Voyages : the Land of Lost Content --
] Ship's Log of the Exploratory Vessel 'Jam Tomorrow', Celestial [
] Stardate XX-YY-ZZZZ: Soon after the dawn essence, the first officer [
] reported reading a strange fluctuation in the disturbance patterns [
] in sector G63U, an unmapped corridor in the rare ephemera section. [
Summary: A group of relievers are recruited to do a tour of exploration and cartography in Yves' library. But it seems that they are being silently shadowed, and somewhere in the distance float the strains of a haunting song that no-one can quite put a name to...
Background: Principalities and Cathedrals are theoretically infinite in size, or at least those which belong to active superiors seem to have sections which are continually changing and growing. New Tethers appear and old ones splutter and die out. The Word gains a new aspect or loses an old one. The Superior remembers something it had forgotten for millenia. As an aspect of the Superior and its Word, the celestial realm reflects these changes.
Mapping the realms is a constant job, comparable with painting the Forth Bridge. As soon as the map seems to be complete, cartographers must be sent back to the 'known' sections to check whether the maps are still accurate. Any maps produced are not so much for the benefit of the Superior (who can be assumed to know his own realm like the back of his hand) as for other local celestials.
Although work like this could be given to fully fledged celestials who are not currently assigned to earth work, it is more likely that the initial exploration will be done by relievers (or imps in Hell), with more senior/ powerful celestials around to follow up on any reports which look as though they might turn out to be interesting. It is also a useful way to break in some new staff who have shown signs of being able to work on their own initiative and need to be taught more about the Superior's Word and work.
The Library: Best thought of as a semi-living entity. Mapping the library is an arbitrary kind of job, which owes as much to serendipity and what kind of mood the library seems to be in as to any formal methodology. No-one senior seems to mind the lack of method though, as long as cartographers are returning regular reports. Destiny is assumed to ensure that the right bits of library get mapped in their proper time and season.
Recruiting: (PCs for this one will be either 5 / 6 force relievers who happened to be in the library at the time, or low-ranking destiny angels, or anyone else who has a reason to want to learn the library's layout, and whose Superior is friendly enough with Yves to allow this.)
Bet-Sofer, the map room supervisor, gathers the relievers / angels together and briefs them quickly on how important mapping is to the library. He then assigns them to UDC, a newly fledged cataloguing angel who will give them more precise instructions.
They will be introduced by UDC to Kinri, a reliever who knows how to sail a landship. Kinri is small and quiet, and clings tightly around UDC's arm, as if reluctant to let go. It is very brave and doesn't cry, though. In fact it doesn't say anything at all.
The exploration vessel is a beautifully wrought little landship, perfectly sized for sailing up and down library corridors. The name on its bow reads 'Hope-She-Floats' and the figurehead is a carved wooden cherubic figure with a scroll. A compass of some description is installed on the main deck, and fairly extensive maps are laid out in a little map-room. Essentially what the relievers are to do is to fill in any blanks on the maps, note any changes and send back reports to the cataloguing team. There are 2 kinds of reports they can make. One is a basic status-report for which they are to leave notes in books which they pass (4th book along, 2nd shelf down, on a corner-shelf), and the other is to send back their updated maps.
The ship's figurehead is a relic to which any angel or reliever can attune, as if _they_ were the cherub, and a little messenger reliever will turn up promptly every evening to collect their maps and return to UDC with them.
UDC asks the relievers to appoint amongst themselves a 'captain' and a 'comms officer' before giving a more specific briefing. It shows them roughly which parts of the map they are to patrol, and asks that any new shelving or corridors be properly mapped, telling them that time is not really of the essence. It wants them to take as long as they need to get things right. It does also point out to them a fairly distant section in which one of the previous mapping teams reported some unidentified disturbance, which it would like them to try and pinpoint. It is also made clear that whilst there is not expected to be any extant danger in the library, if they do encounter anything they can't cope with, they do not have to deal with it themselves. (But if any of them are really keen to attract attention from the higher ups and maybe even fledge someday, it won't do any harm to show a certain amount of competence).
