Fantasia: Magicks


Nefer-Ta Spirit


For just over two years, you and your team have been living among the people of Urugal, an empire spreading from a desert land on Amasu, one of the many planets pulsing with magic in the Fantasian verses.  Before making the journey through the Sieve, you all spent time studying the local language and customs while preparing resources to support your specialties.  Urugali has a reputation for excellence in the magical arts, so, the Para Initiative expected you to make them allies in exploring Fantasia.

With your supplies secured in hard cases, the team moved through the Sieve and got to work setting up an outpost.  You’ve all come a long way since arriving with armloads of equipment, clumsily acquiring lodgings, and speaking with obvious accents.  Now you each hold positions of importance  to influential households, though none of you have the ear of the ruler directly.

Omari, with his love of maps, mathematics, and geology; works as a cartographer, recording material, magical, and spiritual landscapes.  Nesmin, a recruit from Fantasia, is a polyglot with excellent magical skills, making them a valuable asset to the House of Rashidi, which claims a distant blood relationship to the throne.  Chin-Soon, with her cutting-edge socioadaptive implants from Delphi,  has well earned confidence in her skills as a negotiator and diplomat, which she’s used to maintain independence while building trust among the many Houses.  You brought martial prowess, strategic expertise, and knowledge of portals to this journey, easily earning placement in House Rashidi’s elite guard.

Today it’s all paying off as Rashidi has agreed to take you all out in one of their great flying ships to map the specific layout of ley lines and how the great city was built to harness them using patterns from sacred geometry.  The royal seat has benefitted from this wellspring for over a thousand years, with the plentiful magical energies attracting shapers from all over the world.  Nesmin has themself marveled at the ease with which the energy may be called upon, and how they had to temper their workings in order to maintain the desired effect.  While magically sensitive folks can sometimes feel a ley line, the exact layout here has been shrouded by an impenetrable veil of secrecy.

It’s just before sunrise when your party lifts up into the still starry sky.  Chin-Soon makes easy conversation with the captain and your escort while Omari and Nesmin peer over the edge of the brightly painted ship to watch the irrigated landscape pass swiftly by underneath.  Nesmin’s long, pointed ears and braided hair wave in the strong breeze, mirroring the red streamers attached to the curving bow and stern.  Meanwhile, you watch the crew with mild skepticism and the ship with open enthusiasm.

All seems to be going well, until you see your destination.  The sky ahead suddenly darkens from a profusion of clouds forming with unnatural speed into a dense mass near your first landing site.  Abruptly, three blinding bolts of lightning converge on a single empty point about ten meters above the ground.  Yet, you hear the immense boom of exploding stone, and in that instant a small, but damaged, pyramid becomes visible.  As the captain frantically halts the ship in midair, the clouds begin to break apart, leaving artful puffs and whisps.  A figure flies up from the ruined top of the pyramid straight at your ship.

As she draws near, you see huge chains wrapped around her person, still glowing red where they’ve been seared off.  Her eerie white eyes and diaphanous gown are radiant against her smooth skin gleaming like brown moonstone.  She moves with purpose and wisps of clouds follow her.  Nesmin immediately weaves a shield around the ship while the captain cries out, “What treacherous magic is this?  She means to destroy us!”

Badru, your Rashidi escort adds, “This is no sorceress, this is one of the Forsworn, a villain from times remembered only in myth.  She will kill us all if we don’t act fast!”  He began his own spell while the crew knocked arrows into bows and readied shields and javelins.

“Hold!” Chin-Soon commands, “We must not act like fools afraid of all that moves in the dark!  I’ve heard the stories, too, and if they are true, this is not the moment to fight and still hope to live”.

“We are shielded, friends,” assures Nesmin, “we have time.”  While the crew still stands ready, some tension leaves them and Badru lets his spell relax, though he is ready to bring it back in an instant.

The woman in white hovers just outside Nesmin’s shield and speaks with a beautiful voice that reminds everyone of the comfort of a soft breeze on a hot day, “Good advice.  Peace be with you all if you will listen for a moment.  Your presence here at this time cannot be an accident.  I am one of the Nefer-Ta, eternal beings entwined with the land and the magical currents of the world.  We each serve and in turn influence Amasu.”

“Lies!” Badru breaks in, “The Forsworn killed the Nefer-Ta and the magicians of Urugal trapped them forever more, buried in the deepest reaches of Amasu.  Your words are worthless.”

“Yet the rains still came, the ground still bore life, and you think the Nefer-Ta dead?  We’ve been here all along, tricked and imprisoned.  We were each given gifts,”  her hand brushes the necklace at her throat, “thick with enchantments to befuddle the mind.  We were wrapped in these,” shaking her broken bonds, “chains enchanted to hold us rooted deep into stone.  Our prisons were trapped and kept secret while our lifeforce, our connection to the land, was drained to fuel Urugal greed”.

