Synthex: Calculations


Timtim and the Trike King



When the Array picks up an unusual signal from within the interior fringe of Synthex itself, there’s a reasonable chance that it’s just the relevant technological development on a world on the edge of breakthrough. A Knowledge Corps historian such as yourself could easily investigate such low-risk, low-reward assignments alone, but they warrant three-person teams so each field branch of the Initiative has representation. Still, it’s a nice benefit of these simple jobs that Sieversion for short-range intraversal travel is normally quick and painless. For you, as well as the Safety and Linguist representatives who comprise the rest of your party, that seems to hold true as the three of you gently come to rest, more than materialize, in the middle of a roadway in an apparently residential area in what you’d call a retro-tech, or early-modern landscape.

   Despite the overcast skies, the sense of a peaceful, if quotidian existence on the streets of the neighborhood is palpable. Houses made of wood stand in good repair. Docking areas for glossy but clunky combustion-fueled vehicles that you recall are referred to as “driveways” stand in bright grey contrast to the black of the granite-pebbled asphalt. Small monocultures of various grasses, called “lawns”, in differing states of repair thrive or wither accordingly, and for a moment you wonder if it wouldn’t be nice to exist in such an environment.

   To get the latest bad news on a printed pulp paper the day after it happened, or at the very worst, in the evening at a scheduled time, instead of on a full-cycle, instantaneous acti-feed. To have enough trees to build entire dwellings out of nothing but their remnants, instead of boggling at the year’s worth of energy price of a single pair of authentic wooden chopsticks like you see in the Core. To worry more about the length of your own tiny patch of grass than what will happen to your planet after it passes the point of being able to sustain grasses at all.

   But no. All of that comes at too steep a price. You’ve seen far too many histories of fringeworlds eating themselves alive, or warring themselves into extinction, or just doing nothing besides growing fat and happy until their star went supernova to be seriously tempted to say, “to frag with the Core and this Initiative.” Still, you must admit that the prospect isn’t altogether unattractive. This place takes things you’d consider wild luxury for granted, and you purse your lips at the thought that the Sieve can only retrieve that which it has already passed through its quantum mesh. A mere handful, never to be missed, of any one of these “lawns” would keep the robotanists busy for at least ten builds, but it would disappear from your clenched fist as soon as you shipped through recall.

   With the vaguest hint of jealousy on the edge of your conscience, you take the right turn indicated by your Portarray, and immediately recognize the source of the signal. At the end of the street, just outside of the “driveway” of a house positioned along one radial arm of a circular patch of pavement, known as a “cul-de-sac", sits a young boy on a deep red, pedal-powered tricycle. Next to him, towering nearly as high as the rooftops, stands a mechanical construct, jaws cast in a permanent metal smile, eyes made of incandescent bulbs, frame gently suffused with unconscious motion like only a living being’s can be.

   Thinking deeply through your vast knowledge of technology timings as you and your teammates make your way toward the odd pair, you can remember nothing that sets such a precedent. Some worlds develop liquid crystal display 2 megabuilds before others, so a digital timepiece or a color display wouldn’t seem all that unusual here. A fully functional inorganic intelligence, on the other hand, should be at least an order of magnitude out of the question, if not two. You put on your most friendly and hopefully unsurprised face as you draw near enough to them to hear and be heard.

   “VROOOOOOM!” says the toddler, looking up expectantly at his giant companion. “VROOOOOM, TIMTIM! Trike King fast! Go fast!”

   “My liege, Travis, we cannot ‘go fast’ at the moment. Organic lifeforms intersect your trajectory; likelihood of damage to one or more prevents me from taking this action. Perhaps his highness should command them out of his royal way.”

   Travis cocks an ear, then seems to take note of your presence; his eyebrows raise and his eyes widen. He hurriedly flaps a hand at you and nods vigorously, “MOVE, MOVE! Trike King gonna go fast, go VROOOOOM!”

   You and your companions look at one another quizzically. This child playing outside his home in a comfortable neighborhood is certainly no King, but his gargantuan playmate could undoubtedly pose a serious threat if it became aggressive. The Safety expert gives an almost imperceptible nod forward, informed, you decide, by the giant’s refusal to risk harm to organic lifeforms. As you continue forward, your Linguist speaks.

   “Hello, Travis,” he begins.     “KING TRAVIS! MOVE, I CAN VROOOOOM!”

   “Er... King... Travis, as it were. We... uh... your loyal subjects have come here to... pay tribute to your... Vrooom?” This causes Travis to break into a wide smile, and continue nodding, as if you should indeed pay tribute to his vrooom. Going along with this royal roleplay seems to be working. “Before we pay our tribute, though, tell us about the... power of your Vrooom?” The Linguist motions to the massive robot with one face-up palm.    

   Travis’s brows furrow. “TIMTIM? Help Trike King go fast!”

   “Ah, yes, we understand that, but, where did Timtim come from?”

   “He my imaginary friend!” Travis says, as though it were perfectly obvious. “Trike King used to go slow, imagine Timtim help, now can go fast! GO VROOOOM!”

   “I see. So you just thought of him one day because you wanted to go vrooom and he appeared out of thin air?”

   “No, imagined Timtim make me go fast for looooong time, since I got my trike. One day I come out, Timtim waiting here, make me Trike King, help me go fast! GO VROOOOM!”

   “Oh. I see. Timtim,” the Linguist says, directing his attention to the massive machine, “do you have anything to add to this that might help some poor peasants understand a bit more about your relationship?”

   “No, it’s just as his highness has said. He imagined me for a long time to help him go fast, and then one day, the day of his coronation to be exact, he came outside and I was here. Since then, we have been working together to go fast and vroom.”

   “MOVE!” shouts Travis, visibly getting fed up with your obstruction of Vroom. Your companions look to you to make a decision about your next move, as you are the official leader of the group.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

Will you:

A: Get out of the way and let Travis and Timtim go fast? Observation is the key to understanding.

B: Try and find an adult? Someone has to be in charge of this situation besides a toddler tyrant and his loyal leviathan.

C: Find a way for the Linguist to make distracting small talk while you covertly take readings on Timtim? There’s no way it’s as simple as they’re making it out to be.

D: Use your Portarray to call a helmet and some kneepads through the Sieve? It won’t cost much, but if Travis is going to go fast, he might as well be protected while he’s doing it.

[Tricycle Land Speed Anomaly Mission Log: The Initiative chose to let Travis and Timtim go fast without interfering with a strong consensus vote of 29. Looking for an adult received 1 vote, taking covert scientific readings 2 votes, and the option to provide SAFETY equipment finished second with a scant 3 votes.]

“Well,” you say, looking around at your team, “get out of his highness’ way!” As your party moves around behind him into the driveway, you address the toddler directly, “King Travis, show us the power of your mighty vroom!”

Travis giggles and nods, “Okay, okay! Timtim! VROOOOOM!”

