The Harvest

2.21.2022

Sitting in the comfortable, hammock style chair hanging outside of your arboreal lodgings, watching the double sun of this magical system close in on the horizon, you feel at ease, as if you’d lived here all your life rather than just half a rev.  In a sense, this is almost your first experience “living” anywhere.  This body had to be made especially for this high gravity environment, and you’ve only occupied one other, with that one only briefly.   You’re sitting about 12 meters up from the water level, low to the ground by O’ooryu standards.  This planet, quite a bit larger than Earth or Delphi, is covered almost entirely with water, water that fills the horizon and stretches the reflected light of the setting suns.

Some dry islands do sprout up above the ocean here and there, but they’re mostly uninhabited.  Initial data suggested small continents, yet the reality has been far more interesting, with millions of square kilometers of shallows, 3 meters deep at minimum, spread out like an archipelago running north to south.  Incredible forests of trees sprout up from these not quite dry lands, reaching easily 150 or more meters in height.  A vast network of what you call wetlands, even though everywhere here is wet, runs from the borders of the forests to the borders of the shallows where the water is thick with all sorts of strange and edible water plants.  Throughout the archipelago range, you can find dense reefs bursting with biodiversity, colorful and teeming with life.

These precious areas of above water ecosystems are dwarfed by the vast expanse of deep ocean.  Sea creatures of gargantuan proportions populate these areas, and they are without a doubt the apex beings of their domain.  One of these denizens of the deep is the reason for your evening vigil on the edge of the forest.  The sound of someone moving behind you takes you out of your reverie.

Turning to look at the massive trunk, easily 40 meters around, you see Uluantha making her way up the stairs that wind around and up the trunk.  She’s been your handler turned mentor since you first made contact.  You think her original purpose was to learn about how you’d arrived since the O’ooryu have detected signs of interversal disturbances, and one such coincided with your appearance.

Upon your arrival via Sieve, the biotailoring nanobots installed in your body went to work reshaping your vocal anatomy to match that of the locals, but you learned quickly that they have magical techniques which work just as well.  You feel honored to have gained her trust despite your obvious alien origins.  You enjoy the many small ways your body has now been magically altered for this environment.

“Good evening!” she greets you with glittering yellow eyes and a smile, “I brought some snacks for while we wait”.  Uluantha sets the platter down on a table nearby and relaxes into a second hammock, also within arms reach of the goodies.  What can best be described as berries, tender seaweed salad, and a variety of raw and smoked fish are a welcome site, and you pour her a glass of something akin to white wine.  “Any sign of them yet?” she asks.

“Not yet,” you reply.

“We don’t have long to wait. the currents are favorable right now.”  Both of you keep your eyes on the horizon while you talk.  “Do you remember your training for calling the lifespring?”

“I do,” you answer, though truth be told this manipulation of magical energy was very new and still intimidating.  “Thank you for allowing me to come on this harvest.  I know it wasn’t an easy argument to win with the Assembly.”

“You’ve worked hard for your place, and you deserve to…”  she trails off staring into the distance as she jumps up from her seat, “...I think I saw something.”  Uluantha begins working a spell to create an area of magnified vision, and you join her to look through it.

You’re waiting for signs of the Wheylanni, one of the largest and gentlest of deep sea creatures, to return to their birthing grounds for this rev.  The Wheylanni migration patterns carry them far into the deep, where they seem to come into contact with a magical source of some kind that integrates into their being.  A parasite living within the bodies of the Wheylanni has evolved to siphon away what the locals call lifespring, the essence of magical energy, and can make them sick or even kill them over time.  The people of the ocean forests venture inside the bulk of the Whelyanni at this season and harvest these parasites to use like magic batteries.

“Yes!” Uluantha exclaims, “look for the splash just at the edge of the south side of the light from the suns.”  You do as she says and see it.  First just a few, and then the splashes multiply while getting bigger with fins visible as well.  The pod has arrived.

A call rings out from where you stand, quickly echoing up the tree and throughout the forest border as hundreds of watchers join in the exuberance.  The areas of the forest around the Wheylanni birthing grounds are kept deliberately rustic in order to avoid disturbing the balance or harming the prosperity of the creatures.  The bounty of the harvest is used to power a thriving array of magical marvels that rival any technology in Synthex.