As Badru begins to interrupt once more,  Chin-Soon lays a hand on his shoulder to stop him, and the Nefer-Ta continues, “I’m not here about old grievances.  The truth will be revealed once my siblings and I are all free once again.  I would be in that prison still if it wasn’t for an incredible marvel.  Some kind of rift in the fiber of reality opened up within the pyramid and  depleted all the magic holding the enchantments together when it came.  My mind cleared and I was able to summon the clouds and the lightning once again to break free.”

Looking up excitedly from poring over a map, Omari breaks in, “I borrowed this from the royal library and it shows that a ley line should run right under that pyramid and go straight into the central one in Urugal pointing true west.  There are three more, one in each cardinal direction…”

“That would be where to look for the others,”spoke the Nefer-Ta, “Please help me free them so that we may once again protect Amasu.  This rift feels wrong, and I fear the intense concentration of magic may have attracted it.  I don’t trust what may come through it.  Set aside your fears so that we may stand together for our world.  We must hurry! Come with me!"

You look at your team and can’t hold back your excitement, “I bet this is a natural portal!  That would take vast amounts of energy to form, but this site sounds like it had the juice to spare. There’s a lot we don’t know about portals, it’s a scary thought, but theoretically a big energy source might attract them.  New portals are volatile and unstable.   This is a unique opportunity to study one from its inception, but…” you glance reflexively down at the ruined pyramid, “there are so many ways this could spin out of control.”

Badru stiffens at this talk of portals, “We will go nowhere with her.  We should kill her now rather than free more of them.  I don’t know what she is, but the Nefer-Ta are long gone.  We need to secure this site and report this to the Royal House.”  A horn cries out from the city and you think you see several dots of ships taking flight, lit by the morning sun.  “They already come.  We can fight if we will.”

The Nefer-Ta looks defiantly at you all, “I will stay no longer.  Those true of heart are welcome to come with me, for the good of Amasu and all life sustained by her.  I can carry you without a ship.”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

Will you:

A: Leave the Nefer-Ta to her own devices and land immediately to find this new portal.  You’ve never seen one just after formation and the Para Initiative could benefit from studying this site up close.  We need to ensure access over the long term, but who knows what these Nefer-Ta beings will do once they’re free.  Conflict may be unavoidable, and your main concern is expanding your access to the verses, not local conflicts.

B: Your allies here have tales of the treachery of these “Forsworn” stretching back for a thousand years, and at the root of many mythologies there are kernels of truth.  Stay loyal to them and  their ideology and lead the fight to stop the false Nefer-Ta from freeing her kin.  You can’t stand by while they take their revenge on the people of Urugal and destroy years of work!

C: Trust your negotiator and let Chin-Soon talk sense into Badru and the crew.  You know well how the victors of any conflict tell the biased history that becomes the truth.  This Nefer-Ta showed no signs of being the evil that the myths of the Forsworn describe.  Chin-Soon can help them see reason.  Working with the Nefer-Ta is a worthwhile long term investment for the Para Initiative and House Rashidi, even if it costs you access to the freshest portal data The Initiative might ever get a hold of.

D: Abandon the ship and let the Nefer-Ta carry you with her to the next site.  These locals stuck in a culture that won’t let go of the past are not worth your lives.  Clearly the Nefer-Ta are more powerful than any Urugali magician, and once freed, you want to be on their good side.  Whatever happens with the locals, the Para Initiative must maintain a foothold here and its access to this new portal.  The Urugals won’t hold it for long.

[Archivist's Note: With 9 votes in favor of ignoring the natural portal to make peace, Chin-Sook stepped forward immediately to sew understanding and make peace.  2 votes each were cast to side with the Urugal or the Nefer-Ta, and 1 vote was cast to leave the situation to study the portal.]

Chin-Soon implored the Nefer-Ta to delay a little longer, just enough to give the situation proper consideration.  Watching Chin-Soon work was like a game of Go played by professionals, mesmerizing and mysterious.  Her implants read every biochemical detail and she harnessed those insights to nudge people to reveal their hidden agendas and expose their truest motivations.

Badru was afraid of the Nefer-Ta, but his show of malice was driven by fear of being seen as a traitor to the Royal House.  He could sense the magical nature of the pyramids and believed the Nefer-Ta’s story, no matter the discomfort caused by that truth. With many reassurances, he was convinced that peace could be reached once the Nefer-Ta were freed and the magic of the land was brought back into balance.  House Rashidi could even become celebrated for the return of the Nefer-Ta to the world!

The hours after that your vessel hugged the ground as it flew from site to site and dodged Royal Navy patrols.  You entered the warded space around each pyramid, constantly on edge about meeting with a guard.  Omari, Nesmin, and Badru decoded the layers of magical and physical traps to break into each one while you stood watch outside.  There were many close calls, but by the afternoon all of the Nefer-Ta were freed.  In a single day, the three remaining pyramids were broken.

