and there will be many more to come. So I’m also faced with logistical problems for how to structure the information. Chronologically by Season? By Species? By Region? Each index option would have its uses, and I’d love to figure out a way that a user could sort the list in whichever way they need – and to search by name, region, or even other keywords as well. Unfortunately, that will take a little more web design acumen than I have so far, so I’m going to have to determine the most optimal index type and use that. It’s definitely not past Neo – but he’s juuuuuuust a little busy right now. 😉
Also, we’re extending the due date on the photo submission contest! We’re still excited to have each Field Guide entry include at least one user-submitted photo, credited to the contributor. So there’s still time to flex your artistic skills by taking a great picture of one of your Animists. Learn more about the contest and how to submit your picture here: http://mysticasl.com/contests/the-mysticology-field-guide-photo-challenge/
2) The Lore
Even before the first coded transmission was sent, I had ideas about just what Zoivox was doing out there on Elarra, and where it was going to lead – so I wrote a little bit of backstory. It was for my own personal reference, really: to help do a little more worldbuilding, to establish some facts about her and keep them straight in my head, and, above all, to help find the character’s voice. I kept the stories to myself, though, since I had other, far-higher-priority projects to release – and since any interesting bits of her story and personality would be revealed through the RP visits.
The “finding the character’s voice” part worked a little TOO well, however – it turns out that she’s too anxious and duty-focused to talk about herself much! Especially not about her recent past, when there are more pressing concerns to discuss. As a result, those stories – and that worldbuilding – didn’t get told in her visits. But they kept growing: whenever I’ve needed to unspool from the non-fiction or technical writing aspects of this project, I’ve been adding to her story, explaining more about what she’s discovered and how she’s gotten wrapped up in the strange mysteries of the Mystics Program.
So I’ve decided to start releasing those stories, chapter by chapter. It won’t be “current events” – even the last chapter I have so far doesn’t quite reach the time of the first transmission! – but it will help explain more about who Zoivox is, what her life on Elarra is like, who she’s working with, and what they’re going through. Hopefully, this will continue to give the world – and the Mystics – a little more depth. You can expect the first story to come out this Friday – and the following chapters to come out every other Friday after that! Once they “catch up” to the present, though, new chapters may be posted a little more infrequently.
3) The New Site Design
But, back to more practical writing-matters, I’m still working on MysticaSL’s new site! We’re working to make it easier to navigate, to make it show off the Mystics themselves much more prominently, and to make it a little more modern. It should be more mobile friendly, as well!
The current website is not very versatile, in many ways. The main text is in such a narrow column that any Community Meeting logs or other long-form posts end up looking much longer than they are – making them harder to read.
Worse, that narrowness drastically limits the size of our pictures, and makes users need to click each picture to expand it in order to see much detail. Especially on the Game Manual, where expanded pictures cover up the information, this is a problem. Our new site will hopefully have more legroom.
The difficult thing is that nothing is just converting itself nicely. Each past page and post will need to be reformatted by hand. But, slowly and steadily, it’s all coming along – and the end result should be much nicer, much more readable, much more navigable, much more modern, and much more visually appealing!
[13:03] Zoivox’s motes swirl and shimmer. “….-lo? Ca-….-body… -ead me?”
[13:08] Zoivox comes into something a little bit closer to focus. She seems to be adjusting a device, a slight frown on her face. “Mm. No audio, no visual.” She turns away. “Izz? I think we’ve got Fritzits in the display…”
[13:12] Zoivox turns back, a bashful look on her face. “Sorry, Earthites – if any of you are here – we’re just having a few…” She looks over her shoulder again. “What? Okay, let me try that…” She punches a button on the device, and her image vanishes.
[13:13] Zoivox wavers back into place a couple seconds later. “…-rking now?”
[13:14] Zoivox taps her clawed feet awkwardly. “Well. I’ll just talk, and… and you guys can listen. Maybe next time I can answer any questions you’re having…”
[13:18] Zoivox: “…Not to mention check up on you all and your Mystics. We’re still getting ‘information’ from Flipsy the Fairy, even though you haven’t seen her. So I know that what WE know is only what someone wants HER to want US to know. You know?”
