Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 373 - The Burden of Knowledge

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Of the Tryfan Enclave, the Sixth Circle was one of the nine Demi-Planes ringing the canopy of the World Tree and Sanari's home.

When earlier the Hierophant-Masseusse had arrived to pick up their guest, she was profoundly shaken by the vision of the Void Sorceress standing beside the Bloom in White with every limb intact.

From the smell of ash in the air and the chaotic swirl of mana in the sanctum, she could guess why every Master Warden from the Seventh to the Ninth Circle had answered the breach siren. What Sanari did not understand was why the Bloom in White did not immediately reject their guest from the sacred tree but commanded Sanari to shelter Gwen on route to Henry Kilroy's abandoned abode in the outer circuit of the Sixth Circle.

"Woooow…" Beside the Heirophant-Initiate, the clueless Human cooed at the unbound vista, a scene that roused powerful emotions in the Circle's guest.

The broad avenue upon which the pair walked was the main thoroughfare through the upper district of the Circle, offering its residents an unfettered view of the lower Circles' canopy roof. The circular branch-ways ringed the circumference of the Sixth, affording space aplenty for the Circle's some two-thousand citizens. Different to the lower districts, which housed the agricultural regions of the World Tree, the Sixth Circle was the preferred residence of Elves currently undergoing their Cycle as Druids and Elementalists. As a result, its dwellings and public buildings were large and distantly placed, with vast open tracts of level growth serving as practice fields.

Their present destination was a scant-occupied quarter used by the district's most prominent casters. Within its shelter, the girl's Master had made his home a century ago, first with Lady Sufina, then with the aberrant known as Sobel.

"We've arrived," Sanari notified their guest.

From her ring, the Hierophant-initiate produced a Key Glyph specific to the late master caster's home. "Here is your key."

The gate to the courtyard stood as a silvery carving etched onto the base of an enormous banyan tree, the kind native to Lady Sufina's island. The sapling, Sanari notified her companion, was painstakingly translocated from the island home of the Dryad by her Master.

"Thank you, Sanari." The girl took the key from her hands. "Would you like to come in?"

"I do not believe that is appropriate." Sanari understood that while the Bloom in White may not consider the Grot's content important, her more worldly superiors, such as Arch-Warden Eldrin or Primarch Vulmari, would possess no such qualms. To avoid getting caught between the High Priestess' carefree generosity and her superior's curiosity, Sanari figured it was best to let sleeping Nymphs lie.

"Are there any Wards inside?" The girl played with the Glyph key. "Or guards, like a pissed-off mini Sufina?"

Sanari searched her memory for hearsay from the last century. "I am unsure, as your Master is Human. He did enjoy a constant stream of visitors, so I do not believe his sanctum is warded to cause harm. He was perfectly safe here. The Tree of Tryfan is unassailable. Even Sythinthimryr the Red would think twice about flying too close."

"That's good to know. May I use magic here?" The Void Sorceress enquired. "I'd rather play it safe and scope the place first. Master liked his secrets."

"You may," Sanari gave permission, a privilege granted by the Bloom. "Please keep your sorcery localised, especially those associated with the Negative Plane. Since Master Kilroy's extinction was confirmed, his neighbours had all relocated— that's how sensitive the Hvítálfar are to mortality. I should also note that you should scour your Master's Grot for his effects. Lady Esta, the Lord of the Sixth, has expressed her desire to purge this pocket plane into the Astral expanse."

"What? Why?"

"This is the home of a being no longer alive, and one associated with Sobel, a betrayer of the Accord," Sanari explained with patience when Gwen knitted her brows. "Please do not take offence. The same purgation is performed for our loved ones as well. Though it has been some decades since we've had a Sending."

"No Elf has died in recent memory?" the girl's tone grew sceptical. "Not even from violent deaths?"

"Conflict is not our way…"

"By which you mean…" Her guest's lips grew churlish. "You've freed yourselves from the need for conflict because us Humans are fielding for your kin to catch the conflicts before they can roost at Tryfan, quashing problems like the Triffids."

"Perhaps." Against the girls' penetrative gaze, Sanari felt her chest constrict. It was true that since the young Human Queen took power, Tryfan's Wardens and Rangers had suffered no losses.

"Is it because of the Accord?" the girl followed up. "That we act as a buffer for Tryfan?"

Sanari stopped herself short before she could blurt an answer. Was the girl baiting her? The Elf reminded herself to smile. "Magus Song, your benefactor's legacy awaits within. You have only a few hours."

"What's a few more hours to those unmoved by the tyranny of time?" The girl's grin made Sanari nervous.