They have developed mystic tools for flight, advanced energetic techniques for healing, magical biological and material enhancements, and even methods for intraversal travel.  Rather than staying limited by what individuals could conjure from the lifespring, people here found a way to collect and store that necessary energy, even to magnify it, in order to create projects well beyond the scope you expected in this Verse.

Much of that bounty comes from the success of the harvest.  Representatives from each clan in the archipelago come to this patch of forest every year to participate and take a share of the harvest back with them.  “Tomorrow we begin,” says Uluantha, “and tomorrow you’ll earn the opportunity to speak to the Assembly yourself.  Get some sleep, you’ll need it my friend”.

Just after the first sun rises in the early morning, people emerge from their lodgings and make their way to the water below.  The people of O’ooryu may live in the trees, but they clearly demonstrate an aquatic heritage, taking to the sea with casual elegance.  Their eyes easily pierce the darkness underwater, their ears pick up a wider range of sounds, and they can hold their breath for extraordinary periods.

Each group has been training together for several cycles, so you all promptly get to the task at hand.  You follow your companions, swimming through the undergrowth of the wetlands in a tight cluster, until you come out onto the shelf marking the end of the shallows.  Where you would usually see a steep shelf sloping down into a deep basin lined in sand, shells, and sealife, the view is blocked by the enormous bodies of the wheylanni.  Three of you could fit in the iris of one of those vast eyes.

Uluantha signals, and you all gather around to begin calling the lifespring together.  A pale blue rope made of energy emerges from her left hand, extending out to all of you.  Each person takes hold,  then you swim as a group to the largest wheylanni in the vicinity.  Uluantha reaches out to touch it, making sure to swim past an eye.  She calls the lifespring again and you can see patterns of magical energy exchanged between the two.  Uluantha isn’t the only one working a spell, the wheylanni is reaching out to her in equal measure.

In you mind you hear Uluantha speak, “We are welcomed by this one.  They are not well and will be grateful for our help.

Then the great mouth slowly opens and you all swim in together, still connected by the rope.  Continuing, you each conjure a ball of light to float above you and illuminate your journey.  Your lungs, though altered for this purpose, feel almost ready to burst for want of air, but you’re determined to hang on and keep up.  Your swim to the mouth rapidly transitions into being drawn by a powerful current that carries you down into the bowels of the wheylanni.  Holding tight to the rope, everyone works yet another synchronous spell.  A large ball of light forms all around the group and just as you approach the drop off to the first cavern you’re floating in a bubble of air, free of the current.

Everyone breathes deeply and congratulates one another for a job well done.  “Of course, that was just the first step, '' says Uluantha, “now we need to find a lifespring vein to follow.  Everyone reaches out to sense the magic coursing through the wheylanni.  As you follow suit, closing your eyes, you feel a rhythm that isn’t the pumping of fluids, but something very different.  With each pulse you see light in your mind’s eye.  As they continue, you begin to  feel centered, your eyes opening to a whole new world.

Instead of the blackness that stretched beyond the light of your spell globes, there are streaks and folds of bioluminescent tissue all around you.  No biological model you know can adequately describe what you’re seeing.  You only remember your purpose when a young student of Uluantha’s speaks up, “I think that vein looks promising.  It feels…weakened.”  They’re correct, you realize.  You were supposed to be seeking evidence of the pattern disrupting parasites.

“Excellent,” says Uluantha, “Let’s move.”  You all direct your air bubble along the path of that vein until it disappears in a pool of water.  You land in the pool and let the spell fade away.  The air trapped in here is usually safe, and you can all generate your own air bubbles as needed.  You spread out and begin searching for the parasites that embed themselves into the soft tissue, especially in the water.

Kicking and splashing the water agitates them and they begin to glow with their magic.  You create a net of lifespring energy and use your harvesting tool to remove parasites as you find them.  They have a  sting that can send people into a stupor, so you're careful to cast a spell to render the parasites inert before handling them. With this hazard eliminated, your net is soon full.  As you fill a net you “hang” it on a lifespring vein for collection on your way out.  The harvest will take all day and continue for a full cycle.