[13:18] Zoivox grimaces, and a scaly hand rubs her forehead. “Does it help that I’m still as confused as you are? No, I expect it does not…”
[13:21] Zoivox: “Honestly, if you’d told me that someday I’d be making covert transmissions to an alien planet in order to solve mysteries about the apparent sabotage of a mission designed to save all Elarran life and culture, I’d have said you were buzzier than an entire hive of Droneflies…”
[13:24] Zoivox: “I had all these… plans. These ideas about my future, and what I would do, and where I would go It felt inevitable, like it was all just expected to happen. …Whether I really wanted it to or not…” She stares at her toes for a moment.
[13:29] Zoivox flushes. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t talk so much about me. I’m not what’s important here. The Mystics are important. And the Mystics Program. And all of Elarra. There’s so much to share about this world. Like the life cycle of the Magika Berry Vine, or the discovery of the Resplendent Borebird… And there’s the food! And the holidays! And the history!” she declares, her wings spreading wide as her excitement grows.
[13:30] Zoivox: “And…” Her wings slacken and close up again, and her brows furrow. “And it’s me who has to share it now, to link our worlds…”
[13:36] Zoivox: “I wasn’t trained for this. Flipsy was selected after a long and careful process. She was… she IS, wherever she’s gone… optimistic, bold, assertive. Familiar, too. Many of your cultures have tales of Fairies and their playful ways. But there aren’t any tales about the Khorvizni,” she says, rubbing the back of a long ear with her scaly hand.
[13:42] Zoivox: “Maybe… maybe I should share with you all the stories of how I got involved in all of this. It wouldn’t help with anything *important,* of course,” she admits. “It wouldn’t teach you more about your Mystics. It wouldn’t answer why no new Types have been hatched in so long, and it wouldn’t answer why the Mystics you’re hatching don’t have-” She stops short and claps a hand over her mouth.
[13:43] Zoivox: “Sorry. Hiccup.” She clears her throat and clasps her hands in front of her once more.
[13:47] Zoivox: “But maybe it would help explain WHY I don’t have those answers. Why I’m still learning things, trying to understand things, the same as you…”
[13:52] Zoivox: …It’s a delicate balance, really. Because Elarra is facing a crisis. The spreading of the Gray is precisely why the Mystics Program was created in the first place. Yet we don’t want to frighten you all, or make you think all is lost and there’s no purpose in helping us anymore. Suspicious, even nefarious forces may be at work, and it’s only logical that you’d want to wash your hands of the whole business. You Earthites have a whole wonderful world of your own, and you don’t need to fear the Gray, or -” She drops her voice to a whisper. “Vex.”
[13:59] Zoivox: “For you, the Mystics can be sweet, playful, beautiful creatures you can raise and tend, feed and fuse, breed and discover. I… envy that. Truly. When I was a child, a budding Spectra, I wanted to discover and observe all the wonderful life of the world. Nothing made me happier. Now, when I do my fieldwork, I keep thinking about the threat we face here. I understand if you’d rather not listen to me and my mysteries and observations and so forth,” she says, giving a sheepish smile.
[13:59] Zoivox: “Giving the Mystics a happy, innocent, carefree life… that’s the goal, isn’t it?”
[14:08] Zoivox: “But… I’m a Scholar,” she says, jutting out her chin and giving a little nod. “Driven to learn, understand, and explain. I *want* to solve these mysteries of what’s happening in the Mystics Program, and why they’re happening. I *want* to help answer those questions for you. And I’m trying, here on Elarra – as much as secrecy allows. But we’ve only come so far. So…”
[14:12] Zoivox: “Maybe I haven’t solved the mysteries, but I *can* share my stories. How I got involved. What I’ve done. Who’s been helping me,” she says, with a soft smile and another glance over her shoulder. “You’ll know what I’ve been doing, and what’s been in our way, and how we’ve tried and tried again – so that I can be here, today, yammering to the stars…” Her gaze trails skyward, and she smirks.
[14:14] Zoivox: “It will take some time to bring things up to the present. Maybe, by the time I’m current, we WILL have solved these mysteries! Every day, we get a little closer….”