Library Staff (NPCs): Sifriel, Seraph of Destiny, Angel of Serendipity, Head Librarian
(You could alternatively use AA Beth (http://www.sjgames.com/in-nomine/articles/INChar/Angels/Arcangel.Beth.html) for this, with a slight demotion (if she doesn't mind))
(PC relievers are unlikely to meet the Head Librarian in person, unless something especially important comes up -- but you never know...)
Bet-Sofer, Elohite of Destiny, Map-Room Supervisor
The Map-Room supervisor is a dour angel, with an odd fondness for antique gadgetry (he originally worked for Jean before transferring to the library and old habits die hard). He likes his records to be kept in good order and is a stickler for forms, maps and reports being filled out by the books. His reasoning is that it makes the collated data easier for other people to use and saves time if everyone uses the same format. The map-room is circular, and one of the more popular 'tourist' traps in the library. It has a huge brass chronometer as its centrepiece, and various nautical and map-making instruments displayed in little cabinets next to the map-cases. The library itself is mapped on a huge wallchart that covers the entirety of walls, floor and ceiling, which is updated by use of pins, bits of coloured string and marker tags on a daily basis. Bet-Sofer has attached a small clockwork spider-gadget to one of the trailing strands whose other end holds a pen. In this way he can provide 'print-outs' of various segments if people need to take them away.
Urdicalla (UDC), Mercurian of Destiny, Junior Cataloguer
UDC has recently fledged from a reliever and is currently in charge of one of the cataloguing teams, which will be the first to follow up cartographic reports if it seems that any new material has been sighted on the shelves. It hasn't been assigned a mortal vessel yet so its celestial form tends to the androgynous. It is a friendly enough angel, and will happily relate to any relievers who hang round it all the stories it has heard about earth and mortals. These stories sound extraordinarily rose-tinted to anyone who has ever actually been to the corporeal realm. It has even met _<B>Yves</B>_ in person (but only once, when it fledged) and will share the experience with any interested party also, with suitable exaggerations for dramatic effect. It is desperately keen for its team to discover something important like a new Tether, in order to get itself noticed and maybe even sent to earth some day!
Kinri, Reliever (in service to Destiny at the moment)
A quiet, shy little thing which is composed of only 4 forces. It is recently returned to Heaven from having accompanied one of its parent angels to earth. It was hiding under a chair when a couple of demons soul-killed its parent and was found by another angel some days later, totally traumatised. It hasn't spoken / sung a word since then but has been given some light work to try to coax it out of its self-induced isolation. It can take orders and knows how to operate the landship.
Atmosphere: This plot seed is based in the celestial realms. Any attempts by anyone to do anything which is particularly Destiny-ish or Library-ish should have an appropriately higher chance of succeeding.
] The wind stood fair to the East, filling the sails out like [
] smooth-rounded bellies, and the deck creaked in a comfortable [
] fashion as we moved onwards. I recognised the red-tinged spines [
] of the Atlantean histories as we rounded the point of corridor [
] Y89G, and they seemed like old friends. My second in command [
] flew up to the top mast and serenaded them gaily, then we [
] swooped past and onwards, into the soft violet gloom. As the [
] light altered, I noticed again the dark shadow in the opposite [
] aisle which seemed to be copying our every move. [
What they Found: (Some of these encounters are fairly minor, others a bit more significant. It is one of those pick-and-choose things... I'd probably start with one or two of the minor ones.)
When the voyage begins, a lot of the shelves and their contents will be familiar to any library resident. If the shelves are being mapped slowly then observant cartographers may notice one or two books which have been replaced slightly out of order. They can either correct the shelving themselves or leave messages for the cataloguing team. (This is just standard library usage). It will become obvious that different sections of the library are under the jurisdiction of different angels, partly from the layout and partly from interesting little details like how many comfortable chairs are around one of the shelves, or whether another one has large notes reminding people to be quiet, or seems to be biased towards one political outlook or another. They pass several readers and/or library angels who may hail the ship as it passes and give them books to either return to cataloguing or leave on some distant shelf when they get there. Some readers may also want to stop them and complain about something or other ;) As they travel further on, the shelves begin to look more foreign and exotic.
This is when the shadowy ship first appears. It seems to be just a shadow on the floor which is trailing them, and no attempts to contact 'it' meet with any success. Only the most perceptive relievers have much chance to see it and even then it is never clear as to whether it might just be some trick of the imagination.