You have options to consider after this. Your work has qualified you to speak directly to the Assembly of Clans that governs this world, and you’ll be entitled to a share of the harvest.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

WILL YOU:

A: Propose that O’ooryu joins a coalition with the Para Initiative  It’s time to do more than accumulate knowledge and advise from the shadows.  They already know you came here from somewhere “else”, and took you in when they had no reason to help you.  They seem to share your values and drive to explore while accumulating knowledge about their broader environment.  They might take offense at an offer that could be perceived as a threat to their independence, so it would take real delicacy to negotiate.

B: Gift your share back into the hands of the Assembly  While the Initiative always needs new sources of energy, the best way to achieve that is to continue building trust with these people and learn more about harnessing magical resources.  Their skill within Fantasia would be incredibly useful.  Returning generosity with generosity will place you in a good position to negotiate for a long term research agreement, even if it means giving up a short term resource gain now.

C: Ask the Assembly for a place to start an outpost  While it’s important not to reveal the full agenda of the Initiative just yet, this planet is ideal for a base of operations.  We can continue to build rapport and maintain our discretion as long as we respect the authority of the Assembly.  Without a more robust level of participation in the harvest, the Initiative may not get as much value from this planet as would be ideal, but we don’t need to rush into things.  An uninhabited island could work well.

D: Take your share back to the Initiative HQ  Para needs to be consulted directly, and we need to learn if we can apply this energy source to other Verses.  There may be a way to explore the deep ocean and go directly to the source, or we may be able to replicate this process somewhere uninhabited and rich with magical energy that just needs the right receptacle.  Deciding how to best move forward with a contact as crucial as this should rest in Para’s hands.

(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: 8 votes in favor of returning the shares to the assembly in hopes of starting a research agreement.  2 votes in favor of taking the Fantasian energy back to HQ and discussing what to do with the resource with Para.]

Several times each day your group weaves a spell together to carry yourselves and your haul up and out of the wheylanni.  From there you create a raft of air underneath the nets, which you pull along as you swim around the bay to a waiting barge where the cargo is loaded.  There are easily 30 different Clans represented, with more on the other side of the bay, and every barge is painted in patterns of bright colors as unique as the Clans themselves.

By the end of the cycle your group, and two others harvesting for the same Clan, have completely filled the 100 meter long barge.  The ships will set out for the processing hub while you and the members of the harvesting crews will fly out to the Assembly House in the morning.  You’ve considered all of your options carefully, and you feel a long term research agreement will be of the greatest benefit for both parties.  You know you’ve only scratched the surface of what O’ooryu has to offer and you should continue here as long as people are willing to teach you.

In the morning you put on your best clothes made with a form of texomancy to manipulate the fiber and weaving, infusing it with lifespring.  The resulting garments are light and fine as silk, durable as kevlar, and dry extremely fast when removed from water.  Carrying your gear, you head out for the charmed flyers platform, making your way along the network of stairs and walkways that connect the arboreal environment.  Uluantha joins you, “This was an excellent harvest.  Was it what you expected?”

“It was like nothing I’ve ever imagined,” you reply, “O’ooryu never stops surprising me.”

Uluantha seems pleased at that, “Do you know what you will say to the Assembly?”

“Sort of,” you offer with a look of absorption, “I plan to ask for a research agreement between my people and yours,” catching yourself from tripping in your distracted state you continue on, “I think offering my share of the harvest back into the hands of the Assembly would be the right way to begin.  What do you think?”

Uluantha laughs, “I think you should watch where you’re going, the platform is this way,” and she redirects you onto the proper path.  “I like your idea, and your approach is good.  Be sure to get the more conservative Clans excited about this first, they will be concerned about moving too quickly and about mixing different magical systems in the same magicae opus.”

You talk strategy in this way for the half hour trip, and by the time you see the Assembly Building you feel like you know what to do.  Floating 600 meters above the open ocean you see a 50 story building made with a mix of ocean materials, similar to abalone shell and coral, layered in flowing natural forms that evoke the currents of the ocean and the intricacy of the reefs.  Lush greenery surrounds it, forming extensive gardens with flowering plants cascading over the walls and down into the open air.

Below that a spiral like a nautilus winds its way down around a central core another 10 stories to form landing platforms, which is your destination.  Looking closely at the structure, you estimate the central spire has 100 or more lifespring batteries, just like the ones you harvested, embedded into it as part of a grand sigil, forming an essential function in this magicae opus.  It’s difficult not to gape at everything like a child in a candy store.

