by Timothy Toner (21 Oct 92)
This one is kinda neet, a perfect example of a force for good going horribly wrong. By the by...does anyone know of how to contact the WW people. I'm sure they have staff up the wazoo, but I have so many ideas.. Anyway, comments, complaints, compliments encourraged...
The elder voice paused in reflection. "Crearent"
The younger voice faltered. "They will create?"
"NO! The voice boomed, its sonics echoing in the cold stone room. "Crearent! Imperfect! 'They used to create!'"
The youth looked down at the flagstones. "I am sorry, Magister," was all he could mutter.
The old man paced the room slowly, fear and anger creasing his brow. The end was upon him...soon. To put it off once more would be dangerous, and costly. But his successor was still not ready. "Again!"
"Cream, creas, creat, creamus, creatis, creant."
"Perdo, perdas, perdat, perdamus, perdatis, perdant."
"Muto, Mutas, mutat, mutamus, mutatis, mutant."
The old one grew quiet once again. It was trick time. Finally, he spoke. "Submisso."
It took but a second before recognition flashed. The boy opened his mouth to speak, then grew silent. He smiled broadly, catching the deception. "It is a forbidden word."
The mage smiled weakly. "Good. You know the forbidden words better than your base vocabulary." He breathed out slowly, staring down the pupil, who was withering under the gaze. "I need a NewCastle." He began to walk up the stairs.
"Master?" inquired the boy, still slightly trembling.
"Yes?" he sighed.
"I was womdering if I might be...dismissed for the rest of the day."
"You're still having troubles with BASE DECLENSION, and you want the day OFF?"
"Master, you never use Latin when casting spells. Why should I?"
"Three reasons, puck. First, in this modern age, it gives you an edge. If you speak 'Create fire,' they'll have time, not a lot, but time to prepare. On the other hand, if you say, 'Creo Ignem,' that's a different story.
"Second, Latin has form and structure. It is nowhere near as complex as French, or German, or English. Most of the Grimoires are written in Latin. We magi have deemphasized magic in the modern world lest such a book fall in the hands of unskilled casters, and threaten our existence. Only those truly gifted are taught it in school, and the ease they take to the language tells us how quickly they could respond to the formulations of magic, which is why I am so concerned about you.
"Third, yes, I use English in my mundane castings, but that comes from years of discipline. It takes discipline, not to say it correctly when you mean it, but rather to say it when you don't mean it. Anger is a terrible thing, and it can move mountains, when comingled with the skill of magic.
"THAT is why you must study Latin."
The boy smiled cheerfully, as if recognition finally buzzed in his brain. The mage could sense a door opening in his brain, and the blocks his young mind had placed in defiance of learning the language were removed. THe apprentice had come far in but one lecture.
"All right," the mage breathed out, reassured, "Class..."
A buzz. Not a buzz, a bell. Silently it called out into the darkness, calling him upwards, toward heaven. He trembled in anticipation.
"Vene!" was all he said, before dashing up the stairs, toward the origin of the call. The boy, confused, followed. The mage hit the ground floor, and stopped to think. Running full tilt in pursuit, the boy almost collided with him. Ignoring the nuisance, the elder man stalked over to a cabinet with a menacing padlock, and whipped it open.
To the boy, this was PROHIBEO. Only the mage was allowed access to this cabinet, and now he could see why. The shelves were filled with weapons: swords, knives, gloves, pieces of ornately carved wood. Each seemed to call out to the pair. The mage rejected all these. He slammed the door, and the padlock smoehow reappeared.
"These are weapons of another time..." he muttered absetly to himself. "I need something to rely on."
Walking over to the mantle, he pulled down the shotgun, and liberated the shells from a hidden recess. He handed this to the boy. "Whatever you do, Scott...NO MAGIC! Do you understand?"
The boy shook his head vigourously, and accepted the 12 gague. "Magister? What is this for?"
"The answer will become...apparent."
They resumed their upward trek.
Fumbling in near darkness, the mage produced a keyring the boy had never seen, and set to unlocking the three fastenings that secured the door. Once that was accomplished, he rapped on the door in a pattern that suspiciously resembled the "Shave and a Haircut," knock. The door swung open mildly, revealing a spacious room beyond.
Both entered, and the boy surveyed the room. He had never been up here, in what must be one of the turrets of the house where the old man lived. Although from the outside, it seemed ready to fall off the structure, within, it was a sturdy wood construct. Three tables crowded the room, covered with candles, bottles, books, papers, and charts. It appeared to be a crude laboratory from a century long long ago.
The main feature of the room, however, was a large cell that took up a quarter of the room. It had a door, but no keyhole was visible. Currently, the only denizen of this cell was a mirror. But what a mirror it was indeed...
It stood eight feet high and four feet wide, and its surface was polished to near brilliance. The frame was silver, with a reflective quality equal to that of the surface. Embossed on the mirror were...scenes, but of what, Scott was not sure. He had to get closer to see, and to do so would mean entering the cage.
At the cap of the mirror, roughly rectagular in shape, was the head of a wolf, also embossed in silver. IT stared forward in silence, as if anticipating the return of an old friend from a long hunt.
Scott was about to ask the mage if he could be allowed to approach the mirror, when a hideous grinding issued from the cell. It was the cacaphony of rending metal, as the surface of the mirror, somehow retaining its solidity, fell forward in a roughly humanoid shape.