The Nefer-Ta agreed to stay out of the city while your group returned to attempt to smooth the way for their revelation.  Weeks of talks with all the Houses turned into months as the ripples of change from such a huge power shift pulsed through the empire.  Badru may not have had technological enhancement, but he knew his people very well; Chin-Soon was happy to let him lead negotiations while she mingled with the people to encourage a favorable view of the Nefer-Ta and House Rashidi.

Four months passed by the time things settled, and your group could finally study the natural portal.  It had stabilized by then, and it was too late to gather any groundbreaking data.  You received a visit from a senior attache from the Knowledge Corps.  She lets you know that your report was initially very promising due to the mention of a spontaneously forming portal, but that you neglected the Para Initiative’s core mission to understand interversal phenomena when you focused on local issues instead.  With an arched eyebrow she suggests you might have been here too long and forgotten your training, and leaves behind tutorial materials intended for new recruits when she departs.

Your group stood by the choices they made, even though it stung to lose out on the unrivaled opportunity to learn from the new portal.  There is still so much to learn here, maybe especially now that eternal magical beings with an arcane connection to this world, and its energies, have emerged.

[SHK-E Analysis: The Para Initiative team chose to build relationships and peace, improving both SAFETY and HEART in this situation.  Unfortunately, the team completely ignored a great source of KNOWLEDGE and requiring the use of a little extra ENERGY to power Chin-Sook's implants at a rate above mission parameters. A great debate is sparked among those in the Initiative over whether learning about the portals should take precedence over well-being of local populations.]

HEART: Excellent

Para Initiative Reputations: Interventionist

Para Initiative Inventory:
‍Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Gloomspark Portarray]





The chilly swamp is not what you expected to find deep in the heart of Fantasia.  Grey-green trees stretch upwards from the spongy earth, leafless and covered in soft moss. Hard lichen-like materials cling to the stones and rotting wood amongst the scraggly brush that covers the ground, tugs at the fabric of your clothing. This world is familiar, but not quite right - the soft wind hits your face in quick bursts instead of the gentle sigh of an Earth Zero breeze. The light reflects back from a thick atmosphere of pallid steam that hovers above you, lower and closer than the skies of home, creating a shadowless ambient glow of daylight, or someIight, the source of which cannot be discerned. This world is uncanny, and a shiver crawls into your spine.

Your crew stands behind you, silent and unsure, and their nervously shifting weight and darting eyes tell you that they’re equally eager to depart from these strange, desolate moors. Before you can open your mouth to give the order to pack it all up and prepare to go, there is an unmistakable ping from the Portarray–and it’s close.

A woman spins towards the sound of the device, startled, though her gentle gaze holds a weary kindness. Her dark eyes are heavy under the soft folds of her lids. Her skin reflects the sickly ambient light with a shimmery luminescence that surprises you, and you notice how beautiful the sharp geometric shapes formed by the deep lines in her face are in their bizarre organic symmetry. Her thick ashen-colored hair falls in tresses down her back. The dark robe draped over her shoulders is tied loosely at her waist, and as the fabric sways with her movements, you're drawn to the turquoise and saffron patterns that shimmer as the fabric catches the light. The glimmering shapes are scratched chaotically by the billowing light … emanating from the small golden box held tightly to her chest.

That, you think, is surely the source of the reading.

“Wait - it’s dangerous!” You shout.

She looks back at you with amusement in her sad, kind eyes. She smiles, just barely as if there was something both tragic and hilarious in your warning.

“Dangerous indeed, my friend, but as for this truth? ...I of all beings need not be told. Do you know who you speak to, child? Do you know how long I have wandered through this world, and others, carrying the shame of my ignorance upon my back? No, you couldn’t know… why should you? How could you?”

She places the box to her hip and uses her right hand to illustrate before her like the conductor of her own soliloquy.

“There are not many of us who can recall the splendor of our youth without the rosy glow of nostalgia… for those of us born before, well, we once knew splendor in the full truth of the word. But, that was before..”

She laughs bitterly, dropping her gaze to her worn and fragile hands, made all the more pallid by the stark contrast between the shimmering golden box and her ashen matte skin...

“Before I made my mark on this world…my great legacy of suffering…"

She tilts her head back, eyes closed, and her hands move to the clasp of the glimmering golden box…

She exhales.

"....birthed from my foolish ignorant heart.”

She places her fingers firmly upon the spring of the clasp, ready to snap the box back open as she continues.

"I never meant what I did, back then.. why would I? What did I want, then, but love, and even then, it was only just a little that I needed. I had no reason to lie… not a bone in my mortal body knew to be vindictive. I had not the wit for it, to be cunning, to be cool… the best I could do was being present, and that alone was my entire motivation."

You sense the hint of a question in her gaze, and no small amount of remorse. She looks from you to the box, and back again, as though her story, and its, should be known to you. Seeing that you only appear to be concerned with the danger it presents, and not immediately cognizant of her identity, or the box’s nature, she elaborates.