[14:15] Zoivox: “But I suppose I’ll begin at the beginning. That first day, that first meeting. The day that changed everything…”
[14:17] Zoivox: “And, of course, I’ll keep working on the Field Guide, too. I can still tell you what I *do* know about the Mystics, after all!”
[14:20] Zoivox glances down at the device and pokes at it again. “Or try to tell you, at least. I hope this comes through – somehow or other. I hope you’re all well. I hope your Mystics are happy and comfortable – even the hibernating ones. And I hope to talk to you – and WITH you – again soon. …Take care, Earthites. And good luck to you all.”
[14:20] Zoivox’s image flutters, flashes, and fades to motes, and the motes swirl away as well.
Our efforts to improve MysticaSL.com are ongoing: almost every section has now been edited and overhauled to give more accurate, more immersive, more accessible information – and a modern site redesign is underway.
For the next phase, we’re looking for contributions from Adventurers Like You!
We’re creating a much-needed new section that will show off ALL the various Species and Types of Mystics that have been discovered so far, along with all their possible eye colors – a complete Field Guide to Mystics!
Not only will each Type get its own profile with an official picture and description, it will also have at least one player-submitted snapshot documenting that Mystic in action, credited to the Adventurer’s name!
As time goes on, and more Species, eyes, etc. are revealed, the Field Guide will be updated – though some things may be left mysterious….
If you’ve bred a lot of Mystics, uncovering some of the rarest Fusion coats, this will be a way to permanently enshrine your valiant efforts. Even if you’re new to Mystics, a beautiful picture of a common breed may give you a place in the Guide, inspiring the new Adventurers to follow.
In terms of the lore, this is also a way for Zoivox to investigate how the Mystics are developing on Earth – and to further investigate any strange discrepancies between the lineages on Earth and the diversity on Elarra…
So let’s begin the guide with this season’s starter… the Animist!
If you’d like to participate, here are the rules!
1. All photos must clearly contain one actual Animist Mystic (no Mystipedia pictures!)
2. All photos must contain only G-rated content: no nudity, nothing of a graphic adult or violent nature.
3. All photos must be at least 512×512 resolution.
4. All photos must be titled with the Submitting Avatar’s name and the Mystic’s name.
5. Our company reserves the right to publicly display all images submitted. By submitting an image, you grant us full license to publish it virtually, both in Second Life and on our website.
To submit your entry, upload your Snapshot through the Support Ticket system!
Click the Login button at the top of your HUD, follow the link given in the dialog box, and click the Support link in the upper right.
Next, click the + New Support Ticket link on the right-hand side of the page.
Fill out the Support Ticket form with your Second Life user name (not your Display Name,) the name of the Mystic in your picture, and a subject line. Then you can either use the + Attach a file link to attach a Snapshot you’ve saved to your computer, or use the Description field to provide a URL to a picture you’ve uploaded onto an online image host (like Flickr, Imgur, Photobucket, etc.)
Our Devs will choose the photos to add to the Field Guide! The winners will be announced at the July Community Meeting on Sunday, July 24th.
((Below are the logs of today’s roleplay gathering in Harbour Light! In her latest surreptitious visit, Zoivox called on the gathered Adventurers to help her create a Field Guide that will document the growth and development of Mystics on Earth – and that will help her see if anything’s amiss…))
[13:01] Zoivox’s motes and sparkles swirl and judder, and a shape slowly begins to form. There’s a whisper of static, a few hollow, echoing tones… and a humanoid shape appears on the hologram emitter.
[13:02] Zoivox: “…lo, Adventur–s! Ar- …ou reading m-?”
[13:02] Thalia Philo: I hear something, not all of it.
[13:03] Zoivox squints and frowns a little. Her clawed hand reaches out and twiddles something beyond the field of view. “And now?”
[13:04] Thalia Philo: Better.
[13:04] Zoivox: “Oh! Better indeed! I can see you better now, too. Who’d have thought that underground two-way interstellar communication could be so finicky…” She snickers, giving a merry flap of her wings.
[13:05] Zoivox: “First things first! How are you and your Mystics?” She looks curiously from face to face.
[13:06] Thalia Philo: Mine are very young, but healthy and apparently happy. I love the sounds they make.