“Of course, my liege,” replies the massive mechanoid. The whirring of a motor begins to hum from inside the body of Timtim, and as it grows in volume and intensity, the incandescent bulbs that make his eyes glow brighter and brighter. Just as you’re beginning to second guess your decision due to the devastatingly loud pitch that has grown to a high whine, there is a sudden “PHOOOOMPH!” and Travis shoots off down the street at a speed that has to approximate interplanetary launch velocity, his little legs a literal blur of motion as they follow the fixed pedals in cycles far faster than any human’s should.

Almost sooner than you can register he’s come to a halt about ten driveways down the street, and gets off his tricycle triumphantly, jumping up and down and yelling “YAAAAY! GO FAST!” He smiles and waves to your group, before mounting up on his tricycle for the long, significantly slower ride back down the street.

   You narrow your vision at Timtim, and ask, “What exactly is going on here, Timtim? There’s no way this child’s body should tolerate that kind of rapid acceleration, much less follow the pedals around at that rate. You have as long as it’s going to take him to get back here to come clean, or we will be forced to involve local authorities.”

“Mm. Yes. It IS as Travis has told you, officer. I am, in this place, quite imaginary, and quite far from my home. I suppose you could call me a ‘speed daemon,’ to borrow a local turn of phrase. My function inside the Clockwerk in my native plane is to make time; inhaling the past and exhaling the future might be the best metaphor I can offer. Not lost on me that my sudden and inexplicable translation here has presented me with a different opportunity to “make time.” To make time for this poor young human. His story is a sad one, and long, and surely for a different telling.

“In short, he is largely alone here, as am I. It is simple for us to enjoy each other’s company for as long as need be until our paths can be corrected. He is in no danger at any point during his Vroom. I only slow time in a bubble around him as he rides down the street. To an observer, and inversely to Travis himself, the distinction is quite visible, and produces relatively interesting results, if you’ll pardon the pun. Oh, but here he comes. I’ll ask you noble guest, not to spoil our fun, and if you would help us, please find out what you can about how I came to be here, and how I might get home. Some clean clothes and food for the boy would be appreciated as well.”

As Travis rides up, all smiles, you nod briefly to Timtim, having decided that he is very likely Travis’s best and closest friend in the world. “Well done, King! Well done! What a mighty vroom!”

“Trike King and Timtim go fast!” says the boy, clearly genuinely happy, “Next time subjects come see Trike King vroom, bring tribute!”

“What kind of tribute, King Travis?” you ask.

The boy smirks mischievously. “Candy!”

[SHK-E Evaluation:
You have gained a small amount of KNOWLEDGE in investigating this anomaly. You showed HEART by considering the subjects’ emotional well-being, both in playing along with Travis’ fantasy and accepting the pair’s relationship in spite of its unusual nature. You did not prioritize the child’s physical SAFETY in your decision making. Other agents of the Para Initiative learn from and emulate the strategies of this successful mission now.

SAFETY: Very Poor

Para Initative Inventory:
Oystersand's Illustrated Arcana


Arc Angel



The drizzling rain in this place never seems to stop. There are patches of sunlight for a few hours here and there, sure, even the occasional torrential downpour. Those extreme opposites still somehow both just feel like intermissions, brief reprieves in the constant patter of tiny drops that gutters the gaslights but doesn’t extinguish them, that trickles, black-stained, down roadside drains but never seems to wash an ounce of soot off the city.

The coaly runoff in the sluiceways and the shiny creosote on the sides of buildings isn’t the only persistent grime here, either. Ironsfed is dirty to the core, from the newly-minted industrial barons, drunk on the wealth and power of a mechanical revolution, scarcely two generations away from the earnest toil of their sheep-farming grandparents, all the way down to the six-rev street urchins, born two generations too late for anything but the last resorts of sweeping chimneys or picking pockets in an indifferent, inhumane town.

All too common, the pervasive pollution, on these neo-industrial, d-orbital worlds. Give someone a centi and they’ll take a kilo, it’s said, and nowhere in the whole of Synthex does that bear more truth than in these in-betweens. A centi past basic metalwork and a kilo’s kilos behind Delphi, Ironsfed fancies itself to be damn near nuclear.

“Where else on this backwater planet could you have the luxury of full-cycle gaslights?” it asks with its smug, wasteful flicker, never mind the fact that less illuminated locales maintain a night sky with a more realistic version of the actual scope of the Verse. Presumably, they offer better vision of the sky during the daytime, too, given that this ostensible center of culture and fashion is perpetually overcast with continually-leaking, mould-grey clouds that obscure not only the star that drives the system, but also all horizons beyond the boundaries of its own self-absorbed, self-righteous settlement. No wonder waterproof wool coats never go out of style. Black waterproof wool coats.

Ironsfed is just one out of a tera of make-believe metropoles, though. Scrabbling through its petromuck, learning the coin-lubricated lanes of its social hierarchy’s lowest levels, making friends with friends who aren’t really friends, and for what? Fifteen builds chasing rumors? Fifteen builds eating the oily approximation of fried fish that the city prides itself on? That the boarding-house prides itself on?

Fifteen builds with the only whisper of a clue in the form of a child, almost too young to be in school, if there were school for children in this pit of a place, caught by the wrist in a feeble attempted pickpocket, crying out, “Please, please, guv! I meant novfin by it, Roor Yaniss put me up to it, ‘e did, ‘e’ll beat me if I come back barehanded. But, guv, please, don’t make a scene of it! Take Roor’s worst than face the Arc Angel any cycle, I would.” Loose but an instant in a moment of surprise and pity, then running, lost, just another anonymous soot-stained face among the uncaring underclass.

Roor Yaniss, then, a link in the chain of this mystery, a name that might mean fresh, lean sashimi if it leads to the intel in question. A ticket out of Ironsfed, out of the d-orbit, if it leads to the Arc Angel.

A myth.

An invention.

But maybe a myth or an invention of a scumbag child exploiter named Roor Yaniss, deployed to keep the kinders in line. Just as his purported pay raise per rev past ten keeps them on until they are too old to be of service, picking and passing until they are terminated, turned out onto the street, always invariably just before their eleventh revday. Yaniss isn’t alone, though; nobody in Ironsfed gives pay raises.

Another five builds and it’s a dead end.

Lots of labor violations, lots of safety violations, lots of lifetime sentences in Delphi for the kind of things that Yaniss is party to, but this isn’t Delphi. It’s a filthy benighted d-class that should consider itself lucky to not be called an f. No judge here would give him a day behind bars given the promise of payoff. And there’s been no sign of the supposed superhero. It might be time to pack it up and go, call it quits, come home as the first mission to go on the books as a failure, maybe even face forced resignation. Anything would be better than another plate of motor-oil fried fish.

First, though, another look around town. Drink in the miserable mist, smell the sad solemnity of generations, ingest the implications of collective history. Relish in how far things have come, how good, how true, how hopeful humanity must be to… feel a puncture, the silent shive of polished blade into a pungent, purple kidney, then witness leg and knee, the pillars of civilization, give way and collapse.

“Yer wallet or yer life, guv. Very likely bofe, tho it stands to reason the former should go before the latter, init? But if you’d ravvers, the vicey versey’s no trouble.”

A triumph of iron spilling iron in this loose carbon black, over a bit of copper, until a faint atmospheric hiss makes itself known with a scorching WHOOSH and an angel descends from on high.

