Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Chapter 20: Magic 101

The whole week I found it hard to concentrate. It was partly excitement, but I think a lot of it was also anxiety. I was looking forward to Thursday, and I was also scared to death. But I think mostly I was just curios. I was wondering the same thing most of you are probably wondering: how do I do it? It seemed to me that transforming my body into an entirely new form was something that would have to come naturally. Why would I have to learn how? And more importantly, how would I go about it?
So by the time Thursday afternoon rolled around, I was more than ready to get started. Teresa's car was outside the school. I looked around to make sure no one was watching, then got in.
"Where's Quentin?" I asked her. I'd had kinda hoped he'd be there too; it sort of made me feel more comfortable.
"He's not a Draconic," she said, "So he wouldn't be a terribly large amount of help. Meanwhile, he has his own recruit to train,"
"Really?" I asked.
"Yeah, Vampire hunting has always been taught by apprenticeship," she answered, "And if every hunter trained as many as Quentin, they'd increase by a factor of ten every generation,"
I didn't have a lot else to say about that, so I didn't say anything for a while.
"So," I asked, a few minutes later," Where are we going?"
"My apartment," she said, then added, "Well, not technically mine, but the one I've been using since I was first assigned to you're case. The Alliance thought owning a property equidistant from your house and your school would come in handy some day,"
"How long have they had it?" I asked.
"Since Lisa and Wallace bought the house," she answered, "Although most of that time it's been abandoned. One of our agents owns and operates the whole building, though,"
"A Draconic?" I asked.
"No," she answered, "Just a human agent. Believe it or not, they still make up the bulk of the MLF. They'll be time for you to learn about that later, though. Today, we have other things to focus on,"
Finally, we were getting around to what I wanted to talk about.
"Like what, exactly?" I asked.
"In a few minutes," she answered. We turned into that parking lot of a rather run-down looking apartment building.
"This is it," said Teresa, parking the car.
We walked in the building and climbed up the stairs. There was nothing unusual about the place really - just your typical inner-city apartment building. Even had the same smell. As we walked through the hallway, however, a large Hispanic man in a blue jumpsuit hailed us.
"Hey Teresa," he cried, "This him?"
"Yes, Pat," she answered, "This is him,"
'Pat' immediately bent down, grabbed me in a large bear hug, and whirled me around. He was quite sweaty, and smelled like a much more intense version of the musty spell that pervaded the building.
"Master Brimmer!" he exclaimed as he put me down, "I have not seen you since you were this big," he bent down and put one arm about a foot and a half off the ground. "I can not tell you how wonderful it makes me feel to know a Brimmer will be back on the council soon,"
"Now you know that's not a done deal," said Teresa, "Thadius likely won't even step down as leader of the NA,"
"Then he will have to be shown his place," he answered. He turned to me, "Is Skyler Woods Brimmer really going to take a back seat to a Blue with no family name?"
I didn't know what to say. Luckily, Teresa stepped in.
"He'll never take the throne if he doesn't get trained," she said, frustratedly.
"Oh, my apologies," said Pat, "Wouldn't want to keep you from that," He stepped aside and we walked into Teresa's room.
"You're gonna find a lot of those," she answered. "Now that word has gotten out the Brimmers are back on the scene, everyone thinks you'll be wanting to take back the council. Especially regular humans - Fintan's never been especially popular with them,"
"Do you want me to retake the council?" I asked her.
"It's unnecessary," she answered, "As soon as we rescue Lisa, she'll be returned to leadership of the council,"
"You know she's alive?" I asked hopefully.
"I have faith," she said. "Now, enough politics. Let's get started on things you'll actually need to know. Get comfortable, this may take a while,"
I sat down on a couch and she began.
"Anything specific you'd like to know?" She asked, "You're a smart boy, I'm sure by now you've figured out at least five or six reasons why this is impossible, try them on me,"
That was not what I'd been expecting to be asked. But just the same, I figured, I'd try one out.
"Ok," I answered after a while, "All the dragon in my family comes from my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great grandfather or something, right?"
"One too many greats," she answered, "But go on,"
"So I'm what, 1/512 dragon? If that. How do I have any power at all?"
"Good one," said Teresa, "Actually that leads pretty well into our first lesson. You know your draconic ancestor started your whole bloodline while in human form, right?"
"Well, he didn't have any human DNA. What he had was a magical ability inherent in dragons known as polymorphing. Now we know about as much about polymorphing as we do about most kinds of magic, which is almost nothing. It was likely very hard to study magic even in the days when it was abundant - now that it's virtually vanished from the earth, we know even less about it. And now that magic related research is illegal in the U.S. and most of Europe, I think it's safe to say that's where we'll stay for a while.
What we do know is this - Polymorphing, like all magic, changes the fundamental nature of the universe at a molecular level. In this case, it alters the user from the building blocks of it's cells - including it's DNA. That's why a human doesn't need the dragon genes that would let him or her sprout wings or breathe fire - all we need is the one gene that lets us Polymorph, and somehow, it seems, that one is always passed on,"
"How does that even work?" I asked, "How do you contain magic in a gene?"
"Oh, that's easy," answered Teresa, "Why do you think elves were so much better at sorcery than humans? Why do you think the only decent spellcasters left are of Asian descent? It's all in the blood. What we don't understand is how the trait is invariably passed on to all offspring even though only one parent has it. But that's not really important,"
"So if we have an inherint ability to Polymorph, why just dragons? Couldn't we turn into birds, or dogs, or -"
'You don't get it," said Teresa. "The only thing we can polymorph into is humans. We're polymorphing right now. You've been using this ability without realizing it your entire life. All you have to do is figure out how to turn it off,"
By this point I was thoroughly confused.
"Wait a minute," I said, "If the DNA was polymorphed into human DNA, why was any dragon DNA passed on at all?"
"Because," said Teresa, "The transformation wasn't complete. Look at it this way: If turning into a human gave a dragon a complete human genome, that dragon would lack the gene that allowed it to change back, effectively trapping it in that form. So, obviously, the dragon retains the polymorph gene - and only the polymorph gene while in human form. Only while in human form, instead of letting dragons turn into humans-"
"it let's humans turn into dragons," I said, finally realizing it.
"Exactly," answered Teresa. "So now all you have to do is figure out how to activate that polymorph ability. What we like to do is force it to activate - it'll do it instinctivly when exposed to a certain kind of danger. So that, if you're willing, is what we're going to do. Follow me."
She got up and walked towards the bathroom. I followed her, still somewhat confused and rather unsure as to how this was gonna turn out.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