[13:07] maros Dasmijn: my mystics are hibernating
[13:08] Zoivox beams. “Aren’t their trills endearing? They communicate so much, in just a few series of sounds.” She nods to Maros. “Sometimes, that’s what they need!”
[13:09] Bogatyeishii: mine old… lvled high out off breeds and have the waveriders… not sure wot to breed now
[13:10] Zoivox gives Botatyeishii an awed look. “That’s incredible! Thank you so much for all that work; you’ve helped so many Mystics now! You may be able to help in a different way…”
[13:12] Zoivox’s eyes sparkle mischievously, and her voice becomes a conspiratorial whisper. “You may have seen that we replaced some of the information on the MysticaSL.com site. We put up our own intel on the Magic Academy – information that’s more thorough, much less vague. But we’re not gonna stop there…”
[13:13] Zoivox: “I want to create a Field Guide! Information about every type of Mystic – every species, every pattern, every eye color! Well, perhaps saving a few secrets, of course,” she says, with another flutter of her wings. “But… growing up on Earth may have affected Mystics in ways we didn’t predict. I can’t use my own knowledge of Mystics – naturalist though I am…”
[13:16] Zoivox: “And, well…” She waves a clawed hand vaguely at the ground around her. “I’m stuck on Elarra – I’m not cleared to come to the isobiome on Earth, where you are right now. I shouldn’t even be TALKING to you, after all…” She gives a nervous grin, rubbing the back of her neck. “So…”
[13:19] Zoivox takes a deep breath. “I’d like YOU – and the other Adventurers like you – to help document them! Take snapshots of your Mystics, young or old. If they have interesting behaviors, tell me about them! There’s such a tremendous diversity of Mystics, and we’re going to make that site show them off!” She grins widely.
[13:20] Zoivox: “The Field Guide will have official pictures too, of course – but the more we can see about Mystics in the ‘new wild,’ the more we’ll understand about how the Mystics Program is coming along.”
[13:22] Zoivox looks toward Thalia. “And being able to see that diversity may give newer Adventurers more to strive toward. Or might inspire people to join the effort, as well….”
[13:24] Zoivox gives another frazzled flutter of her wings and laughs nervously. “I talk a lot when I’m excited, sorry. What do you guys think? What other things would you like to see in a Field Guide?”
[13:25] Bogatyeishii: new mystics to trive for
[13:25] Bogatyeishii: bein lvled fuse is not cheap
[13:25] Bogatyeishii: to be able to breed new stuff to keep mystics lvled
[13:25] Bogatyeishii: strive*\
[13:26] Thalia Philo: A friend of mine said the same thing.
[13:27] Thalia Philo: I saw on the web five species and then some breeding tips. I didn’t understand that page.
[13:28] maros Dasmijn: even when leveled up its hard to get any fuse coats
[13:28] maros Dasmijn: some people get mutliple and others get nothing
[13:29] Zoivox nods. “The Guide won’t be able to reveal anything but what we’ve seen on Earth already. Elarra has a wide variety of Mystics, but I’m not sure yet about what has developed on Earth, or what sorts of characteristics they have. Receiving this documentation from Adventurers could help us see if there are problems…” A clawed hand thoughtfully taps her chin.
[13:30] Bogatyeishii: main problem be = things bein quiet over halve a yr and to many left now
[13:30] maros Dasmijn: many are just waiting like me
[13:31] Thalia Philo: Are people still selling pods?
[13:31] maros Dasmijn: some are
[13:31] maros Dasmijn: i have small spot at my home
[13:32] maros Dasmijn: but no more markets left
[13:32] maros Dasmijn: there use to be full markets
[13:32] Zoivox: “As you may know, I have reason to believe that someone has been sabotaging the Mystics Program from within. Perhaps at the highest levels of the Magic Academy itself. But my friends and I are trying to make sure you all get good, reliable information on every aspect of Mystics. I’m not sure what influence I’ll be able to have on the Program itself – we’re already meddling so much! – but I’ll do my best to investigate for you.”