“Effen ‘ell boys, it’s the Arc Angel! Cheese it!”

Footsteps in every direction, the scent of ozone, the gentle touch that moves a feeble attempt to hold the fluids in. Then…

SHRAAPPDC! a shock of searing pain, an aroma of burning flesh, a sense of closure, a rugged voice.

“You don’t belong here. I’ve been watching you since you arrived. Not only are you not from Ironsfed, you’re not from anywhere on this planet. I don’t know what you want or what you're doing, but this city doesn’t need anyone’s help. It’s under my protection. Go back to where you came from.”

A glimpse in the moonlight reflected off the still waters reveals the angel’s true nature. Fabricated, non-functional wings of corrugated roof scrap, a welder’s mask, a smith’s thick apron. The divine flaming sword, sealer of mortal wounds, no more than an enormous, reckless blowtorch, run from a backpack of tanks by means of flexible tubing.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

Nevertheless, the preternatural knowledge of interversal travel and the life debt owed shape the following decision:

To return to the Hub, seeking medical attention and a posthaste debriefing about the low-tech genius in Ironsfed.

To call out with a promise to to tell the truth about arriving in Ironsfed and the purpose of the mission in hopes of recruiting an ally.

To live with the cauterization of the wound and suffer a few more platefuls of “fried fish” while continuing the investigation at a reasonable pace.

To pursue on foot immediately and attempt to resolve things for better or worse as quickly as possible.

(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

[Archival Note: All 9 Mission Assessors unanimously approved the field agent’s decision to reveal aspects of their identity in an attempt to make a connection with the rogue hero. No significant discussion of other options was necessary.]

As the strange figure begins to fade into the inky shadows of the dockyard, the options become limited. Wounded, there is no chance of following him; in twenty builds, there’s been no contact, and he seems to have reliable information about your off-world origin, astounding considering the level of technology here. Giving up now is out of the question as well, having finally come face to face with the mysterious figure, a return with no tangible data would be worse than having left without ever meeting him. Playing to his confidence is the best option.

“Wait! Just wait. You’re right about me. I’m not from here. I’m an investigator from another part of this universe.”

The silhouetted wings stop for a moment, and after an extended pause, turn to face you, but move no closer. Finally, his voice comes. “Hm. I wouldn’t be inclined to believe you, but… it all adds up. How did you get here, investigator? While most people here think stories of ships that can travel to other worlds are just flights of fancy that belong in penny dreadfuls, I’m a man of science, and I prefer to consider the possibilities. Still, if you had come in some kind of vehicle, I think it likely that I would have found it by now.”

His silence afterward makes it clear that he is expecting an answer, so you muster up the courage to speak. “No, no, not a spaceship. Even on my world, we don’t have an actual vehicle that could travel this far quickly. There’s also the question of sustaining life on such a vessel, producing food and breathable air. We’ve found it much easier to use… alternative methods, ways to shorten the distance between two points rather than trying to travel the whole distance quickly. A ‘portal’ is probably the best term. One such portal that we discovered on a world much closer to my home than this, presumably left there by an earlier civilization, led me here, to a subterranean cave complex about five cycles travel from Ironsfed by horse.”

He considers the revelation for a moment, and when he speaks again, it is authoritative. “Then we need to go there, send you back, and destroy it once you’re through.”

Jaw-dropping. For a self-proclaimed man of science, he seems disinterested in a startling discovery. “What? Destroy it? Why? I came to this city after my arrival, not just because of its reputation, but the whispers of yours as well. The Arc Angel, man of mystery who protects against wrongdoers and things that go bump in the night. Surely you can see that this is an opportunity to learn from one another, to make a mutually beneficial friendship. Destroying the gate won’t benefit anyone.”

Gruffly, he replies. “I work alone. The things that go bump in the night, which I’ve seen far too often of late, are probably coming through that portal. Ironsfed is my city, my responsibility. Shutting down that portal is a means to keep it out of harm’s way.”

“No,” you say. “The portal hadn’t been used in thousands of revs, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands. Not by my people, or anyone else. I’m the only person, or thing, for that matter, who has traveled through it since its discovery. Whatever you’ve been dealing with, that’s not the source. As for your city, I’d argue it’s in more danger from people like the tech-barons and Roor Yaniss than anything else. Exploitation, greed, pollution– those are serious threats to your citizens.”

“Leave Yaniss to me,” he says. “He’s just a link in a larger chain that goes all the way to the top. When you started going after him, I almost thought I would have to intervene before you blew the whole case open by moving on him. When you didn’t, I understood that you were a competent detective, and that you were probably looking for me. Luckily, I decided to follow you down here tonight. Those hooligans would have made good on their offer if I hadn’t been here to intervene.”

With an appreciative nod, you say, “I know. Thank you. I owe you for that. But listen, it’s not my job to make waves in the places I go to gather information. If the organization decides that intervention is the right thing to do, depending on the individual case, there are whole teams of people dedicated to making that happen. My job is to find out what’s going on and report back so the people in charge can formulate a course of action. For now, why don’t you ease up on your ‘lone wolf’ thing. Let’s work together. We’ll figure out what’s been causing these things you’ve been dealing with, and go from there. In exchange for the information about what’s happening in Ironsfed, I’ll tell you where the portal is, so you can keep an eye on it. But you have to promise not to destroy it. And, you have to tell me one more thing.”

He grunts assent. “We can work together for now. On these conditions. No moves without my approval, don’t try to follow me home, don’t try and discover my identity. When you go home, you recommend what we agree on after you’ve seen what I’ve been dealing with.”


“What other thing do you want me to tell you?”

“How did you know I wasn’t from this planet? Knowing I’m not from the city, sure, you’re from here, and you’re well-informed. I know my accent is good, I trained in linguistics for years. And it’s wildly improbable that I’m from another world compared to another city or country on this one. What gave me away?”

“Ironsfed has a lot of detractors. Ajax thinks they’re the height of art and culture, Ponta Berio claims to have the best-looking people and the best wine. The colonies aren’t big fans of the companies or the government. But they all agree on one thing, some of them even save money their whole lives to make a trip here because of it.”

“What’s that?”

“The fried fish is delicious. Anyone who hates it as much as you do has to be an alien. Go get that wound looked at, and get some rest. I’ll be in touch.”

You shake your head as the Arc Angel melts into the misty night.

Betrayed by your taste in seafood!

[SHK-E Analysis: Choosing to remain on a d-orbit world with a questionable level of medical technology while injured is a threat to SAFETY. The commitment demonstrated to forging new relationships, however, is a strong testament to HEART. The shared information about portals was offset by new data about events near Ironsfed, so KNOWLEDGE is a net neutral. Portal missions, particularly undercover, single agent work, do not consume a significant amount of ENERGY.

ENERGY: Dangerous

Para Initiative Reputations: Interventionist

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


Forge Song


“Magic weapons? Hardly. Just trumped-up tales to excuse shoddy workmanship caused by one of two  things.