You’re led into the core where you’re given a token that allows you to activate the sublime conveyance within.  Uluantha and you step onto a permanent sigil inlaid from gold on the beautiful shell floor.  Uluantha speaks, “Assembly main atrium”, and your tokens glow briefly before you feel yourself disappear and reappear inside another sigil situated inside a large waiting area slowly filling up with people.  Some stand in small clusters talking, and some sit on padded benches along the walls.

Eventually the great doors of the Assembly open and people are directed to seats according to Clan affiliation.  There’s a lot of discussion about the harvest results, the needs of the governing body, and how to balance that with individual Clan concerns.  Each harvesting crew is called forward and thanked for their efforts, told what their share will be, and given a chance to speak.

When it’s your turn, you observe the formalities as Uluatha instructed, and when you have the chance to speak, you make your case with what you hope is eloquence.

“I came here from a place far beyond the reach of O’oomryu people, as a foreigner in need of your guidance.  You’ve allowed me to stay and introduced me to the wonders of the lifespring.  In gratitude for all of this and more, I give my share back into the hands of the Assembly to use as they see fit.  I’m too new to understand how best to use it and lack a Clan to guide me.”

People are surprised, but the response seems largely positive.  You continue, “I would ask one thing of the wise and gracious Assembly,”  all eyes turn on you now, “I came here with esoteric knowledge of my own regarding the nature of the anomalies that disturb the balance of this system and the lifespring that surrounds it.  I propose that my people and the people of the Assembly should work together to explore these phenomena and improve our understanding of how lifespring functions.  You’ve created marvels to be admired and I have much to learn from you, but my people have their own great works and I think we can help one another reach farther.  Would you consider a formal research agreement with the Para Initiative?”

You don’t get an answer right away.  In fact, for several cycles you visit the Assembly in formal discussion and in the evenings you walk the gardens conversing with individual members.  Uluantha’s information about who is more conservative and who might be more open to change proves invaluable.  By the end, you’ve successfully won over a majority and a formal agreement is signed.  The Initiative will be expected to send a variety of resources in the form of people, materials, and so on,.  In return, participants will learn to create the sigils that the locals use for interplanetary travel.

Many cycles later, Uluantha uses her charmed flyer to take you back to the island where you first arrived.  You take out a hard case with a copy of the agreement, a data crystal with your reports and notes about the proceedings, and a small vial of the concentrated lifespring gathered in the harvest.  You walk it over and place it on the ground, step back and explain to Uluantha, “This is a device that will signal all the way back to my home world that there’s something here for them to collect.  In my verse we use electricity the way you use lifespring…mostly.”

You activate the Portarray and…nothing, nothing happens!  You check it again and it seems to have plenty of juice, “I don’t understand,” you say disheartened, “it should be almost instantaneous.”

Uluantha tries to look supportive, but you can tell she’s disappointed, “The agreement won’t work if this portal you talked of won’t open anymore.”

“I have to wait,” you declare, “I have to stay and keep trying.”

“I’ll wait with you,” Uluantha replies, and you don’t hide your relief.  The sun sets and rises again with you trying the Portarray regularly and no response.  Finally, by midday, the familiar blur of the Sieve portal opening springs up around the case and it pops out of existence.  You’re glad the wait is over, but with a deep unease you wonder, why did it take so long?

[SHK-E Analysis: The Para Initiative invests ENERGY acquiring and sending resources and personnel to the Clans of the O’oomryu Assembly as part of the research agreement, but gains KNOWLEDGE as it learns more and more about lifesprings and this world's perspective on portals and Verses.  All of the brightest inventors and engineers turn their attention to the fact that the Initiative can barely keep its machinery running with the massive energy expenditures and the need to keep equipment maintained for a large number of teams. Fortunately, they figure out how to "clone" the living spark inside the Gloomspark Portarray, and bond the descendents with other devices.  They aren't powerful enough to sustain something like the Sieve, but it is enough to save ENERGY on small devices across the board.]

SAFETY: Very Poor
HEART: Very Good
KNOWLEDGE: TRANSCENDANT
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]


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