"After alI the terrible curses that had been placed inside by a vengeful deity were unleashed by my damned curiosity, I used every last bit of my mortal strength to pry the lid closed back, but that detail was lost to time. I recaptured hope, protected the one silliest, most human little joy.”

She chuckles, an earnest bit of mirth that does, for a moment, bring a sliver of hope to this morose environment.

“Once I realized what I had, I nurtured it, traveled with my burden across many realms, trying to repay my debt with kindness. I soon realized that the divine magic of the artifact could carry things from places they belong to other places where they would never otherwise be. Collecting hopes from bright places has been my task these thousands of years, and now, releasing them into places like this,” she waves her hand around at the drab scenery,  “is my way to repay the suffering I caused. And so, here we are. Me, with my attempt to atone, and you, with whatever brings you here. Surely it’s something of importance. I’ll ask you, human, who has suffered all that you have suffered in your days because of my past actions, what do you think is best? ”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

Will you tell her:

A: That you support her quest for redemption, and that releasing hope into hopeless places is probably for the good, despite the fact that the hope is not native to the environs.

B: That you think it is dangerous to tamper with environments; they have developed their own ecosystems because of internal workings and pressures. No amount of past sins to atone for justify untested means.

C: That she can and should lay down her burden. She has suffered long enough to pay for her crime, and the Initiative has allies who could repurpose a powerful artifact like the box into something that can guarantee a positive effect.

D: That she should continue to carry the box and nurture Hope. Even after all her trials, she manages to carry it in her heart, and she will know when the time is right to unleash it all at once, in a moment when it will be more critical than right now.

(If you’d like to vote on our stories, influence Verses lore, what happens next, game mechanics, and even future cards. Then join our Discord at

[Historian's Note: A majority of the Para Initiative wished for her to keep the box, with 9 votes.  3 supported taking on her burden, 3 supported her quest for redemption, and 1 thought it best not to tamper with unknown environ's levels of hope.]

You look into her tired eyes, and you see her for what she is… She is a kind soul, cursed by fate and chance, punished for an act of ignorance that left her burdened with the guilt and shame she has carried for millennia. And yet, despite the crushing weight of her sins, she continued to walk. You look at her slight figure, her weak hands and pallid, exhausted eyes, and you see a strength of heart and character that rivals the vigor of the greatest beast, as resilient as the light of a dying sun.

“This vessel is a powerful object, and it can be dangerous… As a member of the Initiative, it’s my sworn duty to gather knowledge and to protect the integrity of all existence. You must understand, this is bigger than you or me. If this object isn’t used carefully, it could be devastating… You know better than anyone what can result from the smallest accident. I can’t allow this object to fall into incapable hands. ”

She sighs and looks to the box in her hands with a resigned smile. Just as she begins to stretch her arms toward you in offering, you interrupt.

“Which is why I’m going to ask that it remain with you, in your and only your possession. You may be the only being in this world, or any other, who truly understands both its power for good, as well as its potential for destruction. I know that you know the difference better than I do. Tampering with environments, bringing hope where it doesn’t belong can be dangerous, but nurturing and fostering its growth is vital. One day, we may desperately need it. Please, continue to carry this box with you and care for the powerful force within.”

She smiles at you, and you see a flash of the beauty that once adorned her face. Her dull eyes shine for a moment, reflecting the warm golden light of the box and the Hope within it.

Pandora says, “You have my word.”

[SHK-E Assessment: You have gained SAFETY, knowing Pandora is out there somewhere, collecting Hope in case some day it is needed.  It is somewhat HEARTless to have her continue to bear this burden alone after all these millennia.]

HEART: Excellent

Para Initiative Reputations: Interventionist

Para Initiative Inventory:
‍Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Gloomspark Portarray]


Dear People



One of the first unusual signals that was ever detected by the Parafocal Array’s sophisticated system of optical warp-curve measurement remained on the list of known anomalies for a long time. It kept being pushed down the list of priority missions because it never showed signs of changing position, nor changing intensity. Fresh hot flashes, especially ones which are in motion, are always considered most pressing because their fleeting temporal nature makes them a ‘now or never’ proposition.

A stationary, medium-intensity reading is certainly of interest, and given its early date of detection, coupled with a relative dearth of new activity during the current build, the time has finally arrived for you and your team to go investigate the consistent Fantasian blip just a short hop beyond the Underground Library. Unfortunately, your contacts in the Verse don’t have any specific information to provide about the source of the signal, though they have confirmed that the region in question is an undeveloped wilderness, with little in the way of outposts or civilization. Fortunately, the Sieve can deposit you within short range of the anomaly, so there is no need to procure local lodgings or food, especially considering the fact that it doesn’t move. A quick in and out with some of the Knowledge Corps’ most sophisticated tech is the plan, with the hope of returning home promptly with some easily acquired data.