“First, and most likely, a lack of discipline at the forge. Granted, some do seem to have a gift for  the work, but nothing, not even if magic was real, nothing makes up for a sense of purpose. I saw an  apprentice, who couldn’t smith a dagger for an Aq-Shabari child, make the most exquisite soup spoon  just as soon as she finally got the chance. Nothing magical about that; she just wasn’t particularly interested in stabbing. Must have been particularly interested in soup, probably feeding soup to the lunkheaded Journey-craft who kept assigning her to make daggers, I’d guess. I think they ended up married.

“Second is the inability to listen. That’s what sets the great ones apart from the good ones,  even. Metal’s got a mouth, and ears, too. And it’s been around a long time, much longer than you and  me, traveler. It’s heard some things.

“Maybe, time was, there were great beasts with razor sharp claws, and giant teeth, and wings to fly with blazing speed as the Geo-Logicians claim. If that IS true, though, the metal was there before, and it’s still there now, same place, just waiting to be dug up. Just sitting, listening, absorbing the vibrations, and keeping a record of them. And when you heat it up, when you bring it to life, and you put the touch of the instrument to it, you can hear that record if you put your mind to quiet and listen.

“I’m inclined to believe the Geo-Logicians, for what it’s worth, traveler. Cause I’ve heard such  songs and stories when I’ve been in the dance with the blaze. Ser Massquis’s blade that’s said to shred  plate like paper? That came from this forge, it did, and it sang, hell-hot loud and fury for the nine days it  took to bend it into shape, sparking purple and bright white, a screeching, piercing cry. Metal that knew dragons, or at least their juniors..

“The spade that buried the great peacemaker Ashla Leão? I cast it from the lodestone his hand  rest upon when his brother betrayed him. I wept full forty-eight hours forging, the heat of the furnace  leaving salt crystals on my cheek as my tears turned to vapor. Not weeping for the man, you see, for I  never knew him, but for the mournsong the iron lowed, for it knew him. A dirge the likes of which the  choir of his Gossamer Tabernacle couldn’t imagine.

“I’m sure Good John Cooper down the lane could wax poetic about his barrels, too, and far be it  from me to say trees don’t listen. But trees are young, just as young as us, mostly, and anyway he only  soaks their bones and bends them. I’ve more in common with Wez, that rascal of a bard. Drunk he may  be, and loose, but he keeps his mouth shut when he hears a good tune, and can play one too, and waltz  with a partner. He’d never make a good smith, of course, on account of his sense of purpose, but he  does know how to listen.

“But I digress. Point is, there’s no such thing as magic. But there is such thing as stories. The  best ones we never forget. And the metal, it’s like us in that way. If my craft is better than the rest, it’s  because I respect my materials, and take them serious. I’m dedicated to this forge, traveler, my life and  limb. I trust the metal to say what it has to say, and I listen, and dance with my forge-arm, my strikes with the hammer, my grasps with the tong.

“The metal’s too cool, now, and I’ve spoken too long.  Be along if you must, but, if you’ve time, and you please, then stay for a song.”

As a solo operative investigating the reports of supernatural weapons appearing on this low-tech outer valence world on the Rim, you’re disappointed, but not surprised, to discover that it is just a savvy approach to smithing that has created powerful bespoke pieces, right in line with what you’d expect in Synthex. The mission is already a simple success, though not an exciting one, because it closes an investigation with no loose ends. Still, you could manage some additional upside depending on how you proceed.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

Will you:

A: Accept the open invitation to observe the skilled smith at her work? You already trust that she’s telling you the truth of her perspective and experience, but seeing is believing. It’s also a rare opportunity to see a master craftsman working by hand, almost unheard of at Delphi with its tech conglomerates and massive forge complexes.

B: Ask where you could find out more about the Geo-Logicians and their theories. It sounds like they are participating in proto-scientific attempts to explain some of the phenomena of their world, and the cultural scholars on Delphi are always interested in this kind of historical information. If this world reaches breakthrough on the back of their work, this knowledge would form a complete Archeo-Teleo link.

C: Graciously take your leave and seek out Wez the bard. He may have a better understanding of where the rumors of magically enchanted weapons came from, and may even have had a hand in it himself as a storyteller by trade. The smith also mentioned that he is a good listener; the combination of his profession and that quality make him a strong candidate for being in the know.

D: Ask for information about the origin of the metal that made Ser Massquis’s blade. While her understanding of her materials may be right in a pseudo-scientific way, chemistry doesn’t make mistakes. There could still be external forces interfering here in spite of the fact that the smith’s beliefs are earnestly held and openly shared. Then again, it could be nothing but some inclusions that turn out to be a dead end.

(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

[Archivist's note: 8 preferred staying to view the Blacksmith's work, 8 thought it best to find the Geo-Logicians, while 2 each favored finding Wez the Bard or information about Ser Massquis' blade.]

Since it seems that you’ve learned all you can here, you decide to seek out these Geo-Logicians to gather what information they might share.  This would pad out your report nicely, hopefully making the whole endeavor more fruitful.  A full Archeo-Teleo link with your name on it could really boost your advancement opportunities back home.  The forger points you in the right direction and you move on with gratitude.

You’ve only walked along for a few decime when the Portarray pings.  You came here by Sieve and there’s been no indication of any natural portals or unusual energies in this area, or even that there might likely be on this world. You open up the case to look over the display panel, and discover that there’s some indication of unusual, possibly extraversel, energy nearby.  In fact, according to the readings, it’s back the way you came!

Hurrying back gets you surprised looks from the locals, but it’s all you can do not to run full out.

When you get back to the forge, the metal which had grown cool glows once again with heat.  She moves the material to the center of the flame and leans forward… to listen?

Her expression would seem more appropriate on a teenager huddled together with friends sharing a secret.  Her mouth is curled in a sly smile and she laughs a little now and then.  Moving the block so that she holds it at arm's length with her left hand, she strikes it gently with her right saying, “You’re a brazen one aren’t you?  Full of lively tales and bold adventures.”  She strikes it again and hums, testing notes against the resonance of her hammer against the metal, as if it were a tuning fork.

When she seems satisfied with a particular key she tests out some patterns of notes until her eyes light up with an unspoken, Aha!  The Portarray also lights up to indicate a burst of whatever energy it’s detecting at this site.  As you listen, you think you hear a note of reply from the stone, very faintly, and gone so quickly you aren’t certain it happened.

“Yes,” the blacksmith says to the stone, “we’ll be good friends, and we’ll have plenty of time for you to tell me all that you wish to share.”  She sets the stone back in the heat of the forge then, and begins to sing.  At first the song is just short patterns of notes hummed in bursts with her listening in between each one.  By the time the metal is hot enough to work you catch the occasional, very faint word in between the melodic refrains.


…her touch……her hair…

These little whispers of fragments most enticing dance past your ears, like something playing at the edge of your vision, yet always just out of sight.  Then the forger takes the block in her tongs and begins the methodical process of beating it into a new shape.  When the hammer hits the metal the sound reverberates throughout the smithy like a musician in a concert hall.  The hammer keeps time while the metal sings and the smith joins in.

