[Vfw-times] MK Winter assault part 46

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Fri Oct 19 00:01:23 CDT 2001

Kevin knows he's supposed to be looking for something. He's just not entirely 
sure precisely what.

Just a few minutes ago Jono said that they'd need him up here to potentially 
help out with an incoming marauding Lutin band; they wouldn't be prepared to 
handle same while dealing with getting the kids out of the tunnels, and so he 
was asked to prepare some means of defending them magically.

This poses a serious problem for Kevin. For one, while he can perceive and 
understand all magic's like any mage and can perform a few basics from most 
any magical branch like most of the mages at the Keep, the vast bulk of his 
talent is with his historical divinatory magic, and the fire and heating 
magic's for when he has to go into combat; as a result, the only thing he can 
do to keep that many Lutins away would be to either defeat them all at once 
(which is unlikely) or find some way of intimidating them (a little more 
likely, but not much). For another, the storm seems to be deliberately 
blocking any attempts at spell casting.

Or at least it was previously. Jono had mentioned that the mages that had 
been at the camp had all managed to toss spells of one kind or another, and 
if the storm was deliberately blocking Everything then obviously that 
wouldn't be possible. Even basic spell casting items like wands (which 
neither Jono nor Perry saw the mages using) have to draw on the surrounding 
mana, he knows that for a fact. So somehow they had some kind of mechanism 
for keeping the storm from impeding their spell casting. Jono wouldn't have 
called him up if he believed he could fend off the Lutins himself, so Kevin 
knows that he's got to find whatever it was that was allowing the mages to 
cast spells.

So Kevin reasons this out. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of 
individual small-time mages in Nasoj's invading army; none of the really 
impressive types who can pose real threats to seriously trained personnel, 
but still having enough magic to help confound ordinary soldiers. He wouldn't 
want to get rid of that capability; he's been up against the Keepers before 
and knows quite a bit of what they're capable of; besides, his own common 
soldiers are going to obviously be seriously suffering from the storm, and 
the Lutins can't be as reliable as the average Keep footman, as they're in it 
primarily due to force. So he would have had to figure out a way to allow 
them to cast spells in this kind of environment. Casting a marking spell on 
every mage would be impractical given the difficulty of enchantments on 
living beings (they have to be willing, he knows, and he doesn't think 
Nasoj's empire to be a likely environment of absolute trust in one's 
magocratic superiors), and he couldn't easily do it en masse with everyone; 
even the Curse took the assistance of several other mages, and he'd had some 
kind of major power assisting him which would have its hands full with the 
storm, most likely. Now, there are types of items that can be enchanted en 
masse; he'd probably know that. And such talismans could easily be 
distributed to his forces. Amulets, or perhaps some kind of ring, or 
bracelet, or maybe even robes or something similar. The only difficulty with 
this theory is that Nasoj would obviously want to keep such away from the 
Keepers themselves, otherwise he'd be too easily routed - a single basic mage 
falling would be enough to possibly destroy either his storm or his army if 
found by the right Keeper. So he'd want to make them difficult to Keeper 
access; this implies something that would be set up at a camp. But that would 
slow down his forces' ability to use the spells in the First place... damn.

Reasoning is not allowing Kevin to follow the easy chain of thought he's used 
to. This is more than a little intimidating to him; he's grown accustomed to 
figuring out what someone or something might have done, following the line of 
reasoning, and come up with an appropriate end result. This is not occurring. 
For all his training with the keep's tactical magery group and his studies of 
people's actions of the past, he still can't always fathom exactly what 
someone will do right now.

It's difficult to see it through the lines of magic, too; the storm is 
literally blindingly bright overhead if looked at with magesight. There's two 
things that could be a result of; one is that the storm could be a magical 
creation of wild mana in an intensity rivaling the Keep itself; the other is 
that it's a circumvention device to keep people like him from disassembling 
the enchantment. Given the Keep's history, he thinks it's likely to be the 
latter, though it's not impossible to assume the amount of mana involved is 
great; he'd be surprised if it wasn't so much as to slow down the progress of 
the Curse if any poor souls happened to be trapped in th-

"KEVIN! Have you got anything yet?" Voice is quickly identifiable as that 
bard. Jono.

"I'm trying to figure this out! Have patience!" Kevin does not like it when 
people disrupt a running line of thinking for any reason.

The bard appears to curse under his breath or something and then go on with 
what he's doing. Kevin's able to note the others in his party in the 
meantime; they're all rushing, trying to get all the kids out of the tunnels 
before the Lutins arrive. If he looks a little more closely he can see his 
boy Jeremy and Jeremy's two friends making up snowballs or something; his 
attention doesn't focus that way long enough to determine that much though. 
Better back to figuring.