1. Ephemera. Ephemera is the library term for any printed matter which is archived but isn't a book (ie. newspapers, leaflets, posters, photographs, postcards et al). A scattered trail of colourful postcards has been littered on the floor. If anyone stops to pick these up, they are all unsigned and bear unhelpful messages such as 'Well, here I am!' Anyone who is able to check with a map of the corporeal world can work out that the locations of successive postcards trace out a slow round-the-world route. The trail of postcards (if anyone follows it) finally turns a sharp corner and ends at what appears to be a new set of shelves that is crammed with boxes. A balmy breeze plays around the new shelf and the smell of salt is in the air. All of the boxes appear to be full of postcards and letters and perceptive celestials who examine the ephemera will be able to tell that anyone who concentrates hard on one of the items will be able to pick up a faint sense of 'being there.' They are in fact records from any mortal who has ever circumnavigated the world and in an especially old and dusty box people might even find the crabbed handwriting of one letter which is signed 'Phileas Fogg' and a sewn-together set of rutters bearing the name 'Magellan'.
2. The child. A small girl in period costume (like the celestials are going to recognise it! ;) ) sits and plays with a porcelain doll. Her face is tear streaked as she waves a lacy handkerchief at the passing ship. If they stop to talk to her, they will find out that she is lost, but also hasn't yet realised that she has died and come to heaven. The shelf above her holds some hand-written diaries, one of which was by her beloved older brother who died in the American Civil War. It is because of her devotion to him that she hasn't been able to find her way out of the library as the book keeps drawing her back. What she really needs is for someone to open the book and read out the last letter, in which he says goodbye. Until that happens, any directions she is given will be fruitless as she will keep wandering back to the same spot. Due to the odd destiny-nature of library geography, the ship may encounter her several times. If the PCs report back to UDC about this, he may be able to offer some suggestions. (NB. It is not impossible for the ship to encounter the brother too, in a different section. He has come back to look for her...)
3. Adverts and mice. The shelves and walls begin to be adorned with gaudy adverts, banners and slogans dating back to as far as advertising really went (and some of them are adverts for products which never existed, or products which really don't need to be advertised [Choose Life!]). Catchy little jingles are emitted from nowhere in particular until they fill the air. The overall effect is quite brash and enthusiastic. The posters are rolled up neatly in shelves, with the rest of the ephemera, but it becomes slowly obvious that there are far more gaps in the shelves than can be explained by reader activity. Also, some of those adverts are looking rather ... chewed. A perceptive mapper might be able to follow the trail of chewed adverts to a point where they actually catch a glimpse of a furry grey body disappearing under one of the shelves.
This area is home to a small group of very small relievers whose celestial forms resembles fluffy winged mice and they have been taking some of the adverts for their nests. If the cartographers can catch one of the mice, it will happily invite them back to their 'grand mousehall' which is an opening in the shelves, completely papered with adverts. The one which bears pride of place is an advert for Telegrams which has a man saying 'I asked for 10 kilos of white RICE!' and a picture of lots and lots of white mice on it (the selling power being that text is less likely to be garbled than speech so telegrams are obviously better than telephones ;) ). When they get there, the other mice are apologetic about the adverts if anyone points out that they have been defacing library property but also say that they had no choice, because their old decorations were stolen by the gang of rat-relievers in the next corridor along when they kidnapped the mouse-king! (They also think that since their favourite poster has a picture of some corporeal mice on it, it obviously should belong to the mouse-relievers!)
If the cartographers are willing, they may be inveigled into performing diplomatic duties between the two groups of relievers -- although some of the old adverts seem to be beyond repair, it is probably nothing that a few songs of healing can't patch up.
4. Another team of cartographers. As the mappers leave regular messages in marked books, they suddenly start to notice that some of the books already have little mapping notes in them! It seems that some other landship has passed this way recently, and is mapping out exactly the same sectors. Finally the other landship comes into hailing distance. and the relievers on board seem to think that _they_ are supposed to be mapping this section of corridor. They are working for a different cataloguing angel, and one which sounds as though it has been ordering them to map as much as possible, as quickly as possible. They are quite belligerant about it and demand the PCs turn about. However, if pressed, the reliever in command will suggest a race to decide 'mapping rights.' If things can be concluded in a friendly manner, the other landship will let one of the PCs attune to its figurehead and offer to keep up communications.