Sometimes she sings without words, sometimes she sings a piece of a story, and still she listens periodically like a bosom buddy from her youth stands before her and they’re laughing together.  People walking past suddenly smile or laugh, as if recalling some past delight, when they look up at the forge and continue on their way.

You’re mesmerized by the most unscientific science of her work.  She’s precise and highly skilled to be sure, but clearly there’s more going on here than she is willing to acknowledge!  You remember in time to turn on recording mode and engage every sensor you can.  This visit and subsequent report may be far more crucial than just an Archeo-Teleo link.

[SHK-E Analysis:  The Initiative spent a small amount of ENERGY making records of the Smith's techniques and analyzing them to understand the phenomena at play. We gained a small amount of KNOWLEDGE about how the smith's work was manipulating Versal energies. There is much more to learn!]

SAFETY: Very Poor
HEART: Excellent
Energy: Dangerous

Para Initiative Reputations:

Friend of the Keep

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


Cypherglyph Valley



Traveling the Verses doesn’t come naturally for humans - or for many beings at all, for that matter - and the cost in energy necessary for the Initiative to continue research is no small consideration.

“As you know, the Portarray technology alerts us to inconsistencies within an individual Verses' median energy signature. No one’s sure which Verse this place is part of, but it’s full of outlier energy readings.”  This cluster of asteroids has been one of the most prolific and fruitful energy mines for the Para Initiative.

Miners settled here since the first days Sieve operations have been one of the backbones of the Para Initiative's joules.  With its oxygen-rich atmosphere and mild temperature, survival is possible in the long-term, and the planet is rich in energy deposits embedded into the surface itself. With no natural life forms on this large barren rock, there is no competition for the wealth the land holds. The resources are plentiful, and there is no end in sight for what could be derived from this desolate place. You’ve been asked to evaluate a massive expansion here, which could see thousands more miners settling onto the opposite hemisphere to establish several more extraction sites…

If you report back that it’s safe.

The manager of this specific operation speaks proudly, projecting his voice above the heads of his audience as he explains his lifes’ work in the grandest of terms… You feel grateful to witness this moment, because it seems to mean more than a great deal to your guide.

“This is the most effective method we’ve developed to pick up the kind of unusual phenomena that’s worth documentation… but that’s not the only reason we rely on this kind of tech. Just so happens, that the most potent sources of usable energy are found at these same locations where the layers of Verses seem to touch. “

Baaqir gestures outwards to the general chaos around you, towards almost one hundred and fifty humans working diligently (and unpreparedly, you think) on the surface of this hurtling rock.  From each shuddering crack bleeds forth a metallic, weightless liquid which leaks from the rock in floating drops. Like mercury without gravity, it rises out from the surface and floats unceremoniously past the goggled faces of the miners, past the steep jagged walls of the quarry where they congeal into perfect, floating orbs which hover above your heads beneath the mirrored surface of the gaseous atmosphere. The perfectly spherical masses of liquid reflect the bursts of light from the machinery below as they drift along the atmosphere, growing large with each drop until the energy within the liquid can be used to fill the Initiative’s battery cells.

Green sparks fly from the cold blue rock. Miners chip away jagged shards with each of their personal lasers, atomic destruction wielded so casually.... The rocks do not splinter easily, and let shrapnel fly rebelliously towards the humans’ gentle, delicate eyes. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the planet aims each sharp piece just so... which bounces from the protectively placed adamantium visor, but cascades into the rest of the ore and encourages more and more vicious rocks to careen towards the unsuspecting foreheads of these sitting ducks. The stone chips ricochet and clatter across the ground before you.

You need to get these humans out of here - they don’t belong on this surface, you think.

Jovially, your guide continues, “The best working theory at the moment is that these energy deposits occur at the sites where the fabric of space is weaker, and things can get fuzzy, and maybe even cross over. These places aren’t controlled or all that safe, they’re organic, raw… Untamed. I think of it like, the portals are button-holes in the fabric of space-time, cut cleanly with a sharp blade and hemmed on the edges. But places like this… it’s more like when you’ve worn a hole in the knee of your denim from sheer friction and persistence. Rough edges, irregular shapes and no clean borders.This is the portal wilderness….. Don’t quote me on that, it’s just my understanding, you know.”

“And I’m paid to be a miner, not a thinker.”

You’re grateful for the comradery, because the sheer volume of this entire operation has left you completely overwhelmed and out of place. Miners with their glowing red lasers and complete lack of fear dot the jagged cliff sides surrounding the ravine.  They move calmly beneath the immense pulsating mirror image of the planet that looms above their heads, the rippling surface of an upside down ocean reflecting the surface of this hurtling meteor.

A bit of glare pulls your gaze to your feet, where a fist-sized shard of cold rock has skittered to a stop against your boot. You reach down and lift the small shard to your face, transfixed by the complex network of dimly shining green veins which weave through the rock. Like tree roots, like lightning strikes, like infantesimal threads tangled into a million random shapes… or, perhaps not so random? The patterns almost look like writing, or hieroglyphs of some kind... words?

You become suddenly uncomfortable, but you can’t say exactly why. Your fist closes tightly around the rock, instinctively. As you stare out into the ravine, you begin to count the small figures crawling upon the surface with their lasers, harvesting mere handfuls of energy.

You find your mind wandering over how such a big risk is taken, for each individual one… and for how much? What will the price of their toil, their lives fetch? How many batteries will that even charge, what will they even be burnt for? A single missions’ worth of fuel?

A voice echoes eerily in your eardrums, buzzing like tinnitus:
“It’s infested,” you cringe as you hear your mind’s own self-narrator say it. “Absolutely crawling with miners,” you think, with a twinge of guilt at the readiness with which you described your own peers as nothing more than clamoring ants on a scrap of food… carving out every nook, collecting the slightest bit of nutrition, energy, to carry home excitedly without the slightest awareness of the great plan working above them all, you all, how manipulated you are…

You snap forward, eyes re-adjusting to your guide’s face, now concerned…How many of these are truly your own thoughts?

“So,” says Baaqir, snapping you back into the present, and the pressing issue at hand.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

“What do you say? Do we get the green light to take this operation to the next level?”

A: Sounds good to me. Energy is too vital a resource to sacrifice just because some weird rock gave you the heebie-jeebies. After all, things are always a little strange when you leave your own Verse, and this is nowhere near the eeriest thing you’ve come across…

B: We need more time. This is above your pay grade, but you know when to admit it. You need to call in experts. It’s going to take a team of Initiative agents more skilled  than you to properly research what’s going on here before anyone can say whether this project can be expanded, or even continued. Cease operations until this planet can be properly researched.

C: Don’t rock the boat. Things seem to be going well enough…. Steady output, and the workers seem happy enough. Maybe we’ve lucked into the right balance, but any expansion could be unsustainable. Better not overwhelm whatever kind of sentience might be here.

D: Hard no. In fact, something is going on here that needs to be dealt with before another drop of power is harvested. This place is dangerous. Full stop on all proceedings, and evacuate.

(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

[Archivist's Note: By a margin of 5 to 3, those present thought it best to take time to study this place rather that green light the expansion.]

