The Four Evers

Chapter 
NUMBER

Eyes of the Wizened

2.25.2022

Four Evers Part One
Eyes of the Wizened

“I’ve got an idea,” says Nesmin, standing on a chair making them eye level with Uluantha, “Lots of esoteric traditions throughout the Verses allude to the idea that sentience is a combination of spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects, right?”

“True,” replies Uluantha tiredly, “Nuances vary, but essentially that’s right.”

“What if we broaden the scope of the search and direct the enchantment to seek out four specific aspects of Phia’s sentient nature, so that the spell can lock onto whichever aspect is easiest to find?”

Uluantha sits upright in her chair exclaiming, “Brilliant!”  She rushes to the table to begin sketching a new diagram.  “That would both cast a wide net across the verses and allow for more detail in the search criteria!”

The hour is late, but everyone is too excited by the breakthrough moment to even think about sleep now.  The table is covered in scattered papers with many variations of possible enchanting schemas, including detailed sigil designs.   Jayden and Mitena sit on a couch designed for people twice their size with Oystersand's Illustrated Arcana open in front of them.

Jayden looks at Mitena while tapping the book, “You know, this same idea of the components of sentience pops up repeatedly within the Arcana as well.  I think Nesmin is on to something.”

In response to the mounting energy crisis within the Initiative, you’ve been charged with forming a team to explore the possibility of opening a locomancy portal on O’oomryu to find Phia, the founder of Delphi, whose disappearance sparked the formation of the Initiative itself.  Locomancy isn’t a new idea, but using an artificially created portal, rather than traditional scrying methods, is revolutionary.  The challenge comes from directing a search through the vastness of the Verses and to offer enough input to make it even possible to find the correct individual within an ocean of noise.

Thanks to the research agreement here, the people of this watery world are happy to participate in the experiment, even providing the energy needed to support it.  You’ve gathered together select field agents and assets, with a range of expertise, who’ve become a coterie of friends living and working together for the last several buildcycles.  Most of the off-world participants have to wear charms that protect them from the high gravity of this planet, but they don’t seem to mind at all.

Mitena snaps out of a deep reverie, a broad smile spreading across her face, “Even the Verses themselves seem to favor a particular aspect, though I would never want to oversimplify things, or claim that any Verse is limited to one way of being.  More that we may help the locomancy by calling out some of the associations that hold meaning for us.”

Jayden nods emphatically adding, “Yeah, like how we associate Synthex with intellectual or analytical pursuits and Kaleidoscope with the nature of consciousness or the spirit.”

“I like that,” offers Mitena.  “We have to be careful though, there’s so much we don’t yet understand.  We need to invite the outcome rather than seek to control it.”

“Thank you for that reminder,” Uluantha says with obvious approval, “The science of Synthex seems to respond well to explicit control, while here in Fantasia we manipulate magical energies through our intention, and we’re creating an enchantment.”

Omari, an expert mathematician, chimes in then, “Once we identify which fundamental drivers we want to call out for each Verse, I can represent them in the form of sacred geometry and let that shape the final sigil.”  He picks up his tools, ready to begin again.

“And the unknown,” adds Uluantha, “We need to represent what we haven’t yet found, too.”

Nesmin leaps from their chair to the carpeted floor and joins you in examining the large collection of alchemical ingredients arranged in front of you.  They pick up a jar of powdered dragon scale saying, “I’ll help pick out some possibilities for the ritual ingredients.”

A buildcycle later, and you’re all standing on the highest point of an uninhabited island enjoying the fruits of your labors as a brand new sigil platform sparkles in the sunlight.  The perfect circle is 2 meters across and ringed with a wave pattern mosaic in pink coral, malachite, polished shell, and obsidian.  Inside of that, an elaborate geometric pattern plays out in gold, diamond, and rainbow metal. The spaces in between are filled in with turquoise and the whole thing is polished perfectly smooth.

“Time to see if this works,”  you say as you step into the very center, “Good luck everyone.”

“You’re the one who needs the luck!” says Jayden.

“Come back safely, my friend,” says Uluantha.

Four personal items with a strong connection to Phia are placed at each cardinal direction; to the north, her favorite musical instrument, to the west a brush with her hair still in it, to the south a notebook full of inspired ideas she wrote by hand, and to the east a toy kept from the long past.  These items may be consumed in the spell, but you have reason to hope their use will be purely symbolic.  A total of 22 lifespring batteries have been integrated at key points within the sigil pattern to fuel the opening of the portal.  The incantations from the group take a long time, but you can feel the power building and try to stay calm.  The whole platform begins to hum as the incantations reach a crescendo.

You see and feel a flash of light that blinds you as you’re lifted into the air, and for a moment you think something went terribly wrong.  Then you open your eyes and see the familiar translucent colors of a portal around you as you’re going…somewhere.  Usually the light around you in a portal will coalesce into a point that denotes the ending.

This time though, the light fragments and falls away into a point of deep blackness that grows closer and closer until you’re completely engulfed within it.  You’re flung into that inky black as the light vanishes behind you.  Looking around you see no evidence a portal ever existed here.  In fact, there’s nothing.  No light of any kind, just flashes behind your eyelids as your brain tries to make sense of this environment.

You feel nothing underneath you, nothing solid to hold onto.  Your rational mind scrambles to find something, anything, to give you a sense of place or direction.  No wind nor sound of any kind touches your body, floating, as if held up by water that you can’t perceive in this neverending dark.

At that moment terror grips you, and you scream.  Again and again you unleash a howl of pining fear, just to hear that you’re alive.  Alive and completely alone in this nothingness.