"I shall stand guard to warn away wayward eyes," she declared, ignoring the Human. "Proceed with your sorcery as you please. Do make haste. The Guardian is wary of your presence."

"Thanks, I'll be done in a jiffy." The Void Sorceress concentrated, drawing crude, borrowed Glyphs in the air "Morden's Hound!"

Unbidden, Sanari felt every muscle in her over-trained body tense, her Warden's senses sending whistling flares up her spine and down her limbs, tingling her fingers. Unbidden, the Druidess' breath caught in her throat as the tendons supporting her lofty skull tightened, making visible the blue veins supplying mana and blood to her brain. Simultaneously, a dreadful sensation of free-falling forced her to brace against the rugged bark of the banyan.

Besides the child of Void, an obsidian horror, the likes of which Sanari had never thought she would behold, slinked into being from a slit in space. Half-maw and half-hound, the thing of living hunger was eyeless and faceless, akin to the pale wyrms that lived in the lightless caverns on the First Circle, languishingly feeding on the World Tree's roots.

Once birthed, the hound panted against the girl like a pup, smearing her thighs with its grey goo.

"Stay still, Buck. I'll get your buds out. Hound Pack!" The sorceress continued her unholy craft.

Nine more of the terrible beasts emerged, smaller but no less ugly.

Together, they sniffed the air around the tree, tasting its sacred spaces.

For the love of Tryfan, please don't wander away, Sanari prayed to the Bloom for support of her sanity. She had no desire to corral these things, and even if she did, she wasn't sure the execution of the dogs' summoner would sit well with the Circle Council.

"Almost done," her guest assured the ashen Sanari. "Ariel! Caliban!"

When the Draconic-chimaera emerged with a flourish and an "Ee!", Sanari breathed out a sigh of relief, unsurprised that a Familiar as piecemeal-proportioned as its Master existed. When the infamous Void Worm made its appearance, her disgust returned with a two-fold dose of oppression, so acute that a desire to send a Viridian Bolt to the creature's featureless face flashed across her rioting mind.

"This is Ariel the Kirin," the girl explained, ruffling the chimaera's mane. "And this cutie is Cali. Say hi, everyone!"

"EE!" the Kirin saluted, raising a front hoof to show its proud frog.
"Shaa— Shaa!" The Void fiend opened its maw to vociferate a gut full of grey goo. Was it staring at her? Sanari couldn't tell for the thing had no eyes, though its depthless throat did communicate a distressing hunger.

"Magus Song, please proceed inside," Sanari begged the Void Sorceress. With so many manifested clumps of Void tainting her mana senses, Sanari felt queasy, like that one time she ate greasy Human food fried in animal fat. Thankfully, the junior Void Sorceress rallied her creatures without ado, then pressed Kilroy's key against the door to invoke the threshold.

"Buck, fellers, in you go. Cali, keep an eye on them," the girl commanded her minions. "Ariel, you bring up the rear."

"I hope you find what you need," Sanari well-wished the Human sorceress before stepping away, hoping her guardianship of the girl would soon end.

"I hope so too." The girl smiled back. "Also, I am not going in yet. The doggies will give the place a once-over first, and I'll be using Ariel VR."


With patience, Gwen waited for her dogs to settle, then entered into a dimly lit interior plated from floor to ceiling with lacquered wood.

Her hounds had already sniffed through the house, using their bodies to test for traps as they slinked through the modest space in-between the clutter of furniture, which to her eyes resembled an Edwardian drama set.

The epoch of the decor made perfect sense— Gwen realised once she stepped into the Grot herself, for it affirmed the Elves' assertion that Henry had furnished his home in the period before the Great War.

Atypical of the colonial epoch, the interior of Henry's Grot-away-from-Grot was richly adorned, with wooden tapestries in carved oak stretching from floor to the two-storey ceiling, where exposed beams supported an ornate roof, beyond which lay the Astral expanse.

From the foyer, which resembled a tunnel of geometric wood stained with dark varnish, the corridor opened into a well-lit living room library.

A library at last! Huzzah! Gwen's girlish heart burst into rapture.

Books! Tomes! Grimoires and volumes were lining the walls in every windowless direction! From knee-level shelves, each a meter long and as tall as the ceiling, rigid, hard-cover spines pronounced their titles. Breaking the biblio-monotony were pigeon holes; different to the shallow shelves serviced the books, these hid scrolls and parchments, sporting "X" shaped alcoves stuffed with paper.