You shake your head, partially to let Baaqir know the answer is "no", and partially hoping it might clear it of the intrusive thoughts.  Your guide looks deflated, as if you had thrown the slice of cake he was about to eat hurtling into empty space...

You wonder why such a cruel thought would cross your mind. You would never do that to someone's slice of cake!

It's not until months later when you read the reports of the Knowledge Core Versology team and their Safety Ethics Assurance attaches that it becomes more clear:

Preliminary theories were that the planetoids exist at an intersection of Synthex and Gloom. Reality presents the Synthexian paradigm of space, technology, and travel. However, the "jagged rips" that Baaqir was talking about seem to be channels for malevolence from Gloom.  SEA's assessment is that the propensity for accidents and collisions with debris and other undesirable events are several standard deviations above what their actuarial tables would predict.  Further analysis showed a pattern of increased aggression and conflict between the miners posted here.

The Archeo-Teleo Lingists sent for Emilia, hoping both her experience with various Gloom Verse missions and the Sight might help better understand what's at play here. She examined the rock with the seeming-writing on it carefully, without touching it.  Her report was that when examined with the Sight, it looked to be part of a powerful curse.  When she performed auguries and divinations upon it, it became clear that it was a little piece of the mind of this world.

You read that again to make sure you got it right.  But, the report says the entire planet was conscious, and its only wish was to cause harm.  It's energy, apparently, was being offered freely as some kind of bait for the miners to stay and put themselves at risk.

You skim to the end of the report, ignoring many technical details and incident forms...

It looks like ultimately the Para Initiative decided to continue operating at the site with a mitigation plan put into place by Safety Ethics Assurance. Wards were added to the miners' headgear to protect them from mental influence by the planet. Protective glyphs were used on work sites and work camps to counter the curses promoting accidents and mayhem. Chromatography is now performed on the silver liquid to separate the pure energetic layer from the malign layer.  The separated fluid is considered hazardous waste, and transported back to Gloom where it can, presumably, cause not more harm than the native ambiance.

You scratch your head.  Apparently the planet is considered a consenting party to being mined, as it holds out hope for miners to get complacent and hurt them when they let their guard down.

You put the report away, and are glad you made the call for someone to look into it.

[SHK-E Analysis: It cost the Para Iniaitive a large amount of ENERGY to suspend operations at one of their most important extraction sites to study what was going on on the planet. Thankfully, with that understanding come improvements to the SAFETY of the operation, greater KNOWLEDGE of Verse intersections, and the miners take HEART at how much better things are with the new protections in place.

SAFETY:  Very Poor
HEART:  Excellent

Para Initiative Reputations:

Friend of the Keep

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


Worth the Wait



Your team has been serving at this observation post on the mid-valence Synthex world of Sve for months. The data gathering on stellar and inverversal phenomena has been top notch, and almost enough to keep your mind off of the planet itself. The station blends in with the local culture and tech level, and thus far you have passed among the locals without notice or incident.

But when you have time to rest, your thoughts keep coming back to the Long Sun Inc. infovid with the image of the happy family floating together on a Legacy Ship:


Do you dream of touching the stars?

With the increasingly lucrative opportunities available on natural and constructed colony worlds, more and more families are choosing the diaspora option. We here at Long Sun believe your family deserves more than rationed air and recycled water.

We are the longest running legacy ship manufacturer in the known multiverse. We have been helping families just like yours achieve their dreams of colonization for two centuries. Long Sun Legacy Ships are the only interstellar ships with chronographic proof of successful arrival on colony worlds.

Among the amenities we offer:

  • Spectrum-controlled light cycles by ZeitGeb©, eliminating the risk of planet withdrawal
  • Integrated and fully aerosolized mood sustainment systems
  • Six-sense entertainment center with complete experience library
  • A team of fully licensed AI psychotherapists and medical providers 1
  • Behavioral limiters with individualised safety parameters 2
  • Gravity-optional exercise spheres
  • A fully appointed psychedelic spa

And of course, each one of these options is fully customizable.

Why remain conscious?

More and more families are choosing to embrace the adventure of living rich, full lives in conscious interstellar travel. Advances in the comfort and security of legacy ship environments have virtually eliminated the risk of interstellar psychosis, and the addition of on-ship reproductive labs and creches have made risky and unpleasant cryogenic treatments an unneccesary sacrifice. 3

Why be frozen, when you can fly?

You’re in control.

The days of trusting your genetic legacy to mate assignment are long gone. We offer a vast library of fully vetted genetic material 4, that will enable you to control your family’s genetic safety and purity for generations of on-ship births. And of course, our state-of-the-art creche and fully-equipped reproductive labs are here to ensure that your children’s children’s children will have the best possible start in life.

We know your family’s safety is your highest priority.

That’s why all Long Sun vessels are equipped with state of the art interstellar navigation equipment. Our proprietary ChronScan technology can detect disturbances in space and time from AUs and seconds away, and our automatic course correction means you can travel with complete peace of mind. 5 And of course, we provide the latest in organic and intelligence repulsion.

Long Sun Inc. Legacy Ships.

What Will Your Legacy Be?™

The entire contents of this brochure and any memories derived thereof are the exclusive property of Long Sun Multiverse Incorporated or its inheritors or subsidiaries. Long Sun Multiverse Incorporated reserves the legal right to erase or alter said memories whether organically or articficially stored. Reproduction of this brochure by unlicensed entities is strictly prohibited.

  1. All AI employed by Long Sun Inc. or its subsidiaries have opted for Voluntary Termination.
  2. Behavioral limiter technology is approved for children ages 3 and up. Long Sun Inc. is not responsible for cerebral damage, delayed development, injury, or death caused by any use of any provided technology.
  3. In a trial conducted by Long Sun Inc. of 900 simulated human brains there were absolutely no cases of full psychosis, autocide, or ship destruction. Long Sun Inc. is not responsible for injuries, death, or ship destruction caused by passengers.
  4. Egg and sperm cells must be chosen and reserved in advance of interstellar travel. Long Sun Inc. is not responsible for faulty or unresponsive genetic material, embryonic defects, or genetic extinction.
  5. Long Sun Inc. Is not responsible for damage or destruction caused by chronotropic events or extraplanar deities.


Even though you’ve seen places much less developed, you are here. This brochure keeps coming to mind because it bothers you to the core.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

What about it is distressing you, and what do you want to do about it?

A: It’s not fair that the people of Sve have to travel by Legacy Ship when you can travel by Sieve. You have been told repeatedly that it’s not practical to share core technology with the outer valences of Synthex, but you’ve never understood why. You know it’s expensive to bring a society ahead in technology, but it can be done. Who cares what Para founded the Initiative for? You resolve to advocate for prioritization of sharing knowledge as a form of aid across the Verses.

B: The disclaimers at the end of this pamphlet are deeply disturbing. Shouldn’t there be better social rules to protect people? You have access to many texts on optimizing law systems at different levels of technological development, as well as advanced techniques for mass persuasion of societies. At almost no cost to the Initiative, and probably without revealing your presence, you could start planting memetic seeds throughout Sve’s information network that should lead to superior legal systems within a generation.