Time loses all meaning for you.  Has it been a few minutes, hours, or much, much longer?  Eventually, you wonder if you’ll die here.  Can you die here?  Maybe you’ll blend in with the nothingness until you just cease altogether.

Much to your shock, a pale, blue green light appears before you, as if  pushing its way through a deep fog.  It grows larger as it gets closer.  The part of your mind that wishes to live on, dares to take heart and hope that maybe you’re not alone after all.  The light covers ground quickly, and within it you see a figure unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.  The light draws you inside, where a woman with the features of an owl stares at you with huge, golden avian eyes, wearing a necklace and headpiece made from shining gems the color of deep turquoise ocean water.

She looks you over and you feel as if she’s seeing through you and into you, leaving you feeling utterly exposed.  “Hello, Seeker,” she says with confidence, “You’ve taken a great risk coming here.”

You try to find your voice in a throat raw from so much screaming, “H..hello.”  You swallow, “Where am I?”

“Did you really think it would be that easy?” she asks, “There is no point of reference that can make sense of this place for you.  It isn’t really a place at all.  You’ve landed In Between, which can take many forms and moves as the Verses move.”

“Please,” you say coughing from the dryness in your mouth, “will you help me?”

“Maybe,” she says as those big round eyes blink and you feel a moment of reprieve from that stare that sees all you might wish to hide, “First, let’s talk a little.  So few sentients ever come directly to me, and I’d like to know you more now that you’re here.”

You wonder what she could possibly have to learn that she can’t see for herself, but you recognize this is your chance to learn more about her, too.  “What is the nature of this In Between?”

“Well put,” she responds, “This part of In Between reminds some of birth and some of death, though they’re more the same than most sentients are comfortable with.  If you were here long enough you would understand, but you are still bound by time and cannot stay too long. What Verse are you from?”

“Synthex, but I’ve visited and lived in many Verses”

“That’s good,” she responds, “You’ve seen enough to know that you have more questions than answers. What do you seek?”

“I’m searching for Phia, the founder of Delphi.”

“No,” she says with frustration, “Such a small vision.  I know of who you seek, the question was woven into your spell.  I ask what do you seek?”

“Um…” you weren’t prepared for that level of self inquiry, “I guess, I seek what all who are drawn to the Initiative seek.  Understanding and knowledge.  The Verses are connected somehow and they seem to be changing.  I want to understand the mysteries of the Verses.”

You can’t look away as she asks, “Is your quest worth your life?”

“Yes,” you answer without hesitation, feeling a brief moment of surprise.

“Why?”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

HOW WILL YOU ANSWER?

“I fear the changes happening in the Verses and worry that they could pose a danger.  I believe those of us who see the potential for harm have an obligation to take action. I want to have the ability to stop changes that put sentients at risk by cultivating enough power to affect outcomes.  Taking a stand for life in the Verses is worth the risk.”

“I care about the diversity of experiences of all sentients throughout the Verses.  Things are happening that may have a dramatic impact on the well being of people everywhere. Compassion demands that we consider all the varying needs of sentients as we move forward.  Giving voice to the shared needs of those within the Verses is worth my life.”

“I think we must look beyond the individual consciousness of sentients like myself and seek the bigger picture.  I want to use this opportunity to find harmony with the greater consciousness of the Verses themselves.  Something is driving the changes that are forming natural portals, and if we are divorced from the nature of the Verses and this greater consciousness we may not be able to respond wisely.”

“I see acquiring knowledge as the most noble pursuit, and the most important lessons always carry risk.  Only with a deep understanding of the forces at play, and the complex relationships between competing environments, can we ever hope to act responsibly.  This is the greatest opportunity for learning in ages, and I want to be part of 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 http://discord.gg/verses)

[Archivist's Note: 5 chose diversity of experiences of all sentients, 3 each favored taking action to prevent danger or acquiring knowledge.  None preferred to express the notion of a bigger picture.]

Your mind feels like a clouded whirlwind of possible answers.  There are so many reasons you might lose your life exploring the verses, and at first you find it difficult to identify what drives you. .  Usually you’re more concerned with what’s immediately in front of you, tackling one mission at a time without the luxury of reflection.

“Why?” she presses you, “The spirit requires a sense of purpose.  What makes this quest worthy of your singular life?”

You come back again to the incredible variety of sentient life throughout the Verses and the deep appreciation you feel for that.  Now you can answer,  “I care about the diversity of experiences of all sentients throughout the Verses.  Things are happening that may have a dramatic impact on the well being of people everywhere.  Knowledge and control aren’t enough.  Compassion demands that we consider all the varying needs of sentients as we move forward.  Giving voice to that diversity is worth my life.”

She looks at you thoughtfully while playing with a black feather from her from her headdress.  “You’ve done well to quiet your mind and see yourself so clearly, and your compassion is admirable, but…”she lets go of her distraction and folds her arms across her chest, “you still need to learn to see further into the void if you truly wish to be part of what is to come.  It’s harder to comprehend that which operates on a scale much larger than our own.  Consciousness can be much bigger than what you’re used to.”

“Then help me to understand,” you say with an edge of frustration.

She looks around with concern, “You have no more time I’m afraid.  Your Phia is not one thing and she is not in one place.  You will need to help her become whole again.”

You feel your body being pulled upwards, out of that dim light.  The last thing you hear is her voice fading away with one last offering, “Meditate on that which provides structure and then meet my sister with confidence.”