New Names

A few people now have new names. The list so far:
Marten - Wind Hedgehog
Ashley - Fire Rat
Thomas - Water Rhino
Kaylee - Water Llama
Courtney - Fire Octopus
Amanda - Ether Raccoon
My Dad - Fire Porcupine

I am Earth Ferret. Others will be added as the list grows.

Update # 1:
Sarah Mo - Water Panda
My Mom - Fire Penguin
Sasha - Water Horse
Amy - Fire Dragon

Update #2:
Josh - Fire Siberian Tiger
Marcus - Fire Antelope
Amanda G - Wind Eagle

Update #3:
Jonah - Earth Duck (woot! another earth)
Daniel - Wind White Rhino
Alice - Water Lark
Sarah Mc- Water Tiger

Final update of the night:
My Grandma is Earth Bear

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Chapter 19: Secrets in the Mountain Dew

Study hall was fourth period. On the way to the bus I ran into Fay.
"Sky!" she yelled excitedly, trying to get my attention.
"Hey," I said. She caught up to me.
"I was looking over Grandpa's postcards for some reference to the armor," she said.
"Did you find any?" I asked her.
"No," she answered, "Well, sort of. This is gonna sound kind of weird. I was drinking Mountain Dew, and I spilled some on one of the postcards,"
"That sucks," I answered, wondering why she'd told me this.
"It did this," she said, elbowing me. I stopped and turn to look at me, as she handed me a postcard.
It was from St. Louis, with a picture of the Gateway Arch on it. It was damp, from where something had spilled on it.
"Look at the back," she said.
I looked. In the margin, by the place where you put your address, was a paragraph of writing. At least I think it was writing. It was very tiny, in a script I had no idea how to read. It looked kind of like Arabic, but not quite. It really didn't look like any language I'd seen before. It had a lot of triangles.
"After we found this," said Faye, "I decided to try dipping the same part of another one in Mountain Dew. They all have it, in about the same spot. Some have more, some have less. And no one seems to know what kind of writing it is,"
"Weird," I said.
"I know," she answered, "Isn't it cool though? I mean, secret writing, a suit of armor, all this cool, like Lord of the Rings kind of stuff happening to us?"
To be honest, this was was one of the more boring things I that had happened to me that week. But I didn't want to spoil her mood.
"Yeah, it's really something," I told her, "I have to go catch the bus now,"
""Oh, sorry," she said, "Bye! "
I tried to give the post card back to her.
"Oh, keep it!" she said, turning the opposite way, "Try and figure out what the writing is,"
"K!" I yelled back at her as she vanished into the throng of people.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Everlasting Game of Uberspielen

This is for my campaign. Yes, you may all read it -there's nothing here I particularly care if you know before hand.