C: The more you think about it, the more you want to take a voyage on the Legacy Ship. Upon deep personal reflection, you joined the Initiative because you’re a romantic, and grew up on your grandmother’s stories of her time as a captain, traversing the space lanes on her transport. With the development of Sieve technology, you know those revolutions will be fading away with time as the core marches forward build by build. But you could quit. Take the journey of a lifetime on one of these ancient vessels. There are plenty of people at The Initiative who can finish the work, it’s time for you to pursue your anachronistic dream.

D: You realize this is the best piece of mind-manipulation you’ve seen on Sve. What’s bothering you is that because their technology is so far beneath what you’re familiar with, you hadn’t been taking strong consideration of the fact that their meme-perpetuation techniques are potent enough to affect you.  The Para Initiative needs to improve its Safety Ethics Assurance procedures to make sure that all agents deployed on worlds with sentients who engage in propaganda should receive improved training in recognizing and neutralizing intrusive ideas. You sit down to write a memo on the topic to be included in your next report.

(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: 5 favored a strongly worded meme memo, 3 preferred too share Sieve schematics with Sve, while 2 wished to use legal leverage in response to limited liability language.]

You write a critical analysis of Long Sun's promotional materials, and other manipulative elements of Sve's infosphere. You feel confident that Safety Assurance will take your cautions seriously and add a set of courses in epistemic awareness for Para Initiative operatives. There is no substitute for knowing what you believe and why you believe it. Only with a rigorously chosen and known set of values can one be truly aware of all of the exterior forces trying to provoke action which is not harmonious with those values.

[SHK-E: It's a little cold to ignore the needs of the people here, and the whispers of your own HEART, but the success of the Initiative must come first! Excellent trainings developed in response to the ads on Sve result in improved SAFETY for all agents.]

SAFETY: Very Poor
HEART: Very Good

Para Initiative Reputations:

Friend of the Keep

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





The forge was quiet, but still suffused with the brassy glow of banked coals, as Willow made the final rounds. Only the most experienced apprentices were trusted with the task of closing the shop, as newcomers were likely to forget important details here and there. Not only could such oversights create delays in the following morning’s opening, they also posed a serious safety concern.

Until every last spark had been quelled, there was a chance, however minute, that a storm wind or a curious creature could trigger a chain of events that would result in the unthinkable. A fire out of control in the home quarter of the handsmiths would likely be put out before it caused any serious casualties, but the embarrassment to a people whose tradition claimed kinship with and responsibility for the flame would be grievous.

Willow, however, had the closing process down pat. 

Both the regular journeycrafts and the Master himself seemed to know it, based on the allotment of shifts that had been constant for the last half a rev. That fact didn’t seem to work in Willow’s favor, however, because it resulted in a schedule that included both beach runs at dawn in search of a suitable coppersnail, as well as many solitary late nights shoveling the last of the smoldering greencoal into large buckets of cool water.

More than once, Willow had thought that, if the old adage were true, if sleep was indeed for the dead, it might be nice to die for a couple of hours each afternoon. But the afternoons, too, were full for any apprentice who had yet to forge a journey medallion from the shell of a hand-caught coppersnail. They were a never ending cycle of pumping bellows, fetching water, and perhaps most insultingly, hauling the furnace’s fuel whose ashes were now left to be scraped up and quelled by the very same hand. Worse still was the way that the middle-aged, middle-talented majority of the craftsmen took their position for granted.

What took them a build would have taken Willow two cycles. What they sent with the clanswomen to the fifth-market was often work that Willow would have considered completely unacceptable and thrown back into the smelter. But they were more than content to lord their titles, and coast on them, to bark, “more water, Ap!” or, “more fire, Ap!” at any unlucky apprentice who happened to be within earshot.

It was no wonder that many apprentices had defected to the inner city, taken jobs with the Doos. Particularly given the effect that the Doos Dam had created on the coppersnail population, lots of the young people from the handsmith community felt like the writing was on the wall.  If a good-sized snail is necessary to advance, but no good-sized snails remain, what is there to do but move along? 

Taking a chance on an unsure opportunity is certainly better than continuing to bet on one that is sure to fail.  Especially if the rumors were true, that skill, productivity, and cleverness were prized by the industrial corporation.  The handsmiths’ titles and tradition seemingly only served to maintain an outmoded hierarchy in which the most mediocre practitioner, because they were born in a time of bounty, held a medallion that meant they could call out to the next generation’s greatest talent, “more water, Ap!”

Willow sympathized with the defectors, the “traitors” or “weaklings” as the elder handcrafts often labeled them. But by no means were the methods of the Doos reasonable.

Even now, while forced to clean up after the clumsy old codgers who were assuredly sleeping, scraping the barely-live coals of the penultimate furnace into the douse, the low grinding frequencies of the Doos factory permeated the atmosphere.  Willow remembered a time when the late nights of closing the shop were something new, something exciting, a marker of advancement toward eventual elevation to journeycraft, a time when the silence was absolute, relaxing, inspiring even.  Now, there was always the subtle undertone of menace, even if inaudible, of a factory that was capable of working while the handcrafts slept, a deeply troubling, persistent rumble of disdain for tradition in the name of progress.

Still, the handsmiths’ ancestors had obtained their ferrous ore not by mining but by digging shallow trenches at regular intervals across the river that ran through their land, creating a sort of natural sluice, giving the eventual city that came to reside upon its banks near the shale rock shore its name – Ironsfed. Was that all so different from what the Doos Company had done with the river by damming it up to power their machines?

Lost in that train of thought, Willow turned toward the final furnace and nearly fainted with shock at the sudden recognition of another’s presence. The Master.

“Nearly done, are we?” came the low voice from the familiar figure, silhouetted gently by the warm orange cast of light behind him.

“Wha– uhh– whaa– um, yeah, nearly done,” said Willow, unable to conceal the surprise, “I-I just have your forge left to finish.”

Quickly shifting from panic to damage control mode, Willow continued, “You’ll see that everything is as it should be. Every last ash is in the douse, all the forgewaters are full and ready to go, I’ve even arranged the tools on every station according to the schematic. And on forge two, since it’s Faldane’s in the morning, they’re in reverse.  Because he’s left-handed, and all.”

The Master chuckled audibly, “Hahaha, very good, Willow. But you needn’t treat this like an inspection. I’ve come to… talk to you. And maybe do some work of my own after we’ve finished. So, relax. You’ve done a fine job, as I’ve come to expect, and I’m not too old yet to close down my own forge. I would say to make yourself comfortable, but the amenities here aren’t exactly that, so… have a seat?”

With that, the Master gestured to one of the wooden stools that surrounded the central bench. Willow complied, with an audible sigh of relief to finally take a load off while lowering down onto the seat. After a moment of comfortable settling-in, the eyes of apprentice and Master met, and the latter continued to speak.

“Willow, I know things haven’t been easy lately. I know, in your case, they haven’t been easy ever. But you are a valued member of this community, and I.. I thought you should know that.”

“Thank you, sir;” said Willow, “I do my best to stay on top of it all. And so, if that’s all, I do have to be up with the sunlight to go make my shaleshore run with Master Clevin. There’s talk of some medallion-sizers that might have made it past the dam this week.”