Chapter 
NUMBER

From Which Beauty Stems

2.26.2022

Four Evers Part Two:
From Which Beauty Stems

Once again you’re traveling through a portal space in a tunnel shaped from waves of light.  Ahead you see the light turn into golden yellow streaks converging on a rich, dark pink orb.  The portal disintegrates, dropping you into a scene that stops your breath for a moment.

All around you gentle puffs of clouds sit on the ground, extending to the horizon in every direction.  A glorious sunset bathes the scene in magnificent hues of intense color from the red and gold of the star itself, to the magenta and purple sky, and the play of light transforms clouds into a textured field of pink and gold.  The entire ground is a mosaic containing all kinds of animals, sentients, and plants posed around a repeating flower of life design.  The clouds shift and move constantly, allowing only glimpses of the intricate design, but you can clearly see that at every geometric circle a literal flower emerges.  These lotus blossoms float up into the air, and when they get above the clouds they reach full bloom, opening and finally bursting apart into a spray of petals and pollen.

When your feet touch the ground you expect to hit hard and fall, but a breeze wafts upward to catch you and guide your landing.  The air is warm and comfortable, even without the light striking at just the right angle to make everything glow with a hint of amber that creates the sensation you’re being kissed by the sun itself.  At ground level you can see that there are gaps between the clouds and that the mosaic floor isn’t static.  The design is constantly moving and rearranging itself, like a complex mathematical dance, yet it feels stable underfoot.  Looking down too long makes your head spin, so you focus on the sunset instead.

A sense of playfulness overcomes you, and you reach out to touch a cloud.  It cools your hand which comes away feeling very slightly damp.  After the terror of the previous In Between you’re overcome by a sense of joy and freedom.  There’s a horizon, solid ground under your feet, and the most glorious sunset you’ve ever seen in front of you.  Laughing, you break into a run, with arms outstretched barreling through clouds and petals with a sense of reckless ecstasy.

When you stop to catch your breath, hunched over with hands on your knees, you realize that the light isn’t changing.  The sun hasn’t moved, and you’re becoming increasingly aware of a sense of hunger and thirst.  Your stomach growling, you continue onward, keeping the sun to your back.  One direction seems as good as any other, and the last thing you want is to sit still.  Sometimes you glance down at the shifting floor and recognize a creature or a plant, but most are unfamiliar.  When you try to hold a flower blossom it quickly falls apart in your hands, accompanied by a rush of heat that leaves behind only a cluster of soft petals and pleasant fragrance in your palms.

You’ve been walking for some time when you see the clouds shift ahead, like they’re parting for someone heading in your direction.  Now you stop to watch as they approach, the clouds opening a path for the figure.  Soon, you see a muscular white tiger striding gracefully towards you.  In just a few steps the form shifts into a bipedal blend of humanoid female and sleek tiger, beautifully expressed, exuding power and confidence, and wearing a golden headpiece encrusted with pearls and turquoise

“Good evening, Traveler,” she says in greeting, with a throaty voice on the edge of either growl or purr, “Do you have any idea what brought you here, or are you lost?”  Her gaze as she circles you feels like a predator examining prey.  You’ve had plenty of time to think about how to handle this encounter, and you decide to take the course the owl-humanoid offered.

You reply with all the confidence you can muster, “This is another part of the In Between, and I’m here to seek your guidance.”

She stops circling you and her posture relaxes somewhat, “I’ve been watching you enjoying my domain.  It is beautiful here, is it not?”

“Very!” you say with honest enthusiasm just as your stomach gurgles very loudly to remind you of your hungry state.

She laughs and says, “Of course you’re hungry.  The body is very present with its nature here.”  She reaches down to the mosaic touching an image of vines bursting with fruit and lifts up a bunch of perfect red grapes that form at her fingertips Handing them to you she continues, “I know something of what brings you here.  A clever spell and well made sigil.”

You nod as you chew on perfectly sweet, juicy grapes.  You manage to get out, “I worked with a talented team.”

“How did you find my sister’s expression of the In Between, with it’s endless void?”

You shudder in memory of that place of emptiness that you hope to never see again.  Although, she had advised you to look beyond the void, and she certainly saw much more than emptiness within it.  “It was lonely, and…terrifying,” you admit reluctantly.

“Sentients need something to orient themselves by”  she gestures at the expanse around you. She picks up a lotus flower and instead of breaking apart it becomes more solid, stabilizing in a blissful state of perfect bloom.

She takes a deep breath of the heady fragrance and says, “You’ve now experienced the fear and chaos of the nothingness of In Between.  Hopefully, you see some of the necessity for the physical, for structure, for control, but it can also become too extreme.”

She focuses entirely on you now and continues, “Tell me of the greatest hazard you see in that.”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

You think carefully before you answer...

“Taking focus on the physical, on the experience of physical being, to its most extreme can lead one to turn away from intellectual growth as one is consumed by their basest instincts.”

“Physical reality may provide an environment for the gestation of consciousness, but if embraced too tightly it can prevent the necessary transition to a spiritual enlightenment.”

“It’s easy to get emotionally attached to things, to the physical world, and that taken to an excess interferes with emotional growth and quality relationships.”

“We can be drawn to creating order, but excess structure, much like excess matter filling all possible space, leads to perfect stasis.  Some room for movement and change is necessary.”

(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 http://discord.gg/verses)

[Archivist's Note: 6 for order without excess structure, 4 for avoiding emotional attachment to things, and 4 for being mindful of the physical as a path to spiritual enlightenment.]