It is the ultimate entertainment.
It is the most exciting challenge.
It is the game that will never end.
Uberspielen is a country-sized Arena for the largest game of capture the flag ever played. All of the planes inhabitants are either players or spectators. There are two teams, the red team and the blue team. Although they have no real ideological differences, they have been taught to hate each other with a passion.
The landscape of Uberspielen is wrapped around an enormous cylinder. The sides of this cylinder are mini arenas, where players go to challenge other players or face “penalties” for breaking the rules – often in the form of dangerous creatures summoned from other dimensions. Out of the seams rise the stands, where spectators abide. Two rings around the cylinder divide it into three sections – red territory, blue territory, and no man’s land, where the play is hottest. A small moon orbits Uberspielen, serving as front row seating reserved for deities, who often stay for as long as a century.
The rules of the game are very complicated, but the basics are fairly simple – each team is trying to acquire all the balls (there are 5,000). Anyone hit by a ball while in the opposing teams territory Is immediately teleported to a prison. They can be broken out by their teammates. In no man’s land, anyone hit by a ball is teleported back to their own home base. The game has been going on for thousands of years, and the most balls ever acquired by one team was 3, 904 – and that was over two hundred years ago. The Game is presided over by a lesser deity known only as the Referee.
Killing someone is technically a foul, and the punishment for fouling is far worse than just sitting out for a game. But still, the game can get ugly, and swordplay breaking out on the field is not uncommon. Violence is also fairly common in the stands – especially if the referee makes what some spectators consider a bad call. Travelers to Uberspielen are encouraged to join in the play if they wish, though many are content to watch from the stands.
Uberspielen Traits:
Uberspielen has the following traits:
Objective directional Gravity/ Partial Light Gravity – Gravity aligns itself to whichever object you stand on. No man’s land has the light gravity trait.
Normal Time
Finite Size – Leave the cylinder and you fall into the abyss, eventually ending up on the astral plane.
Limited Divinely Morphic – The Referee alone is capable of modifying the landscape of Uberspielen.
No Elemental Traits
No Energy Traits
Mildly Law Aligned – Because the rules are so strictly enforced, Chaotic creatures are frowned upon and receive a –2 penalty on Charisma based checks. Red/Blue Aligned – Any character who decides to play the game is randomly assigned a new alignment trait – either red or blue. This effectively replaces the good-evil axis for the duration of the characters play time. For all spells that effect alignment, act as if they now say the new alignment instead of the old. Clerics, for instance, would gain the ability to “smite red” if assigned to the blue team. Treat each team’s side as strongly aligned to that team’s color.
Varying Magic – For a spellcaster on his own turf – a red player on the red side or a blue player on the blue side – all spells are Enhanced (they act as they would under the maximize spell feat). For a spellcaster on the opposing teams side, magic is impeded. In No Man’s Land, Wild Magic applies. Certain spells, however, are against the rules – greater invisibility, for instance, is considered cheating, and can result in a penalty. Spells that allow travel to other planes are impeded on the field, but work in the stands. Normal magic applies in the stands.
Uberspielen Links: Four portals surrounding the stands are the main method of entrance to Uberspielen. Each one has end points on all adjacent planes and the Astral plane. It is impossible to plane shift directly to or from the field – you must enter and exit through the stands.
Uberspielen Inhabitants: There are no natives to Uberspielen – members of all sentient races are found on both teams and among the spectators, and creatures from many other planes roam the wilderness areas as “terrain hazards”. A number of high level Divine Agents known as Attendants are servants of the Referee, and have a way of showing up when most (or least) needed.