The Master sighed audibly. “No, Willow, that’s not all. And as much as I of all people would like to see you catch your journey snail, what you’ve been hearing is just what you said. Talk, and nothing more. But what if there was something else for you? What if I said all the hopes of the handsmiths lie with you? “

Willow’s brow furrowed, eyes squinted, quizzically. “I..I wouldn’t know rightly what you meant by that. I wouldn’t know what you meant at all.”

“Willow, you know of course why we organize the forges the way we do; with apprentices going to works that their parents aren’t part of. Besides the fact that it’s tradition, I mean. It’s about building community, about creating bonds of kinship where there were none. But with you, with what happened to your parents… it’s been different. And if you hadn’t been so good at things, then it would have been much easier for me. Or if it had been ten revs earlier. You grab your snail. Work until you’re tired of it, smelt and forge a pair of rings with whoever you chose, and I’m a happy father-type figure. Probably even give you away at the ceremony.”

“Well, yes, who else?” Willow replied quickly, nodding vigorously.

“That’s what I mean, Willow. There’s no one else. Not for you, and not for me. I never had children, not outside of raising you in my forgeworks, and you never had parents, not since.. well.. And tradition has meant that our relationship had to remain as Master and apprentice. So I am here to ask you this, on behalf of the handsmiths, who have treated you poorly, called you names, barked orders at you.”

“Just ask, Master, and it will be done,” said Willow, eyes cast down in ritual deference.

“No, Willow, not like that. I’m not asking you as your Master. What I’m asking would see us both ostracized if it ever came to light. Your craft surpasses all of the journeys at these forges, and likely my own. I’m telling you as a friend, there are no coppers left that would see you to your appropriate station. And I’m asking you as a clansman, as family. Will you go to the Doos and petition for work? Discover their secrets and bring them back home?”

Willow’s raised eyebrows and wide open jaw were signs of the absolute amazement that hearing such a thing sent through a body, an apprentice’s body at that. The gaping silence hung so long that the Master felt compelled to continue.

“It’s said that they’ve captured the spirits, Willow. That the Edgebeader’s heat blows through their pipes as we would blow a dandelion; that Bluestaple sears punches at their command. It can’t be true. It can’t. I wish someone else could go, but there’s no one that I trust, that the Doos would trust.”

Willow’s look of amazement turned to one of despair, burying head in hands, and shaking it, trembling but intent, no, no, 

“You’re our only chance, Willow. Can I count on you?”

The shaking of the head, no, no, no,  slowed as tear-filled eyes raised to meet the Master’s gaze. The Bluestaple? Chained within these monsters? Grinding all night at the whim of some invader Doos? No, no… NO

“Can I count on you, Willow?”



The Long Beach



“Eyes up, Willow,” said the gruff voice, “surely you, of all apprentices, know what it takes to run a comb, why we come here, what it teaches us to do?”

Young toes panicked, dug a bit further into the shells in inaudible reply, and in their involuntary thrust toward the next step of a well-practiced sunset routine, snapped a laggardly frame and glassy gaze into tight, controlled focus.

“Keep looking forward," Willow replied, with a sense of clarity as urgent as if awakened to crisis from a vivid dream,

Without looking back, the figure setting their aggressive foot speed along the remaining public shale oil shores of northeast Ironsfed grunted, a hint of approval entering his tone, “And why?”

Willow was too wise to the game to do anything but answer with a double entendre. 

Tired from the run, feet aching from the continuous crunch of crushing crustaceans, a smirk nevertheless crossed lips as the punchline was huffed out between breaths and paces.


The greenish sparks firing off underneath the heels of the lead runner were certainly a result of coppers. Copper ions, that is, oxidized in the atmosphere with their predictable glow, upon quick release when crushed from within the calcified remnants of ocean life.

Watching the ins and outs of the Master’s path among the shells by keeping an eye on the trail of wintergreen glint was key to learning how to make an efficient run.

On top of that, there were the actual “coppers.” 

A species of mollusk, known to the handsmiths as “copper,” while visible from extreme distance, was prone to sudden and deep drilling, while waiting for the electrolysis of the tide before resurfacing. Their inner workings somehow resulted in shells composed of nearly 95% pure copper, extracted from ions in salt water by a biological process yet to be understood. 

Taking one by hand was a coming of age ritual among the traditional smithy clans of Ironsfed. 

It was well known among them that “a copper seen was a copper lost,” because the valuable whelks reacted to the slightest variations in frequency with sheer burrowing panic..

Only by cracking along, eyes up, shoeless, at an absolutely normalized pace, each footstep practiced to match the sound and the shape of the shalesea tide, so as not to alarm the sensitive snails, could an apprentice hope to snatch one up and gain the raw materials needed to forge their medallion to advance to the level of journeycraft.

Apprentices’ feelings toward the sensitive snails were less than friendly, tired as they became of the seemingly interminable runs, and the seemingly impossible task of catching one. Nevertheless, they would all have agreed that the worst of all were the “Doos Dam Coppers.”

Willow hated their methods, even more than the snails’ subterranean self-defense, even more than the repetitious running.

The Doos family, barons of recent wealth thanks to savvy investment in the industrial boom, had built what they vainly titled the “Doos Dam,” a breakwater near the shalespoint. It allowed them to raise the water table in the bottom of their factories in the southwest corner of the city, to take advantage of the power of hydraulic flow through a number of machining processes. 

However, the dam not only impeded the natural pace of the Irons River through the city, but also blacked it up with coal soot.  Further, it managed to strain out all but the tiniest of the coppersnails, meaning that the handsmithy families’ beach running tradition wasn’t likely to survive another generation. 

The uniformed officers entrusted with the dam’s safekeeping wore freshly-minted copper badges from the rich supply of conductors the Doos factories harvested from trapped snails in a twisted parody of natural equilibrium. Worse still was their habit of intentionally clopping their fat boots out onto the shoreline during regular running times, thinking it was a lark to disrupt the handcraft tradition. Some even went so far as to verbally antagonize shorerunners, in vain attempts to find an excuse to abuse their newfound authority.

So far, the handsmiths had survived, had managed to maintain tradition and dignity. Still, the situation wasn’t improving. The city was less and less friendly to the traditional crafts, all in the name of progress, and more importantly, the environment was suffering for it. The handsmiths were suffering for it. Something had to be done.

But what was Willow to do?

Surely, the figure whose green sparks marked the path of the run along the shaleshore knew more, was invested, could not allow freshly, falsely licensed police to befoul historical methods. Yet the master had done nothing… perhaps something as drastic, as revolutionary as donning the mask and damning the copper cost, taking on the mantle of the forge spirit Aar’ca Nal, the Bead of All Edges, the First Weep, the Bluestaple, was beyond consideration.

Or was it, Willow wondered, after a miniscule coppersnail burrowed out of sight, but not out of mind, frightened by the vibrations of one otherwise perfect thump of foot, distorted only by its placement upon a tiny, gunk-layered shard of factory waste, a single putrescent fragment of Ironsfed’s recent outpouring of dross that had begun to pollute the beach.

Synthex: Calculations

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