In the middle of the living room and library sat an ecliptic assortment of couches in pastel. The largest was in burgundy, while another had lime-green floral for its fabric. Against every second armrest, tasselled table lamps sat on reading stands, with semi-translucent strings of crystal hanging from ivory shades. On the floor, enormous carpets with arcane designs stretched from sofa to sofa, marking the boundaries between areas for rest and locomotion. Facing the chairs sat a fake fireplace, fully functional from the looks of the enchanted kindling still pulsing with faint mana. On the furthermost side, a set of heavy curtains covered the wall.

Thoughtfully, Gwen approached a well-worn single-seater sofa in midnight blue, finding interest in the indent in the frayed cushion. Within her mind's eye, she could imagine a younger Henry, not so frail and possessed still of a heart, sitting there, a scroll in hand and a book on his lap, using Mage Hand to jot-down the results of his research.

"Shaa Shaa!" Caliban slithered under a dresser, emerging a moment later with a pair of slippers.

Gwen was on the verge of commending the creature when she noted from the design that these were not her Master's slippers, but ones belonging to someone with smaller, daintier feet and a predisposition for lace.

"Jesus Christ! Drop em!" Caliban recoiled, letting fall the offending footwear.

As quick as her empathic sentimentality had come, what were most likely Sobel's favourite comfy-shoes killed all nostalgia.

"Ee! EE!" Opposite, Ariel played with the drawstrings threaded through the heavy drapes. With a careless tug, it displaced the curtain, revealing the hidden visage.

A pair of unholy blue eyes stared out at the Grot's uninvited intruder.

"HOLY FUCK!" Gwen involuntarily took a step back, almost tripping over Caliban. "Elizabeth Sobel!"

It was Sobel— or more accurately, a portrait of Sobel, hung against the wall so that the peruser of the library, when seated to read, would always have its fairness within sight.

"Thanks, Master, I hate it," Gwen complained, calming herself by circulating a mote of Almudj's Essence. The portrait of Lizzy frozen in time was younger than the Elizabeth she had seen. The face was more rounded, the chin weaker and her eyes less almond and more oval. How old was Sobel during the sitting? Gwen wondered, approaching the painting to study its details.

Up close, she could see the oily textures where the hues had been expertly blended to create the semi-realistic image. From the style, she would guess that the painter must be an old master, for she had seen the same likenesses of Magisters in Peterhouse's common room.

The most striking thing about the image, other than Sobel's sultry, scarlet lips, were her eyes. The Void Sorceress' orbs were a soulful baby-blue, so blue the pigments struggled to capture their vividness. And like herself, the girl within possessed pale, flawless skin, with a hint of rose to her cheeks framed by dark hair. In their youth, they did look somewhat alike, Gwen realised, ambivalent in her discovery.

Her Master must have enjoyed the countenance of his young wife, Gwen measured the vector between her Master's favourite chair and the portrait's gaze, vaguely aware of the implications. By the measure of years, her temptation to accept Elvia's companionship seemed like a completely natural thing in comparison.

She cast her gaze around the room.
Sanari had given her a limited timeframe, but no specific deadline.
She could drag out her stay in her Master's home, but doing so excessively would outstay her welcome. If she refused to leave, would the delay piss off this Lady Esta enough to void the abode with her in it?

Knowing the Elves' antipathy towards bereavement, she chose urgency.

From her Storage Ring, she produced three more Large Storage Rings, each a discounted item gifted to her by Marong for looting Golos' spoils. While empty, extra rings could be stowed, but once in use, they must be worn or carried on her person.

Together with her looted original, she totalled about five shipping containers of storage space. If Solana's ilk intended to purge her Master's pocket space, then it goes to reason that she should loot the joint like a bandit.

Systematically, she began with the cumbersome couches and the tables, the lamps and the rugs. Once these were packed, she started with the books, running her hand along the rails so that the volumes disappeared each by each, giving her a glimpse of the titles.

There were the usual suspects, such as Allenberg's Primer for Astral Theory, Otsu's Primer for Evokers and Goulding's Primer for Transmutation, though, from the leather-bound covers, she suspected these were rarer editions than the cardboard mass-manufactured Spellbooks she had held as a high school student.

Other volumes had portentous titles like The Netherbane Lexicon, Old Griever's Ledger, Tome of Aquamancy, Crick's Primer of Illusions, Bilby's Spellbinding, Gärsthorn's Epi-tome, Morden's Guide to Giant Slaying, Hodking's Notes on the Mysterious of the East, Oriental Magic: A Study, among which sat extra-exotic volumes that made her question why anyone would want to know Werewolve Husbandry.

Very soon, the room grew spartan but for the portrait of Sobel and a small trove of books.

"Shaa! Shaa!" Caliban reported that her hounds had found something unusual.

Beside Sobel's portrait, Buck and a buddy nuzzled a section of the bookcase she had yet to stow.