[13:32] maros Dasmijn: now we dont even have spot to advertise them
[13:33] maros Dasmijn: im no scripter but what i know its almost impossible to make mesh animals have traits
[13:34] maros Dasmijn: and that is what everyone is waiting for
[13:36] Zoivox scratches her head. “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘scripting’ or ‘mesh;’ these are living animals; their characteristics come from genetic code – and, of course, a little magic. But, I agree – perhaps the lineages on Earth aren’t showing the full diversity of traits and adaptations that can be found in Mystics on Elarra. That’s what I’m hoping to find out – and, well, perhaps my friends and I here can find a way to fix it, even though that does sound like impossible madness.” She gives another nervous laugh, but her eyes gleam with excitement.
[13:37] Bogatyeishii: urm… is Santa near u? [[Laughing Out Loud]]
[13:38] maros Dasmijn: lol
[13:38] Zoivox gives you a quizzical expression. “Beg pardon?”
[13:38] Bogatyeishii: i can decorate the mystics homes XD
[13:38] Bogatyeishii: and we just wish prezzies will come ;p
[13:39] Bogatyeishii: to get new stuff be nice 🙂 but one wonders were to start now
[13:41] Zoivox nods. “I’ll do all I can to find out what’s happening. It’d be disastrous for both our worlds if there were a problem with breeding the Mystics. Whatever’s happening, hold tight – though I’m sure you’ve been waiting already.”
[13:44] maros Dasmijn: have a good evening all
[13:44] Zoivox: “In the meantime, is there anything else you’ve been wanting to know about Elarra?”
[13:44] Zoivox nods. “Thank you for coming, Maros! I hope your Mystics emerge again soon!”
[13:45] Zoivox taps a talon on the ground. “Drat, missed him.”
[13:45] Bogatyeishii: i not sure wots on elarra and have no ideas about accademies
[13:47] Thalia Philo: I suppose the web site will tell us how to submit the pictures?
[13:47] Zoivox: “Elarra is an incredibly abundant world! There are so many species of Magical creatures. They all need Magika to survive, just as you Humans need oxygen or water. Yet they work together in complex ecosystems.”
[13:48] Zoivox: “Oh yes – we’ll put further details on there soon. But Izz has also managed to create something for me. An… what is your term… email address!”
[13:50] Zoivox: “So when you take those snapshots, you can send me a link – it’s ZoivoxYvyx at… oh, what’s it called; the googly one. Gee-mail, that’s it!”
[13:52] Zoivox: “But please, only send it if you’re willing to give permission to put it on the Field Guide. It may take quite some time to gather all this information and to get the Guide up – but the earlier we start, the better. I appreciate any help you can give!”
[13:53] Bogatyeishii: wasnt the chart info or guide?
[13:54] Zoivox: “There is a chart that shows the Seasonal Breeding Progress, yes – but that’s only for this season. There were earlier PetalPods sent to Earth that contained young of other species.”
[13:54] Bogatyeishii: the intro to mystics v 1.4
[13:57] Bogatyeishii: most off the old mystics were used yo fuse and to get old ones i think is easier to buy breeding pks… but then u not upto date
[13:58] Bogatyeishii: but to breed pks u get new stuff
[13:58] Zoivox frowns, taking out a device from her coat, then tapping it a few times. “I don’t seem to have the data on that intro. That is part of the strangeness: there are many things that seemed… missing, from the information you Earthites are given. But we’re working to rebuild it all.”
[13:58] Bogatyeishii: the olds are gone i see in breeding hence u dont get all breeds
[13:59] Bogatyeishii: ahhh
[13:59] Zoivox nods. “Again, I’ll be doing my best to figure out what’s happening, so that you’ll never lack for new Mystics to breed and enjoy!”
[14:01] Zoivox looks over her shoulder. “For now, I must leave again. But thank you for all you’ve done – whether you’ve already done so much,” she says to Bogatyeishii with a smile, “or just beginning your Adventure,” she says to Thalia.
[14:01] Bogatyeishii: 🙂
[14:01] Bogatyeishii: waves
[14:02] Bogatyeishii: see u next time
[14:02] Zoivox: “See you!” She waves, and wavers, the glitching becoming more and more pronounced until she fades again into a swirl of shimmering motes.