Three main lines, it looks like to him. Three major areas of magic lines 
repeated over and over from the storm. One seems to be dedicated to 
perpetuating the weather's abdominal state, one is incredibly dedicated to 
mana absorption alone, and the last is very pervasive, obviously intended to 
prevent others from collecting any of the other natural lines of magic in the 
area. This latter is the one that has his attention; the areas it doesn't 
cover are obviously going to be his indicators of how to get his spells back. 
He made the mistake of succumbing to emotional strain the last time he was 
out here; he's not going to do that again.

Following that third major line, predictably enough, is unfortunately proving 
damnably hard.

So he moves over towards the tents. They're still flapping in the wind, from 
both the entrances designed in them and the entrances crafted by Jono's and 
Perry's swords. This tells him right off that the tents were not the focus 
around which spells might be cast unfettered; if they truly were, then the 
swordsmanship inflicted on them would have seriously disrupted or even 
destroyed the enchantment, and the two mages had resisted with spells, so 
clearly the tents are not the answer. And looking around the tent's interior 
(noting the body within, though not focusing on it too much; Kevin still 
isn't all that happy with being in combat, and death doesn't help his 
feelings about same much) clearly reveals that the lines of magic making up 
the third major line are not only still in the area, they're... even more 

* * *

He's moving his forces, such as they are, as fast as he can down the tunnels, 
and he knows that's going to make a lot of noise that's sure to make the 
Keepers be aware of his presence long before he gets to them, and that 
bothers him a bit, but there's not much for him to do about it. They probably 
know already, Orrusk thinks to himself. If the Keepers could see them coming 
for their first encounter, they'll surely be able to see them coming for a 
second. And they also have a head start, which means that any attempts at 
stealth would cause him to lose his quarry.

It's plainly obvious to Orrusk that if the Keepers had the capability to 
slaughter him and his forces that they would have done so. The fact that they 
didn't kill All his Lutins even after the sleeping air attack, while 
definitely insulting, shows that most of these particular Keepers are likely 
weak and have no taste for killing, and that the few strong ones among them 
are listening to what the weak say. That makes it all the easier for him to 
intimidate, charge in and destroy, doesn't it? Which he'll certainly have to 
do; the morons left behind by Tharag will probably be more easily beaten by 
the stronger Keepers with them. There's at least two strong ones; the 
powerful mage and the fierce warrior that killed that bootlicking disgrace of 
a brother. Get through them and at worst he gets plenty of prisoners with 
which to appease Nasoj. At best, he gets his tribe back.

It's been long enough that the Keepers are probably going to make it to the 
end of the tunnels before he does. In that case, it's likely that they'll 
have run into the small force Tharag left behind to guard the entrance along 
with the mages that were working on that spell they were going to cast to let 
the Great One know. One warrior and one mage could probably fend a group like 
that off, if the mage is sufficiently clever - and he has to admit, this one 
probably is. They must know, though, that he's behind them, and so they'd do 
probably what he would do - attempt to rally the weak ones to fight with 
them, to go down fighting gloriously one last time. So he's having his group 
make noise as they move along, making it absolutely certain that he is coming 
to destroy them. That ought to keep the number of difficult opponents down to 
the two strong ones and that's all. Perhaps even less than that if he can 
intimidate them enough to get them to panic and run; strong ones courting 
weak ones like this obviously are those strange type of strong ones that try 
to defend the weak; they'd be swept up into the panic attempting to defend 
their precious weaklings and in the process become a non-problem. Which makes 
it all the easier for him to take advantage of their grave mistake in leaving 
him alive.

Finally, something is going right after all the insults of the day.


Kevin blinks, then glances back, looking towards the dead mage but not at the 
body itself. 

The lines are going... to the body? A point on the body?

He almost lunges forward in his excitement, quickly trying to get the mage's 
clothes open, his eyes always on the lines of magic... then as he pulls the 
mage's blood-soaked (ugh! a voice in the back of his head comments) shirt 
open, he finds the lines come to an amulet around the mage's neck, the back 
of it contacting the skin. There's got to be at least ten or twenty lines 
rushing to it, though a few of them are starting to disconnect and become 
free floating again. His mind is racing now... "The lines are going to that 
amulet... what could that mean? Some sort of gathering device? Or is the mage 
attracted to the dampening..."

"Wait a minute... it's a KEY!"