You’re trying to compose a coherent answer, but you keep looking down at the moving mosaic as you think, and the spinning and shifting tiles keep stealing your attention.  You look up from the floor again and you can see that she’s losing her patience as her tail flicks back and forth, occasionally smacking the floor.  Then you realize, as your eyes lock onto the lotus flower she holds in stasis, that she is walking that razor edge between order and chaos as naturally as breathing.

You take in a deep breath and begin, “We can be drawn to creating order, but excess structure, much like excess matter filling all possible space, leads to perfect stasis.  Some room for movement and change is necessary.”

“Excellent!” she cries as she thrusts the flower into the air, freeing it to become once again part of the pattern here and actually purring with pleasure at your moment of insight.  “Remember this lesson and keep it close at hand when you continue your journey.  I think you’re ready to receive my gift.”

She points to the mosaic where an image of Phia is held by vines of morning glory in bloom, “First, I will restore her physical form to you.  She’s lucky that I was able to capture her pattern here when she flung herself out into the In Between.”

You gape at the floor in horror at the implications mixed with relief that some part of her has been found.  The feline isn’t finished with you yet, however, and continues, “For you, though, I have something special in mind.”  She gestures in a circle around her with one hand and a breeze forms that carries a jetty of lotus flower pollen towards her.  With the other hand she closes and opens her palm revealing a silk pouch with a blossom embroidered on the surface in gold and silk threads.  The pouch stays open while the pollen streams into it.

She pulls the ties closed and hands it over to you.  “This pollen,” she says, “will allow you to transform your physical being into any form that will suit any particular environment.  A pinch will do, but remember to keep yourself in balance and use it wisely.”

“Thank you, I’m honored by this gift,” you say, admiring the pouch and placing it carefully in the large pocket of your cargo style pants.

“Now, you must move on with your search.”  A mischievous look comes over her and she blows another cluster of pollen over you as you feel your body being pulled upwards again.  “Keep moving, and find the river!” she calls as you become surrounded by the light of the portal.


Chapter 
NUMBER

Hear the Unspoken

3.1.2022

The Four Evers, Part Three:
Hear the Unspoken

You’re growing accustomed to the experience of moving through these portals, and even take some pleasure in the sensation of being carried along by the still mysterious forces of light and energy.  This time the portal sends you towards a circle of green, like a watercolor paint with strands spilling out around it.  As you get closer, you smell summer forest aromas.  Honeysuckle, mint, pine, cedar, and more invite you forward through the opening… where you land gently on the soft, moss covered ground of a forest brimming with life, yet startling in its strangeness.

Every detail appears to be made from paint, or pastels, in a riot of artistic styles.  You look down at your body and it, too, has taken on this bizarre new physical representation.  You don’t feel different, but you look like you belong in an oil painting.  To your right the scenery has a softly rendered realism, to your left it’s all vibrant, hyper saturated colors with frenetic energy, and directly in front of you the two seem to relax into a wistful style that gives you the impression, rather than the firm outline, of trees.  Behind you a watercolor forest beckons while throughout the scenery birds fly around singing, bees and pollinators of all sorts flit by, and you hear the leaves rustle occasionally in the gentle summer breeze.

You wonder how you could possibly pick a path, but you would hate to squander the opportunity to explore such a new and unique environment.  You decide to follow the bright colors to your left and begin walking.  As you let your hand brush the leaves of a tree with a bright blue trunk and deep red leaves a powerful memory leaps into your mind, filling you with a feeling of longing.  Taking your hand back the sensation slowly clears and you walk on.

A shimmering hummingbird captivates you as it visits a gorgeous display of orange and yellow honeysuckle,  and without thinking you reach out to touch one of the flowers.  Another memory leaps into your mind and you’re flooded with the feeling of euphoria.    You stumble backwards in gleeful surprise and trip over an exposed root, going to the ground giggling as you reach out to brace your fall.  One hand brushes a thorny bush of mountain berries and you feel overcome by rage.  Growling in anger you push yourself back up to your feet and begin running.

Every piece of flora you touch hammers your mind with an intensified emotional memory that undoes your equilibrium.  You wonder, Is this what going mad feels like?  You’re being flung from feeling to feeling so fast you can’t focus on anything.  With each extreme sensation overload you feel less and less sure of who you really are and what you came here to do.  You try not to touch anything, but you’ve lost the path and the forest is too dense to protect yourself.

Eventually you come to a large creek with more watercolor forest on the opposite bank.  You spot a broad flat boulder jutting into the water and a clear thought forms within the swirling turbulence of your mind.  Maybe the solidity of the stone will help you calm yourself.  You struggle to it, making your way to the farthest point from the plant life, finally laying down to rest your flushed cheek on the cool stone.  Closing your eyes you hear your heart pounding as you struggle to take in long, slow breaths.

Opening your eyes a little you see a stone on the opposite bank where a figure with red fur sits wrapped in a gauzy pink veil.  They’re wearing a golden crown and they lift one black hand up to their lips in a ssh gesture.  They seem more realistically rendered and more fully present than the mottled green of the landscape around them.  A fallen log runs between the two stones, and the figure begins to make their way over to you.  Your eyelids feel too heavy to watch as they fall shut once again.

You hear the gentle padding steps grow close, followed by a short jump from the log to your stone.  A velvet soft hand strokes your head, then lifts one of your hands into theirs.  “Let the water carry your burden for you.  Let it wash the feelings away and restore your calm,” they say as they drape your arm over the edge of the stone and place your hand into the cool water.