The aquamarine tones of a Sieve power-up for Fantasia travel are one of your personal favorites, evoking the idea of envelopment by both land and sea as the beams wash over you just before you feel the long, glitchy translation that you’ve heard best described as a slow-motion tunnel of light and sound. On the other side of the mathematical reorientation, you find yourself in a landscape that is filled with very little blue.

Your surroundings are counterintuitive in their color palette. The bright yellow greens of fresh growth abound, but they are often interspersed with rusty autumnal oranges and reds. You’ve seen these colors during visits to low-tech worlds across the outer valences of Synthex, but never as part of a single season in any environment. Even equatorial zones that teem with life year-round, but contain many species on different timings of their individual life cycles, are most often characterized by a deep, rich green, even approaching loamy black, as a constant backdrop to patches of newly emergent high tones, or the occasional withering leaves or petals that are in the process of falling away to make room for the next generation.

This place, on the other hand, feels like a battleground between spring and autumn with no summer in between. The ambient temperature could pass for either, so mild that it is almost unnoticeable, and the humidity is the same, so nearly exactly 50% that it conjures unbidden thoughts of those few perfect days out of each year just before the rise or after the end of the hot rainy season. Life here seems to be neither nascent nor in descent, but rather both at one time; a world of no adults, only children and seniors. Still, you detect no immediate threat and resort to standard protocol.

You look to your lead KC representative, who is a step ahead of you, having checked their Portarray on arrival, as is habit among the Corps. A nonchalant nod and a two-fingered gesture forward and slightly to the left eliminates the need for verbal communication. You and the rest of the team act on the cue and proceed for a few hundred meters in the indicated direction over the gently rolling terrain. As the pings of the Portarray grow in frequency and intensity, you are able to discern their source: a statue, roughly twice as tall as a standard human, stands among a copse of brush, thicket, and the occasional tree.

A typical homage to a nature goddess at first glance, the verdigris-covered casting is predictably female in form, and green enough from oxidation that it would not stand out in an environment that was more normal in color. However, the matte seafoam tone is quite distinct among the disparate palette of young and old growth that frames it, and the features of the figure suggest middle age, a noticeable distinction among its surroundings.

Further, a tree, bereft of leaves, has seemingly grown along, or maybe even inside the statue, and its many-segmented branches appear to sprout from the motherly figure’s head as a pair of antlers might. You think to yourself that it is a strange detail, as your knowledge of biology suggests that males are typically the members of species which participate in ritual combat as a determinant for reproductive worthiness, and are therefore the ones most inclined to develop weaponized appendages. An apparent set of horns on an otherwise matronly personage makes for a striking visual, at the very least.

The most outstanding feature, however, is the gleaming figure cradled in the mother’s arms, shaped in the likeness of a baby ruminant, and boldly distinct from the rest of the sculpture because of its apparent immunity to the ravages of time. Dead, or at least unconscious, it lays draped in a position that seems to suggest loss, sacrifice, or inevitability, but its brilliant coppery shine implies perpetual renewal and permanence. Even the glossy black of its obsidian hooves is imbued with a lustre that should have surely dulled with age or collected dust over the ages it took for the statue to oxidize.

You move closer, and see that the statue is standing on a pedestal with a plaque, overgrown with fresh shoots. You brush the dirt away and realize that the inscription appears to be in the form of a poem. You can’t be sure, as your aptitude with written Fantasian language is limited to what you have been able to develop over the scarce number of builds since the Initiative gained access to Omni and Scribs’ library, but it seems as though the opening line is a wide address, something that approximately translates to “Dear People.”

As you turn to check on your KC lead, to see if they have mined any significant data with the scientific equipment at their disposal, you notice that they seem... younger. The lines under their eyes are less pronounced, and the greying fringe at their temples is instead the rich brown tones of the rest of their coiffure. They also seem a bit... blurry, as do the rest of the party, half of whom appear to be beginning to suffer from something, leaning forward, putting hands to their backs, almost as if they were feeling the infirmities of age.

The other half look as though they are swelling with pride and renewed vigor, chests puffing out, and the verve on their faces suggesting that they feel better than ever. You cock a quizzical eyebrow and tilt your head, registering the look of surprise that has come across the KC lead’s face as their eyes widen at the sight of your countenance.

“Captain! Captain!” they begin to shout, their tone growing higher in register as they are gripped with panic, “what’s happening to you? You look... you look...”

“I look what?” you say, and are shocked at the gravelly, hardly recognizable tone of your own voice as you speak.

“You look,” they exclaim, voice almost childlike, “old!” You shake your head in disbelief and check the back of your hands. They are wrinkled and spotted, but still unmistakably your own, a vision of what they might look like in another forty revolutions.

Just beyond them, you see your lead transforming before your eyes. Their face is gaining fat in the cheeks, their overall proportions are shrinking, and you realize that they are regressing in age, just as you seem to be accelerating.