He dimly hears his name called from outside the tent; must have said that 
last part out loud. But that's not what his mind is focused on. _Okay. The 
amulet is a key, a key for something allowing the mages to cast spells. But 
that would mean that what he'd assumed to be a simple dampening spell also 
has an access mechanism built into it. Why? Storm is sucking up all the mana 
of the area to allow itself to perpetuate, so a mage can't cast any spells, 
thus keeping them from 'picking the lock' all that easily since you'd need to 
gather the lines before you could try to arrange them, and they avoid 
gathering, so whatever those lines are doing should remain secure, it's got 
to be feeding mana! Or something to that effect.  Allowing the caster to. . .

He blinks. "to usurp mana from the storm? No, no, has to be redirection. The 
storm's already DONE all the gathering; casting spells through the amulet 
would allow you to divert some of that which is going to the storm to your 
own spell, long enough so that you can work it, and only enough for your 
spell being diverted so another mage can't take advantage of it. 'key' 
amulets could be fairly quickly enchanted, just do a few properly arranged 
gathering or focusing spells on various points on the amulet for the lines to 
go to, plus prob'ly a means of interfacing with the wearer or at least the 
wearer's spells so that it can actually be put to use."

He reaches out, picks up the amulet off the mage's chest. As soon as he lifts 
it several of the lines that were starting to disconnect do so, going free 
much more quickly. That has to be as a result of the interface. It was 
already coming apart because he's dead, will probably lose all the lines if I 
take it all the way off. He reaches down, taking the chain and pulling the 
amulet up and off of the mage; a triumphant grin comes to his face as all the 
lines dissipate and lose contact with the amulet.

Then a thought occurs. That'd be sending feedback, wouldn't it? The decay of 
the connection of the lines of magic could be noticed by Eli! No, probably 
not by Eli... but still, brilliant! It serves as a tracking system! That way 
he can tell if an amulet is stolen or if the wearer is lost! By checking to 
see if that decay occurs... and if it's reestablished, then he can track down 
whoever stole the amulet easily enough; just follow the newly reestablished 
lines! Would have a few communications problems if some mage loses theirs and 
then gets it back, but such things ALWAYS happen in invading armies.

Kevin's mind is a blur at this point. This is hardly a new experience for 
him. He became a historian for really no other reason than to experience this 
sort of rush; when you're in the library in the early mornings with dozens of 
books scattered around your workspace, poring over passages, parts of a 
riddle running through your mind, little bits and pieces of the puzzle 
coalescing, rushing together like clockwork, it's one of the most enjoyable 
things in his life. The current situation - being in an actual battle that 
will surely be remembered in all the histories of this valley for the 
Northlanders' daring (if rather suicidal) gambit alone, and having to use 
this talent of his to help protect his child whom he loves more than his 
pursuits and his life itself as well as so many other children - only adds to 
the incredible feeling he's experiencing. Application of talent to not just 
understand the actions of the past, but to defend the historical figures of 
the present and future.

This is what he would love to live for; all that prevents him from doing so 
is that massive invasions from the North are thankfully infrequent. 

"So," he thinks to himself. "Is it safe to keep this with me? Possibly. Can't 
keep it on, for sure, assuming it works if I do put it on." He stops for a 
moment, looks down at the amulet, shrugs, and puts it on, then waits, looking 
around for the lines.

"Nothing," A few seconds of depression, and then he slaps himself upon the 
forehead. "Skin contact!" He quickly starts to open his robes and shirts, the 
cold around him briefly forgotten, then lifts the amulet and drops it on his 
chest, fidgeting. "Will the fur interfere?"

After a few seconds, it's clear that again, nothing is happening. He quickly 
pulls out the small dagger from his belt, giving it a quick examination, then 
pushing his sleeve up and running it a short way up his wrist as a test. The 
fur comes away fairly easily; thankfully he'd made sure to keep the dagger 
good and sharp ever since the scare that had come after the Patriarch's 
murder. He places the dagger against his chest with the blade flat, oriented 
vertically and level with the amulet, takes a deep breath, then starts to cut 
at the fur with the dagger, using his other paw to lift the amulet up and 
away. He winces a few times as the blade makes a little too close contact 
with his skin, even barely suppressing a loud squeak as the tip starts 
cutting in a little far midway through, and there's a little blood there now, 
but he keeps going until he's shaved away a small patch of fur about four 
inches across. Then he wipes the dagger on his robe and sheaths it, takes in 
a breath, crosses his fingers and drops the amulet back down so it comes to 
rest against the shaved part of his chest.

It takes two or three seconds before Kevin grins triumphantly to the 
accompaniment of the sight of lines reattaching themselves to the amulet.


   End part 46
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