Uberspielen Petitioners – Uberspielen has almost no petitioners, mostly former players or enthusiasts who haunt the stands. They are virtually indistinguishable from other spectators, but are prohibited from joing a team.
Movement and Combat:
Movement on Uberspielen is much like movement on the material plane – accept in a few places. To cross from the stands onto the field or from the stand to the stands of the challenge arena, you must contact an one of the Attendants (there’s usually one around when you need one), who will transport you there (and assign you a team). Getting back to the stands from the field can be accomplished only from your team’s home base.
Uberspielen Combat – Combat on uberspielen is similar to combat on the material plane, but again, you must be careful not to commit fouls. Killing an opponent and using certain spells will cause you to be summoned immediately to the challenge Arena, where you will have to face a penalty – a creature decided on by the Referee based on your power level and the seriousness of your transgression. The Ref may also choose to give you a handicap, such as making you fight blind or removing your weapons. Terrain in the Arena is alterable however the Referee wants.
Features of Uberspielen: Uberspielen is mostly divided into three areas we’ll treat as layers – The stands, The Field, and the Challenge Arena.
The Stands – The Stands are made up of steps, each nearly a mile long and a long way down, though staircases and latters hewn out of stone make coming down and up fairly simple. The landscape on the steps looks like plains. Many people have houses here, but dotting the landscape are dome-shaped viewing stations. Though the field is visible from anywhere in the stands, the view is usually to far away to see any of the action. From the viewing stations, observers can get a closer view of whatever they want, and also buy food and interact with fellow observers. Viewing stations look like cities, with most of the houses being made of metal. Each viewing station is run by an Attendant.
The Field – The field appears basically like a normal country. In the sides controlled by one team or another, there are various towns and cities. Right by the stands is a mountainous region. Closer to the border you find woods and two large lakes – the terrain features are almost entirely symmetrical. A number of important sites are located on the field:
Home Base: The home bases are enormous Castles where team members go to plan, coordinate, and prepare for battle. New Players always start from her. The Team captains preside here – they are mortal humans born into a Monarchy, but they are only figure-heads. The MVP – determined by various running game statistics and rechosen every two years, plans team strategy, although he or she has no power to enforce it.
Prison: Captured players are immediately transported to this underground facility. All weapons are confiscated from them, and the prison is surrounded by an anti-magic field. There is only one entrance, and it is not an exit – a prisoner can only leave through it if accompanied by a free teammate who entered through the gate. A prisoner can also escape by challenging a guard for his freedom. The prison is dark and cavernous, but has no cells – all prisoners can roam freely in it. It is incredibly well-guarded, and the chances of a single person successfully mounting a rescue are minimal.
No Man’s Land: This is a dangerous wilderness country. Both sides are evenly matched here, and wild beasts from every plane roam as “hazards”. The terrain is mostly woods, but there are also some desert areas.
The Challenge Arena: This is where the Referee takes those who commit a foul, or where a challenge can take place. The terrain changes based on what it’s being used for, as does the size of the playing field. In the case of a penalty, bizarre and extremely ridiculous handicaps are often put in place – challenges are usually fought on even footing.
Uberspielen Encounters: Coming soon. Encounter Tables take forever to make.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I'm making this for my D & D campaign -I call it the Augmented Great Wheel. I haven't added most of the outer planes yet, but I liked the look of it so far, so I decided to post it, cause, hey, I can do that now. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Chapter 18: Of Vampires and Jesus