In a frantic prepubescent squeal, they cry out, “Do something! Do something!”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

There is little recourse ahead of you as you begin to succumb to whatever strange time dilation is taking place. Your team is all turning into toddlers in ill-fitting uniforms, or geriatrics in equally ill-fitting uniforms. You have one chance to try and solve this strange riddle. Will you:

A: Reach for the verdigris-covered figure? It is the only normal adult in this entire bizarre situation.

B: Reach for the brilliant calf? It seems to be unaffected by the strange passage of time that’s taking place here.

C: Reach for the branches that form the statue’s antlers? They represent a weapon and you are willing to fight for yourself and your people.

D: Reach for the inscribed plaque? You may have not had time to translate it all, but you’re sure it addresses whatever group is facing it.

(If you’d like to vote on our stories, influence Verses lore, what happens next, game mechanics, and even future cards. Then join our Discord at

[Archive: Temporal Flux Biome Mission- The members of the Initiative were widely split on the vote; 4 wanted to touch the inscribed plaque and won with a small plurality. 3 each wanted to touch the verdigris-covered figure or the antler-like branches growing from the statue’s head. 1 vote was cast for touching the untarnished calf.]

You know there are potential reasons to reach out to each part of the statue, but the most pressing is that you are doubling over as your age rapidly progresses. Reaching the antlers might not even be possible without climbing the tall figure itself, and some unconsciously foreboding detail about the calf makes it seem like the worst option. You know that magic here is often recorded in texts from your dealings with Oystersand’s Illustrated and other works you have heard about from the Underground Scholars. Another point in its favor: the plaque is close!

You reach out with a knobby-knuckled, gnarled hand that you barely recognize to the inscription and press your fingertips to the raised Fantasian letters, running your index along the first line that you translated to “Dear People.” As you do, the corroded green of oxidized copper slowly begins to recede, not as though you are removing it physically, but as if it is being rewound, returning to its original burnished state. Your body, as well, begins to revert from its unnatural aging, your skin suffusing with a glow of vigor and your structure filling out in the places where the rapid onset of time had reduced it to skin and bones.

You venture a look around to your team, and see that the activation of whatever energies were contained within the inscription has apparently alleviated their conditions as well. Your relief is interrupted by the sounds of motion from above, and you look up to see the metallic yearling starting to flail about in the grasp of the female form, who herself swivels her antlered head to bring her gaze to bear upon you.

“What strange travelers now traipse this domain,” she intones, her voice rich and throaty, “and bearing no wards to fend off the presbymancy. Hurry then, for we bear you no ill will, but this reprieve is temporary. You’ve only until the passage is complete until you will wither or regress again, and this time with no recourse to stave it off.” She casts a meaningful glance down at the inscription, the second line of which is completing its return to metallic shine even as the third begins the surreal process of deoxidation.

“Team, get ready to ship, we need to get out of here before the poem finishes transforming,” you shout. Confident that they will follow your orders, you turn your focus to gaining what information you can in the short time you have in this place. You meet the verdant woman’s gaze and ask, “What is this place? And what are you? Some kind of deity?”

She laughs, a full, natural laugh that you can tell is genuine, as she gently maneuvers to maintain control of the young creature cradled in her arms. “So curious! And bold! You seek answers even as your short time continues to lapse. Very well, then.”

“This place is The Non-Between. And as for myself,” she shakes her head and smiles, “I am no deity. An avatar, perhaps, but more than anything, a reminder. What else would you know, and quickly now, the poem’s winding waits for nothing and none.”

“The Non-Between? A reminder? Not between what, and a reminder of what?”

“Not between the past and the future, my inquisitive interloper. It’s said that ‘there’s no time like the present.’ And where you now stand IS no time like the present. And I, and my young companion here, are reminders of that. There are some in this realm who would use their connection to the Source to attempt to revert to the past, or to escape the consequences of the future. But the realm itself, in the form we take, resists those workings which would tamper with time, preferring instead for natural cycles to proceed as they do in their own due course.”

At her mention of the baby she holds, your eyes are drawn to it, and you recognize the detail that had subconsciously unnerved you earlier– where its front paws should be, there are hands instead. Shocked, you ask, “Why does your little ward there have human hands instead of hooves?”

“Why, to hold me when I am once again a baby, of course, and her antlers have grown in like mine.  But it will require many passages through the verse before we come to that, and rare indeed is even the occasional traveler that activates it these days. Time itself may wear threadbare before the cycle begins anew.”

You glance at the poem, and realize you only have about five lines left before it will be completely rust-free, and quickly say, “I think I understand what you’re saying, but I’d like to learn more. Can you do something to prevent the magic from affecting me if I stay after my people go home? Or is there somewhere I can learn more, some document or history of how this place came to be?”