5. Weather and Shadows and ... stuff.. The weather in the library seems to be getting markedly worse as they get farther out. The landship is more difficult to handle and winds whistle down the undiscovered corridors. At the same time, the shadow ship is coming more and more into focus. Closer appraisal shows shadowy figures moving on the ship. If the destiny-ship is manoevered towards the shadow, the steersman will realise that they _do_ know the way to meet up if they concentrate on it. But as the ships get closer together, the library itself seems less.. friendly somehow.
(Explanation: There are parts of Yves' library which are very very close to Kronos' Archive. The shadowy ship is mapping the library from the 'other side' and is able to see the relievers as a flickering pale image. They also have no idea what it is.)
As they come closer and closer, it is possible to hear voices. The imps converse in hellspeech. Just before the other ship really comes into focus, both vessels feel an unexpected tug, as if caught in a tide. If they cannot find some way to anchor fast they will get pulled swiftly towards something which looks like a black whirlpool. Winds whip across the corridors, shredding the sails. The fate-ship, unless stopped, will eventually manage to sink an anchor that looks like an alarm-clock into one of the bookshelves and will then start to bombard the destiny-ship (yes, they have cannon!) They may even make an attempt to board, despite the prevailing local conditions.
The 'whirlpool' is actually a wild Tether (I know, it is so Bad to use things which are pre-canon :) ) which has manifested _precisely_ on the border between Fate and Destiny. Anything which anyone can do to coax it further into their own realm (if they can remember which direction that should be) will be a good thing, but getting too close might get an entire ship dragged in.
Anyone who is dragged into it will drop down/up to the corporeal realm, and find it is on the football ground in Paris which is to be the site of the 1998 World Cup Final (or some local sporting venue of your choice). But is it going to end up as a tether to destiny or to fate?? Which team is destined to win the match? How can the relievers help / hinder?
In any case, the relievers / imps will find they cannot ascend it (who knows whether the celestial end-point will have shifted a fraction in the intervening period? It wouldn't do to end up on the wrong side) but will need to venture into Paris to locate friendly celestials who they can inform ... But that is a whole other plot seed! or find another way to get back to the library / archive and inform the appropriate superior (which isn't as easy as it sounds -- relievers don't get taught how to summon their Superiors in the same way that fully-fledged angels do).
6. A singing tree and an old man. As the landship approaches the area in which UDC noted that strange disturbances had been heard, perceptive celestials will be able to pick up the traces of a hauntingly familiar, and beautiful song. It hovers on the very edge of perception. It isn't really a disturbance as such, but... there is just something about it. It seems much stronger during the dawn essence period, as if this magnified or echoed it somehow. Anyone perceptive might realise that the faint sound of dawn which they have become familiar with is actually like an echo of the same song. If they try to travel towards the sound, they can see the corridors brightening around them with a pale roseate light, and spirits tend to lift. Finally the ship enters a wide open area, totally empty of either shelves or books, with a mist covering the ground that almost makes it look like a real sea. In the distance, the light seems to be coming from some kind of hillock / island that emerges through the mist. On the island is a single tree, and a man.
They will need to actually go 'ashore' to inspect this properly. The tree is made of crystal and the song is coming from the ringing of its glass leaves as they chime together in the breeze. Inside the glass treetrunk is encased a wooden branch, of which one tendril feeds outside and provides the only fruit (which looks like a persimmon, if anyone knows what that is). The man seems to be meditating quietly, but looks up as they approach and tells them to take the fruit and return with it, as apparently this tree doesn't produce them very often. He can also be persuaded to tell them its story.
(The song they heard is a fragment of one of the original songs of creation which is a song without words; this one is known as the 'song of the dawn' and is still echoed faintly in every dawn to people who know what to listen for. The branch in the crystal tree is a cutting of the original tree of good and evil (ie. the one Adam and Eve actually ate from). The old man is actually Adam who, bizarrely enough, now blames himself for Lilith's fall and has been allowed by Yves to remain in the library until she is able to join him (of course she doesn't want to.. yet)).
-- (Thanks to Beth for nudging me into doing this)
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