"What is it?" Gwen came close.

She double-checked the volumes the hounds were sniffing. The Void hounds possessed an indifferent sense for the olfactory, but she knew they were hyper-sensitive to mana and vitality.

She waved her hand across the tomes, filing all but one volume into her ring.

"Oh-ho?" Gwen placed a finger on the spine. "A pulley-book? How tacky…"

The book was a lever.
With a Shield spell on her lips, she took the stubby tome between her finger and her thumb, then pulled.

Clack

Sobel's portrait swung open on silent hinges.

"Not much of a secret." Gwen attempted to think as a younger Henry vicariously. "I guess this must be the reserved section."

Behind the portrait was another bookshelf. This one contained both leather parchments and scrolls, as well as bound volumes in ancient leather. Here, Gwen guessed, must be the collection her Master did not want to display in public. There were a dozen alcoves in all, each holding an assortment of scrolls and books. Silently, Gwen prayed to the Bloom in White, hoping she would not be finding Henry's stash of intimate photos of his wife.

With great care, she took a textured parchment from the shelve.

The contents were composed in a language she did not recognise, but as her eyes browsed the page, her Master's Ioun Stone hummed, drawing on her passive mana to divine the scroll's contents.

Flesh Stitching
Conjuration
Casting Time: 81 Major Invocations
Range: Visual, up to 20 metres between Familiar and Target
Components: Somatic, Thrall blood
Duration: Instant
This spell restores the flesh of a wounded Familiar by drawing upon the flesh of a Thrall or a subdued enemy. The supplementary target must be subdued, unconscious, or willing. Vital energy will be transferred from the target to the Familiar, restoring bodily damage as well as Essence. The origin of this spell lies with the Witch-Hags of the Northern Reach Troll Tribes. See Appendix for notation on the base invocation.

There was a handwritten note at the bottom.

"Further tests needed for Mass supplement variation."

Gwen lowered the Spell Scroll, suddenly feeling a terrible premonition. Just to be sure, she reread the description before replacing the parchment.

Unable to stifle her curiosity, she took up another.

"Void Enervation..."

Void Enervation
Conjuration-Evocation
Casting Time: 120 Major, 121 Minor
Range: Touch
Components: Somatic
Duration: Instant, Channel
Through focusing Void-aligned mana, a manifested orb may suppress, paralyse, and drain the life force of any living creature the sorcerer strikes. Once touched, the target rapidly loses vitality equal to the volume-metric input of Negative-aligned mana utilised for the spell.
Upon channelling, the subject will continue to take on Negative Drain while a portion of the subject's vitality is transferred to the caster. The Negative Drain caused by this spell cannot be restored with basic Biomancy. A Clerical invocation such as Restoration of at least the fifth tier is required.

This one also had a hand-scribbled note.

"Enervation in its Necromantic form— see attached scroll— can be used to empower Undead Familiars. Empowerment of Lizzy's Brood Worms has demonstrated limited economy..."

Gwen's spine grew gradually rigid as she finished reading the notes. Cold perspiration oozed from her shoulders, covering her neck with a snail sheen of sweat.

Conjuration? EVOCATION?
Wasn't this Necro—

Touching a finger to her lips, Gwen forced herself to remain calm. Replacing the parchment, she picked up the thickest volume on the shelf.

"… Samshulael's Tome of Flesh Puppetry…" She read out loud, just to double-check with her ears what her eyes were seeing through the Ioun Stone.

Fervently, she opened the pages, hoping against hope that perhaps this was some perverted book about making conjugal aids. A dozen pages later, she found an entry with helpful diagrams.

Poppet of Flesh
Enchantment-Conjuration
Casting Time: 219 Major, 22 Minor, Other
Range: Close
Components: See attached Ingredients List
Duration: Persistent
This spell details the process involved in making a servitor-ghoul (fig.1.3) with intelligence enough to serve as a serf or servant. The genesis invocation utilised for this is supplied from "Samshulael's Records of the Golem Craft of the Middle-Age Israelites, Vol.3 1892", adapted from the Tome of Creation by Arch-Mage Izikiel Shamshad.
To begin, a Poppet is an intermediate variation of the Golem of Flesh. The caster should start by preparing a fresh corpse—

Gwen quickly closed the book, then placed it back on the shelf.
Ardently, she commanded her overimaginative mind to calm her farm. She forced herself to recall what Professor Michio Lee had said, that Necromancy without a Necromancer was just harmless knowledge. It was no different from reading The Anarchist's Cookbook on the internet out of morbid curiosity.

She comprehended a few more titles.