She tilts her antlered head back with a mirthful expression, “You seek knowledge til the penultimate grain of sand passes through the glass. Unfortunately, I cannot act against the magic, and the plate will not become charged again until it is covered with tarnish. You must take your dear people and go, or you will face the consequences. As for a history, I know of none, nor have a memory to share of how we came to be. A document, though, you’ve already seen. All that need be said even now winds its way before your very eyes. Take what you can from it, and go!”

Of course! The plate itself surely holds some clues! You realize the last line is starting to change, and shout the order, “Everyone, GO!” You quickly vidcapture several stills of the engraving with your Portarray, and start to power up your retrieval. You look to the living statue once again, and say, “Thank you. We will learn from this, and we may see you again.” The last word of the poem shimmers into brilliant bronze as you feel the squeeze of return through the Sieve begin. “Goodbye!”

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Poring over the poem for translation will occupy several cycles at the very least; some sources in Fantasia have determined that it is a rare and extremely old dialect, though your interpretation of the opening words was correct. Using your linguistic expertise and some borrowed reference materials will see you deep in your element, which you sometimes prefer to the field. As you wash up and prepare to go tackle an archaic, extraversal text, your eye is drawn in the mirror to a few grey hairs that you’d swear weren’t there before the mission.

[SHK-E Analysis: Your choice of the plaque and the information it contains demonstrates your commitment to expanding the Initiative’s KNOWLEDGE. The size of your team and the distance you traveled consumed a normal amount of ENERGY. Other agents of the Initiative learn from your quick thinking on this mission.

HEART: Excellent
ENERGY: Very Poor

Para Initiative Reputations: Interventionist

Para Initiative Inventory:
‍Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Untranslated Copy of Dear People
Gloomspark Portarray]


Toothtwig Tales: Volume 1



“Come now, you two. Time for bed,” said Al-Suyá, attempting to wrangle the pair of young mice who seemed to be playing at a haphazard game of tag around the kitchen table. “Vespers was an hour ago already.”

“But we’re not tiiiiiired!” came the singsong reply from young Mazo, as he nimbly dodged a clumsy swipe from his sister around one corner of the wooden square.

“Yeah, we’re not tiiiiired,” echoed the voice of Eiara, giggling as she waggled an outstretched hand in a vain attempt to tag her brother as he darted just out of reach.

Al-Suyá smiled inwardly at the carefree joy that his children were feeling, here, safe in their happy home in Bluemoat Keep.  Nonetheless, he mustered up his toughest, sternest dad face and voice, nabbing each of the two little mice with one hand in a fluid motion that hinted at a hidden wellspring of the agility and grace that comes with years of study of martial artistry. “I said,” he growled, as gruffly as he could manage, “it’s bedtime!” 

In an instant, the young mice’s faces changed register to shocked surprise. Al-Suyá let it linger for just a moment before breaking into a wide smile as he chuckled aloud, “Besides, I’ve managed to tag you both, so now you’re out. And mice who are tagged out have to GO… TO…. BED!” With those last three words, he mussed the hair on their heads playfully.

Mazo licked a paw and smoothed his hair instinctually, stopping between trips to protest, “Thats… not how… tag works… dad.”

Eiara seemed nonplussed by her messy coif, and took the opportunity of being caught to snuggle closer to her father’s chest in a heartwarming display of affection that almost distracted Al-Suyá from responding to his son. “Mazo, when the fire is that low,” he said, gesturing with his chin to the banked coals that were glowing a soft orange among mostly grey ash, “it’s how tag has to work. There’s a whole day ahead of you two tomorrow to do whatever you want. And on top of all that, you know your mother isn’t well. We need to show respect and let her get her much-needed rest to regain her strength.”

At the mention of his mother, Mazo’s attitude changed notably. A hint of sadness entered his eyes, along with the sense of growing understanding of responsibility that Al-Suyá had proudly noticed beginning to develop in his son. 

“Okay, dad. You’re right. Maybe mom will feel better enough tomorrow for us to spend some time with her.”

“I hope so, Mazo,” said Al-Suyá, “come now, let’s get you two tucked in, and, if you’re quick enough, maybe there will be time for a story while you chew your toothtwigs.”

At the mention of a story, both pairs of young mouse eyes lit up, and Eiara let out a barely audible, tiny gasp. Almost as swiftly as they had been cavorting around the table minutes before, they hurried off to their shared room to get changed and ready for sleep.

Al-Suyá used one hand to set the candle gently on the desk that shared the wall with the doorway into his children’s bedroom, and, producing the other from behind his back, revealed a pair of toothtwigs. “Ta daaa,” he sang softly, handing them to the children, “one of willow for my breezy little girl, and one of aspen for my bright young man. Now munch on those well, and always remember how important it is for us to take care of our teeth. They are our kind’s greatest natural tool, and can be a last resort to defending ourselves in the worst of situations. A toothtwig a day…”

“Keeps the dentist away, we know, dad,” said Mazo, rolling his eyes at what he perceived as being treated like a baby.  For Eiara’s part, only the satisfied sound of gnawing could be heard.