The mental tumult slows as one by one they fade away, leaving you with a sensation of inner peace.  Soon your energy returns and you can open your eyes again.  Slowly, you sit up and wipe your wet hand on your pant leg.  You’re rescuer doesn’t shy away and you two face one another with an easy friendliness.  “Thank you,” seems like the least you could say.

“You’re welcome,” they say in return.  After a long pause they add, “Would you like to learn how to be in this forest without getting overwhelmed by it?”

“Well…yes, I’d like that a lot.  But, is that even possible for me?”

“Of course it is.  You’re sentient aren’t you?” They say, teasing you.

“I sure hope so,” you reply and you both laugh.  Before they can begin you ask, “May I know who you are?  Is there a name I might call you?”

They lean back a little looking more serious, “Names have power and we don’t share ours easily here within the In Between, but you may think of me as Fox Spirit if you like.  Many others do.  I am one of the Evers who’ve made our homes here in between the Verses themselves.  We are caretakers and guides, sometimes riddlers, and often exist in the shadows of imagination.”  They lean forward and reach for your hands, “Now, are you ready to begin?”

Taking their hands, you nod as they continue, “Emotions can be as strong as a hurricane or as subtle as an enigma.  Fighting them only makes them harder to handle, like pressure building behind a dam.  You must create a path for them to flow into you, be part of you, and then flow out again.  You need to feel them, to let them exist within you.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a way to avoid them, for it is not.  Do you understand?”

“I think so,” you reply.  They talk you through several meditative visualizations that all follow the same idea of creating a way to direct the flow of the feelings into you without becoming  overwhelming. When you hit on one that seems particularly relatable, they declare you ready to try interacting with the forest again.

“I’ll help you if I’m needed,” they say as you walk together to the edge of the forest.  They pull a weeping willow branch to within your reach and you take hold.  A surge of sorrow drives into your mind as tears form in your eyes.  “Stay with it, and guide it back out,” they encourage you.  You stay with your visualization and you feel the stream of sorrow narrow to a thin trickle in the back of your mind.

“It’s working!” you cry out with satisfaction.  The stream wobbles, but you manage to maintain your focus.

“Now let it go,” they instruct.  “With practice, you could walk through this forest and touch every nuance of feeling ever generated by any sentient throughout the Verses, but you don’t have the time to learn.”  You look at them quizzically and they add, “You’re on a quest after all.”

You feel a moment of shame that you hadn’t been thinking of Phia and your reason for being here at all.  Then you look into the wild abandon of a forest literally painted with the complexity of feelings, and you see a humanoid shape faintly in the distance.  It’s even less distinct than the abstracted flora, but it was there and you can’t help but wonder if this is really just a coincidence.

“Phia,” you say, “I can’t believe I forgot, but I have to find her.  I think I just saw someone moving through the forest that way.”

The Ever looks in the direction shaking their head, “Only a part of Phia is here, and you cannot retrieve that by chasing her likeness now.  She’s lost in the forest like you were, but she won’t hear me or anyone else.  Phia has hidden from her inner being for too long.”

You force yourself to turn away from the forest and meet Fox Spirit’s gaze as they ask, “Now that you’ve gained some experience with my domain,” they gesture toward the woods, “I’d like to ask you something.”

When you nod your consent they continue, “You’re on a quest to find Phia and you’re discovering that she became fragmented, with part of her consciousness existing here.  Should you succeed in bringing all the pieces together, she will have to integrate them into a whole again.”

“What insight have you gained here that you would want to share with Phia to help her heal?”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

How will you answer?

A: “I would hope to share with her that all emotions are worthy of her attention, that embracing them, no matter how uncomfortable, is essential to reaching our full potential as sentient beings.”

B: “I think it’s important for her to see that emotions are a physical response to external stimuli, and that like all such challenges we can address them through conditioning ourselves to adapt to them.”

C: “I would like to show her that emotions arise from our spiritual essence and that as an expression of our consciousness they must be embraced to elevate ourselves to a more transcendent state.”

D: “I think that analyzing one’s mental state allows us to use reason to overcome fear and other negative emotions while also preventing us from becoming too enthralled by our more positive feelings.”

(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 http://discord.gg/verses)

[Historian's Note: 8 favored counseling Phia on embracing her emotions, while 2 thought it best to counsel her to use reason to master her emotions.]

This time, with all that you’ve been through in this forest, you feel no hesitation in formulating a reply.  You feel a clarity of purpose that leads you to say, “I would hope to share with her that all emotions are worthy of her attention, that embracing them, no matter how uncomfortable, is essential to reaching our full potential as sentient beings.”

Fox Spirit beams in satisfaction, “Many people, Phia among them, could benefit from that perspective, and I hope you do get to share that with her.  I think you’ll make an excellent mentor in these matters, if you keep up with your practice.”

Appreciating your surroundings without fear you say, “I wish I did have time to explore this forest and study with you.”

“Alas, this is not the moment for such contemplation.  We need to collect Phia’s essence and send you on your way.”  You nod agreement while they withdraw a clear, cut crystal vial from someplace hidden by the veil, “With this we can draw her in and you can rejoin her to her body.  She is not willing to accept my help, but the forest will guide her to us.”

They kneel, placing the open vial down on the ground between you, their hands palms down in front of them, and gesturing for you to do the same.  Complying, you feel a sensation of comfort flowing into you as they say, “You’ve learned to use the centering exercise to direct the flow of feelings as they come into you, but now we’re going to use that to push our need for Phia into the forest floor.  We need her to come here where she’ll be safe and free.”