So, these are Necromancy manuals; Gwen accepted her new reality with complete candidness. If so, was the possession of such knowledge a sin? Necromancy didn't raise people. People raised people. Moreover, that Void Enervation spell sounded a treat, and from the look of it, she had also found a method to heal Ariel without the need for a healer as well, a skill that could come in handy if her dearest Kirin got wounded.

As for these other volumes and scrolls; surely they're all research material? After all, her Master beat back the Necromancers with a big stick, didn't he? These must be Henry's loot!

With trembling fingers, she reached out for a volume bound in leather the colour of dried blood. There was no title, and the parchment had the texture of human dermis.

This one was only the thickness of her finger. Contained therein were mostly handwritten notes, followed by what looked like half-completed spells.

"Exsanguination…" She read. "Each creature within the radius of this spell with an open wound…"

She stopped reading to swear.

Her wandering fingers returned to another segment of the treasure trove of spells. One compartment appeared more disturbed than the others, with a few scrolls that appeared frayed from frequent access.

Gwen retrieved the top-most page.

"Void Conduit…" She read in a monotone voice. "This modified variant of the Vampiric Siphon shows promise when utilised with Evocation. Unfortunately, its vital drain has exceedingly poor economy compared to the Nosferatu original. The limitation is likely as a result of incompatibility with Major Invocations taken from Eastern Necromancy, which originated within the Orthodox Sects of Bulgaria. Without a constitution of Undeath, the life-leeching effects rack the user's body with agony as excess…"

She pulled something from the lower piles.

"A Blood Thrall, even a volunteer..."

She decided not to read-on for now.

With a flick of her hand, she stowed the lot, fearing what Solana had said about the nature of knowledge and what would happen if an ignorant rube were to leave his hamlet for the big smoke.

What are you going to do with these books? A voice in her head gently coughed. Are you going to read them? Study them?

No! Gwen replied. Okay, maybe, just to read her Master's notes. That's an Apprentice's duty, wasn't it? If there's a clue about Sobel's sorcery, it was up to her and Gunther and Alesia to find out. If the secrets here should see the light of day, then the discretion lied with her and Gunther and Alesia. They were the gatekeepers of Henry's legacy. They would decide together.

But these scrolls. Did this mean that Henry dabbled in Necromancy? Gwen asked herself. If so, was she a Mandatory Reporter? Did that duty come with the title of Magus or War Mage or whatever they're slathering her with these days? Power and privilege seldom came without obligation; should someone uncover that she had hidden Henry's forbidden trove of spells and lore, heads would roll.

Maybe her's.
Maybe another's.
Somehow, she doubted Ollie could handle something of this magnitude.

She closed her eyes to think.

When she opened them again, rationality prevailed. There was no possible way for Henry to be a Necromancer even if he tried. Her Master lacked the means— at least Elementally. When Gwen ran the fact through her head once more, applying a fine sieve to the mass of information, another epiphany came to her.

Her Master had used the Grot since before the Great War, right? The chronology of events meant that the collection had existed before Necromancy was outlawed. This stuff— all of this, the whole kit— it was necessary knowledge! As Guo would quote with a grumpy face, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you're an idiot."

Henry had a lot on his plate, according to Solana. He had to fend off the School of Necromancy while dealing with competitors in the form of his siblings, while concurrently juggling international pressure against the adoption of the IMS and the Tower systems. Then, presumably, her Master attempted to experiment with Void Magic just like Jean-Paul's adopted mother-mentor, which naturally meant digging for the deep knowledge of the past, before magic was regimented, simplified and categorised.

What to do? Gwen agonised, causing Caliban to writhe and turn and Ariel to squirm. Her dogs as well, agitated by her surging adrenaline, huffed and whined.

For the present, she boxed the lot into her Storage Ring. Leaving her Master's smoking wands for the Elves wasn't a decision she could make. Consultation with Gunther and Alesia would take precedence, and if need be, there was no proof a Void Bolt couldn't disprove.

Besides... Void Enervation sounded like one helluva boon for a Void Sorceress with a starved grimoire.
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Satiate yourself while you wait with Metaworld-Meta-fics :

Strictly Cali An islander's Meta-journey Strategic Magic The Strange Life of an Elf From Sydney The Rise of a Magi - Empires of Old
"Strictly Caliban" From the always catty @Wandysama
"An Islander's Meta-Journey" from young gun @Bartimeus
"The Mysteries of Fudan, and Other Rumors From the Metaworld" by @valderag
"Strategic Magic" by @kjoatmon
"The Strange Life of a Quarter-Elf From Sydney" by @Izetta_Fleur
"Rise of a Magi" by quacky @Rhein
"The Chronicle of a Null Mage" by Snow AKA @Warior1411


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Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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