“That’s right, that’s right,” said Al-Suyá, “and I know that you know. It’s just my duty as your father to make sure that you learn to take care of yourselves. Because one day, though not too soon, I’d hope, you may find yourselves taking part in a great adventure, somewhere far from this place, far from any place you know. And just as I did when I found myself in such a situation, you may discover that something as simple as a toothtwig before bedtime makes you feel much less alone, and much less frightened, and much more ready to face whatever challenges you will meet.”

Eiara looked up from her willow twig and stopped chewing long enough to mumble out of a mouthful, “You felt alone and frightened, Daddy? But you’re so brave and strong, and you have so many friends here at Bluemoat, I can’t imagine that.”

“Oh, thank you dearest,” replied Al-Suyá, “but I wasn’t always the mouse that you know today, surrounded by my friends and family in a wonderful and safe place.”

This time, it was Mazo who piped up. “Tell us that story, Dad! Tell us an adventure story about what happened before you came to Bluemoat!”

“Oh,” chuckled Al-Suyá, “I don’t know that telling you stories about a time when I felt scared is the best thing to do just before you go to sleep. We wouldn’t want you to have bad dreams, or wake up in the middle of the night, now would we?”

“Daaaaaad. We won’t! Right, Eiara?” asked Mazo, nudging his sister with an elbow. 

She glanced at her brother’s contact with her ribs, then uncertainly at his expectant face with a noticeable gulp. “Um.. right?” said the younger sister, with more than a hint of trepidation. 

“See, dad, Eiara’s fine. Besides, I won the game of tag, and so I should get to pick what kind of story we are going to listen to tonight.”

“Hoho,” said Al-Suyá, “I’m pretty sure your father won the game of tag tonight, getting both of the young mice in this house out in one fell swoop. But, if Eiara is willing, I could tell you some of the interesting things that happened when it fell to me to leave my parents’ home and venture into the jungles of the north. But ONLY if she is truly alright with it,” he finished, with an earnest and questioning look at his cherished daughter.

With a glance at her brother, who nodded as if to ask, “well, what are you waiting for,” then back at her beloved father, she set her jaw and tightened her lips in an act of determination. “Hmpf. Yes, daddy, I’m alright with it,” said Eiara, “just… not too many scary animals, okay?”

Mazo, never one to resist an opportunity to tease his little sister, chimed in, “Oh, no, dad, whatever you do, don’t mention your scary monkey witch doctor lady friend, who could gobble a little mouse girl up in JUST ONE BITE!” As he did, he reached over and playfully tickled at Eiara’s ribcage.

Eiara squealed, and then stuck out a pouty bottom lip before saying defiantly. “I’m not scared of HER.”

“You’re right not to be,” replied her father calmingly, “Waçu has some pretty powerful fangs, but she would never use them to eat a living creature. Her teeth, like ours, can be used for defense, and often to crack the shells of fruits and nuts that are the preferred foods of her tribe. But not all of the Saki are as wise and gentle as she is, and mice and opossums in the wildlands do well to steer clear of monkeys that they don’t know.” After a pause, he caught himself before continuing to enumerate a list of creatures that should be avoided, so as not to violate his daughter’s request for not too many scary animals. Besides, what Eiara didn’t know about the habits of her best friend Feti Furão’s greater grison cousins in the jungle wouldn’t hurt her, not for now anyway.

Taking advantage of the brief silence to chime in again, Mazo declared, “I’m not scared of Waçu, either. I think it’s cool how big she is, and how strong.”

“It is pretty cool,” said Al-Suyá, “but there are creatures far bigger and far stronger still than even our friend Waçu.”

This time it was Eiara who interrupted. “But none of them have such awesome jewelry as her! I loooooove her beautiful necklaces!”

At the mention of the bright tourmaline and emerald pendants that were the hallmark of the Saki shaman’s appearance, Al-Suyá’s paw instinctively went to the Greystone Bead that he wore threaded on a hemp thong around his neck at all times. He thought for a moment before he responded. “Hm, yes. Her necklaces are indeed something very special, my sweetling. But the story of those, even the story of my friendship with Waçu, comes far later in the tale of your father’s journey out from your grandmouses’ burrow on the edge of the Mato Grosso than where we will begin. Now, quiet both of you, and get to work on those toothtwigs. Especially you, Mazo.”

Brother and sister snuggled down into their comfortable bedding and dutifully started to chew on their bedtime twigs, as Al-Suyá began.

“The rains were heavier than usual in the year that I had finally come of age, and your grandparents begged me to stay on for one more season, citing the dangers of flooding, and mudslides. There was even increased activity of the venomous reptiles from the edge of the Zonas to the north. But I was young, and bored, and foolish, and I was having none of it…”

Fantasia: Magicks

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