After that we discussed how we were gonna hide this from everyone. I told them my parents really didn't care where I was, but Quentin argued otherwise. When he did I was surprised to hear hime refer to my father by his first name.
"Wallace isn't stupid," he said, "Or Lisa would never have married him. I don't think he ever figured out exactly what was going on, but he always knew there was something,"
At long last, we decided I would tell everyone I had signed up for some activity that it was very difficult to disprove. At Quentin's suggestion, we decided it would be "self -defense classes" - technically accurate, since self defense was my main reason for turning Draconic. So that decided, I got out of the car, with the agreement that they'd pick me up after school on Thursday and to not go out at night anymore than I had to.
The next day in study hall, I took my customary place next to Mora. That was when I had a thought. It still wasn't safe, apparently, for me to look things up on the internet. But there were other resources I could use. One in particular who'd been sitting right by me for weeks.
"So," I asked her, as casually as I could, "What do you know about Vampires?"
"Quite a bit" she answered, "What do you want to know?"
"I'm working on a research paper," I lied, "And I need to know about them. Any information you could give me would be helpful,"
"Well, let's see," she said, pensively, "Give me a place to start. What do you know already?"
I told her everything i knew about Vampires - just basics really. How they were a failed attempt to extend the human lifespan through magic thousands of years ago, how they fed on human blood and, by releasing a special enzyme into a victim, could sometimes turn their him or her into a subservient vampire. Then, so as not to look like i knew more than I was letting on, I told her how the last vampire had supposedly been betrayed and staked by Nazis as Germany was being invaded at the end of World War II. She smiled up at me as if to say, "are you done yet?"
"Well," she said finally, "You have the propaganda version down. Most of that is right, except they're not dead, but I suspect you already knew that,"
I was caught somewhat of gaurd by her last statement, and I don't think I recovered well.
"You need to learn how to be a better liar," she said, "I knew from the moment you started talking that this was never about a research paper. You ran into one didn't you?"
I knew continuing to lie to her was pointless, but for some reason I didn't feel safe telling the truth either. So I avoided the question.
"What would make you think that?" I asked.
"Well, I've never seen you wearing a cross necklace before. By the way, you should know that probably won't repel any vampires for you. And you smell like garlic,"
"Wait a minute," I replied, "What?"
"A Holy Symbol of a religion other than your own is useless in repelling the undead. If you don't believe in Jesus, that cross is just a piece of jewlerly,"
"I go to church," I answered, adamantly.
"I went to mass for ten years," she responded, "But I was never really a Catholic. Religion doesn't repel the undead, belief does - the symbol just acts as a focus for that belief. So for me, a Tarot card would work. Atheists and agnostics are kind of screwed over though - belief in the vague concept of a supreme being might work on a Zombie, but not for long, and it certainly wouldn't work against a Vampire,"
"I believe in Jesus," I told her, firmly.
"Conceptually, maybe," she answered, "But I wouldn't count on him to help you if you run into another vamp,"
To be honest, I'd never been especially religious, but my parents were devout Presbyterians, and I'd never really thought much about it. It still upset me to see my faith being questioned by someone else - especially someone like Mora, who seemed to change religions or pick up some new form of mysticism every week. I was too upset to finish the conversation, so I took out some homework to try and get done.