Together, you funnel that desire into the pattern of the foundation of the forest, and you see a path forming from your hands into it.  Flora moves and shifts, making the path clear, and you think you could do this again if you had to.  Soon, the blurry shape of Phia comes towards you on the path, looking so tired she can barely put one foot in front of the other.  “Now,” says your guide, “it’s time for her to sleep, to let the tiredness take her out of here.”  You visualize her sleeping, remembering how you felt on that rock when Fox found you, and you push that memory to Phia.  She goes down to the ground, fighting to keep her eyes open, but succumbing to sleep all the same.  “Come to me now,” The Ever says with a hand on the vial, “Come let me carry you home.”

Phia dissolves into a stream of multicolored paint that moves as one into the vial.  When every last drop has been collected, the Ever places the stopper on top and hands it to you.  Holding the container up to the light so you can see the swirls of colors in the bright sunlight you ask, “What do I do with this?”

“When you exit the In Between and her body manifests with you, pour this over her head and heart. The two pieces of Phia belong together and will rejoin without anything more from you than that.”

“For you in particular, I will offer a gift, though it is one I hope you will share.  You’ve expressed an interest in continuing your studies of this realm and I think you’d genuinely like to help Phia if she’ll let you.”

“Definitely!” you agree eagerly.

Once again they take something out that was hidden from view by the veil, “This acorn is the seed for a very special tree.  It will grow into a grove that offers amplification of emotional experiences, so only those with the kind of training you’ve been given should enter.  The grove will also enhance the efficacy of the exercises I’ve taught you, offer insights for those trying to learn, and help people advance on their inner journeys.  Choose where you plant it with care.”

You take both vial and acorn, pocketing them safely away, and feel the pull of the portal opening above you.  The Ever takes your hand one final time, and you feel rejuvenating energy flow through you as they say, “You have one more to visit, my extremely knowledgeable brother.  Don’t be intimidated, just speak from your heart.”  They let go as your body is lifted into the portal.


Chapter 
NUMBER

See Beyond

3.2.2022

Four Evers, Part Four:
See Beyond

You fly through the portal to the final step of your journey within the In Between where you’ve been told you‘ll meet an Ever that has built a domain, possibly around the pursuit of knowledge.  You find yourself feeling glad that your team thought to search for aspects of Phia rather than one united whole.  Whatever you find on the other side, you’ve accomplished a feat of locomancy to be truly proud of.  A growing point of bright white light takes you from your mental wanderings and you watch as the stellar corona effect around that circle of light elongates into rays stretching outward.  You close your eyes against the piercing brightness and feel the shift as you’re deposited into another formless environment.

You have a flash of fear that you’re back in the void, but when you open your eyes you’re greeted with a dazzling cosmic display bursting with stars, galaxies, and a vast nebula shining with magenta and orange stardust.  In spite of all that this implies, you aren’t in a vacuum and everything feels closer than it should if you were really in space, more like a photo where distance is lost in the two dimensional rendering.  You’re floating, but you don’t feel the unchecked momentum you expected when popping out of a portal.  Instead, you’re barely moving and you feel upright, even without a horizon to guide you.

A patch of dark blue, like a huge shadow, blocks out some of this tableaux, and almost as soon as you see this, it moves.  The shadow turns, revealing delicate blue feathers covering almost its entire form.  The being’s human-like arms end in long, thin, dark blue fingers that cradle a sphere made of marbled pale blue light, which glitters with dots of bright white.  The face of this being is decidedly avian, with a curtate beak, tall forehead, and large, completely dark, almond eyes reflecting the purple of the nebula.  You’re dwarfed by the presence of this strange entity, only about the size of one of their long fingers.

As the avian changes position a galaxy is revealed, so close that you can make out the gaseous spirals filled with stars and a dense nuclear star cluster in the middle.  The huge purple eyes settle on you, and you hear, “Welcome, voyager.  I know that you’ve already visited my siblings, we caretakers of the In Between.  Do you seek your Phia here as well?”  It’s a rhetorical question, and with one hand the Ever gestures towards the nearby galaxy, “She is here, and she’s well.”

A feminine voice emanates from the black hole at the center of the spiraling star stuff, “What can I do for you that you would travel so far from home in search of me?”  You recognize the voice, from videos you studied back on Synthex, as Phia herself.  She sounds even more confident and determined than you remember, but it’s definitely her.

You answer, “I’ve come here to bring you back home, Phia.  After your transport experiment went awry and you disappeared, Para was sure you were still alive and lost in the Verses somewhere.  She started a whole organization, the Initiative, to study and search the Verses to find you.”

“I’m glad to hear that Para has found inspiration to take on such a perilous inquiry, but my experiment didn’t go awry, which would imply a failure.  Rather, it achieved a different outcome from what was anticipated, bringing me greater success than I’d hoped for.”

That throws you for a loop, “What do you mean?  You’ve lost your body, your emotional essence, and you're stuck here In Between.  How can that be considered a success?”

Phia is ready with a retort, “This In Between is the most perfect collection of intellectual perspectives, pursuits, achievements, and explorations ever accumulated.  I can access vast quantities of information, explore countless treatises, entertain myriad questions, and explore the fabric of the Verses all from right here.  I’ve integrated a lifetime of research since arriving here, and I’ve only scratched the surface of that potential.”

The Ever adds, “Phia is a rarity in the Verses.  She possesses the kind of perspicacious consciousness, so capable of analysis and hungry for learning, that only emerges once in an era, if that.  I’ve enjoyed our conversations immensely.”

Phia continues, “I have no need for a body here, and my mind is the clearest it’s ever been.  Why would I want to return to the limitations of my previous life?”

You expected to be negotiating with the Ever to release Phia to you, and now find that you must convince a very self possessed Phia that returning is a good idea.  Neither Phia nor the Ever seem in a hurry to hear your argument, and you take time to consider how best to persuade her.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

How will you answer?

A: “Right here in this part of the In Between, you’re only existing as one piece of yourself.  You’re wholly intellect, without any connection to your emotional consciousness, because that was fragmented off to a different part of the In Between.  You know that knowledge without empathy can be hazardous, or even sociopathic!   You’re loved and missed by people back home, and there are so many new worlds to visit together.  Wonderful as it is here, it can’t replace the sensations of witnessing a double sunset on a waterworld, or the experience of interacting directly with the underlying physics of another Verse.  I even used a magical sigil ritual to get here.”

B: “Alright, Phia, I won’t push you to leave if you want to stay.  I respect your decision, but you should know that you’re missing more than your body.  We’ll have to decide what to do with the components of you we’ve recovered.  I’m sure the Initiative can figure out a way to communicate with you from time to time to learn from you.  Perhaps we can even figure out a reliable way to travel here, as I’m sure Para would like to visit.

C: “This place feels like a perfect fit because you’re broken, you were shattered into four parts that each went to a realm devoted entirely to that aspect of being.  You may not realize this, but you aren’t doing well.  I’ve learned things in my short time visiting all four of these domains that have expanded my potential, and so have you, except you’re cut off from that in this condition.  Please, trust those of us who care about you to help you, for your own good.”

D: “For all that this magnificent realm offers, there’s no community here to share it with, and eventually you’ll want to be part of that.  There are people back home who need you, Para needs you.  We’re having an energy crisis, and I bet you’ve picked up some ideas here that would help if you got to play with them in a lab.  What good is all this erudition without a purpose?  Staying here is giving up your life outside, and it seems like that sacrifice should mean more than just gaining an endless library.

(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 http://discord.gg/verses)

[Archivist's Log: 7 unanimously advocated for the value of emotional consciousness in concert with the intellect.]

Upon reflection, you’re not so surprised that Phia’s analytical self would choose to remain in this place.  However, you’re unwavering in your confidence that the best option would be to reunify her aspects into a whole person, so you offer the best argument you can construct.  Once she understands how diminished she really is in her current state, you think she’ll come around.

“Right here in this part of the In Between, you’re only existing as one piece of yourself.  You’re wholly intellect, without any connection to your emotional consciousness, because that was fragmented off to a different part of the In Between.  You know that knowledge without empathy can be hazardous, or even sociopathic!   You’re loved and missed by people back home, and there are so many new worlds to visit together.  Wonderful as it is here, it can’t replace the sensations of witnessing a double sunset on a waterworld, or the experience of interacting directly with the underlying physics of another Verse.  I even used a magical sigil ritual to get here.”

The core of Phia’s galaxy pulses as she asks in a tone of surprise, “You’re saying that I’m not only without my body, but that portions of my mind are gone, too?”

“Yes!” you reply emphatically.

“No wonder I feel so free!” she replies, “I feel no doubt, no anxiety, nothing to hold me back…”

Seeing where this is going, you cut her off, “...no joy from touching a new invention, no pleasure from solving a puzzling equation, no happiness, no love.  Is all of that really worth giving up in order to avoid ever having to manage hard feelings?”

Phia is quick to assert her opposition, “This isn’t about avoiding feelings, it’s about being free to study and to work without pointless distractions slowing me down.  Going back means I’ll never see what I need to do so clearly ever again.”

“I concede that’s possible,” you offer in return, “Sentience is complicated, and that’s part of why it’s so marvelous.  I think that all of our aspects have value, that as a whole they make us more than we could be without those convoluted connections, even if sometimes they’re perplexing.”

Holding up the vial with colors swirling around inside you say, “This is part of you, and she deserves to be free, too.”

The Ever, who had remained respectfully silent until now, speaks up, “Phia, I would welcome you here always.  You may stay if you wish, and if you go, I expect you can find your way back again.  Your friend has made a worthy argument that I recommend you consider carefully.”

A protracted silence follows his statement as Phia does consider her options more carefully.  She follows that up with questions about the Initiative and you regale her with stories of the Verses, worlds, and portal connections you’ve already mapped and explored.  At one point she remembers your mention of using a sigil to travel here, and you give a detailed explanation of the design and logic behind it.  “You’d like my team, they bring a lot of different disciplines together to great effect.”

Finally Phia reaches a decision.  “I will come back with you.  I’d like to see these discoveries through my own eyes,” you feel her attention shift to the Ever, “as long as I may truly be welcomed back here, Reason?”

His eyes seem to smile as he says, “My invitation is without an end, visit when you wish.”

“Before you go,” he continues to Phia, “I would like to offer you a gift to help you with the work that lies ahead.  Would you accept this offer?”

“Yes!” she answers immediately, “Thank you, Reason.”

He reaches down into the pale blue sphere with two fingers and pulls out a string of light, like a constellation dotted with shining stars, and reaches out to place it delicately within the galactic spiral.  Phia gasps, “It’s beautiful!”

“Now I must prepare you for rejoining your body.” says Reason, “I need you to draw yourself in as tight as you can while I shape the vessel for transport.  May we begin?”

“I’m ready.”

Phia’s galaxy begins to spin counter clockwise into the center where the light gets so strong and bright that you have to shield your eyes.  The Ever places one hand above and one below the ball of light and pushes his palms together.  The light slowly dims and you see something solid forming in his hands.  When he’s finished, he holds his palm out to you and sitting within is a diadem encrusted with purple and magenta gems forming the graceful shape of a spider in the center.  You take it carefully as the massive avian says, “place this on her head when you’re with her body and the consciousness stored in the jewels will get absorbed back into the proper place.  I expect we may meet again one day, too.”

You turn to see the portal opening up again and feel yourself drawn into it as you call out, “Goodbye!”  The journey feels longer this time, and eventually you see the translucence around you change to a vibrant display of pinks, oranges, and gold.  In this brief interlude of change, a body materializes just in front  of you, and then the tunnel quickly returns to its previous arrangement.  Soon after that the light around you seems to thicken and you feel yourself slowing, until you’re floating gently down the last few meters to the sigil.  The portal vanishes leaving you standing on the platform next to a lifeless, but unharmed, Phia.

Glancing around you see that it’s about midday, and two large tents have been pitched nearby.  One has its sides open and inside your team sits comfortably around a table sharing a meal that smells fantastic even from here.  Nesmin’s tall pointed ears pivot in your direction with their gaze following quickly.  Violet eyes lock onto your form and they cry out, “The sigil, look!  They’ve returned!”  In a rush plates of food are abandoned as everyone hurries to greet you and inspect Phia.

“Oh no,” says Omari dejectedly, “is Phia dead after all?”

“No,” you say hastily as you place a charm for protection from the high gravity on her body and activate it, “but she’s not really alive yet either.”

“You’ve been gone for two cycles,” says Jayden, “we’ve been keeping watch, but we were really worried.  What happened?”

“Well, first I landed in a terrifying void where…no,” you cut yourself off, “there is too much, let me sum up.  We searched for four aspects of Phia and it turns out she was broken into four parts in the accident.  I went to four different places to collect all the pieces and bring them here.  We need to restore her mind with this,” you wave the diadem in the air, “her emotions with this,” you hold out the vial, “but I have nothing for her spirit.  I don’t know how long her body will survive alone.”

You’re trying to decide which to start with, when an inky black streak appears just above your head, as if the atmosphere became solid and was torn.  An owl head emerges as the black ink spill widens and the entire bird body follows, wing feathers brushing the edges as they spread open in a silent glide.  Jet black feathers intertwine with the usual dusky brown of an owl, and you recognize those bright golden eyes.  The first Ever holds in her claws a turquoise colored egg that shimmers with an opalescent effect.

Her voice rings inside your mind, “Phia made the decision to come back, and I honor her choice by returning what she lost.  Advise her to be more careful with this, for it is a treasure to be lamented when it is gone.

“I know her,” you say to your companions, “she’s here to help.”

The owl lands gingerly on Phia as she sets the egg on her stomach.  She uses her beak to poke a hole in the shimmering surface, releasing a shining blue gas that streams into Phia’s center and her mouth as her whole body moves in one giant inhalation.  The owl takes to the air again and flies back through the darkness that closes and disappears behind her.  Phia appears to have a glowing aura for a moment which settles into the appearance of good health.

“Her spirit, I would guess,” says Uluantha.

“Me, too,” you say as you decide on the vial, “Emotions first, I think.”  You pour the vial out  over her heart and head, and the liquid flows over Phia’s skin, quickly becoming absorbed and vanishing altogether.  Her eyes open and she looks terrified as she sits bolt upright.  Instinctively you hold her left hand as the Fox Spirit once held yours saying, “You’re out of the forest and you’re safe.  Let me help you to calm the flow that wants to overwhelm you.”  You walk her through a quick visualization where you work together to move the excess intensity from her to you.

Phia’s face wears the same expression you must have when you held that willow branch successfully.  “Better?” you ask.

“Much,” she answers.

“There’s just one more piece to this puzzle,” you say, “when you place this diadem on your head you’ll recover your full psyche.”

She  hesitates, “I don’t want to be lost again, but that part doesn’t want me.  What’s to prevent her from abandoning me again?”

“I can’t make any guarantees,” you reply, “but we talked a long time and I think she understands more about your importance.  I think she’ll let me help.”

Phia nods, and takes the jeweled band from you, placing it on her head.  The color drains out of the stones as Phia reaches for you, grabbing your arm in a painfully tight grip.  “Paper!” she yells, “a device, anything!”  Wild eyes turn to look around at the circle of sentients, “I need to get it out!”

Mitena spots the journal from the ritual, left undisturbed for two cycles, and which still has some room at the end.  She hands it and a writing implement over to Phia who immediately starts filling the pages and talking to herself as she works.

There’s a lot more to do before Phia is truly going to be back.  With help you guide her to the tent, into some spare clothes, and manage to feed her, though all of this must be done for her.  Phia will not stop writing to tend to anything else.

[SHK-E Analysis: Despite the costs in ENERGY and the risks to SAFETY, the Para Initiative has located the founder of Delphi and takes HEART in restoring much of her previous self.  She has learned a great deal while in the realm of Reason, and has brought back epiphanies and breakthroughs greatly enhancing the Initiative's KNOWLEDGE.]

SAFETY: Very Poor
HEART:  Excellent
KNOWLEDGE: TRANSCENDENT
ENERGY: CRITICAL

Para Initiative Reputations:
Interventionist
Friend of the Keep

Para Initiative Inventory:
Oystersand's Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Untranslated copy of Dear People
Gloomspark Portarray
A Silk Pouch Embrioidered with a Lotus filled with Pollen
A Seed for a Very Special Tree]


The Four Evers

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