Something was within that mass, fighting to get out, fighting to get back. It was huge, at least eight feet tall, but all other features were distorted or eliminated by the mirror sheath.
"What is it, Magister?" the boy breathed out.
"Watch and learn, boy. See who truly controls the world, so that you may learn what we magi who come first never did. Ally only with your own kind."
This confused the boy beyond belief. "My kind?"
"Silencium. You prattle on far too much." The boy stopped talking. Not because he couldn't talk, but that he lost all desire to talk.
The blob heaved, strained, and then released, finally collapsing into an inert mass. The silver tightened around the form, then seemed to fade, revealing the contents within, a huge humanoid figure, covered in fur and sweat. Except for an occassional shudder that was directly related to breathing, the creature was motionless.
The magi drew forth a long wooden staff, wickedly sharp at one end, and capped with silver on the other. He prodded the beast with one end, and a remarkable transformation took place. Fur was replaced with smooth skin, and the horrid weapons that protruded from tooth and fingers resolved. Whatever it was before, it was now human, a human male. His chest heaved slowly, as if breathing came with difficulty.
"A garou. A werewolf." He summoned a book to his ands, and checked. "Judging from colorations, probably from the Red Talons."
The boy nodded in disbelief. Noting this, the mage nodded in bemusement. "You use your powers to make women do as you desire." The boy glanced up sharply. "No fear...I know this already. I watch you, in the scrying pool. You do all this with the force of magic, and yet you cannot believe something as natural as a wolfman?"
"Master, you've shown me much in the time I've spent with you. You told me of these creatures, and the others. Yet to see one, to actually SEE one...I'm scared."
The magus jumped on this. "Scared? Why?" It wasn't scolding, but rather a potent concern.
"I...don't know." Sweat broke out on his brow as he recalled the furry beast. "Something...inside. Old."
"You remember. You remeber better than most of our kind. And that memory, though it scares you now, will serve you well. No longer do you walk in darkness. You have risen above the dregs of humanity at last, Scott. I am very proud."
The creature stirred, and both men tensed. The mage took command. "Awaken, Brother Talon! Awaken and face your new masters!"
"Masters? I see no masters," spoke the beast. "I only behold before me my next meal, and what a light one it shall be." The man became beast once more, and as it reared, it advanced toward the bars. "Soon mage, soon I will feast on your bloody entrails... AARRGGHH!"
The creature had grasped the bars to wrench them open. As flesh touched metal, the air sizzled with the stench of thwarted power. "The bars...you lined the bars with...silver!"
"Yes!" the magus hissed.
"No matter...I don't have to be Ragabash to know how to elude such a crude trap. I will be out before long, and then your magicks will avail you not..."
"We need no magicks. Scott, a shell."
The boy handed the mage one of the shotgun cartridges pulled from the recess. The mage broke one open, revealing the contents.
"Look! For every three normal bits, I have included one silver. The effects on your delicate nature are...drastic, I assure you."
"Now, to sleep, SLAVE!" He struck the beast once more with the silver tipped staff, and the creature sank to the floor of the cage, apparently knocked out.
It was silent in the room for quite some time. Scott, unable to stand it anymore, spoke. "Master, how did he...come here?"
"I have waited a long time for this moment. I have spent years preparing this very room in the event that a garou should stumble upon my trap. And now that one has, after all these years, I do not know what to do." He walked to the edge of the room and sat down heavily, allowing the staff to roll away.
Scott walked up to the magus. The magus glanced at a chair. "Sit boy. There is a story I must tell." THe boy complied.
"I used that mirror to snare the beast. It is no ordinary mirror, for even you, a lowly apprentice, can sense that it stinks of power. Now it is a horrific weapon, but once it was our greatest hope...a hope for peace.
"Once, long ago, there was a war. It was a war not for the history books, for it was fought in a place very different than earth, and yet so close that it seems to pervade all. So close was it that although the mightiest armies of the earth could not fight there, whomever possessed that place, ruled all of earth with an iron fist. No part of earth could be made safe from those who walked the secret ways, for they could use their terrible powers to slide between walls and locked doors. Only one people, the noble Garou, could naturally go to the secret place, and fight there, so the comabatants had to come from them.
"Yet it was obvious they could not win the war alone. They swallowed their pride, and came to us for assistance, and even allowed themselves to become allied with vampies, their mortal enemy, so great was the risk to all.
"They coordinated their forces. The Garou would fight the secret war within the hidden place, while the Kindred would fight the war here, destroying the enemy wherever it appeared. We, the magi, concerned ourselves with providing support to the weak and wounded. We created items of power, great power, to make our task easier, as was our nature. One such item was that mirror.
"If a garou was too weak or wounded to pierce the scrim that seperated earth and the hidden place, they need but lock onto the signal the mirror put out, and the mirror woudl give them safe passage. We on the other side would await, some to tend the wounds, others to fight the creatures that sometime followed the Garou in. It was a remarkable undertaking, for we saved oh so many lives, lives that would have been lost had the mirrors not been opened."
"Magister, did we win the war?"
"Do you sit before me now, speaking to me?"
"Then we won the war, my child."
The boy pressed on. "But if we won the war, why would you do such a thing to an ally?"
"The war was won, but the ignorance of the Garou, coupled with their hot blood, caused many to seek to point the blame at someone. Although many were saved, ideals were compromised, and to the Garou, sometimes that was worse than death. Too often, they saw evidence that their own kind had started the war. They accused us of starting it, and then setting up evidence to make the blame fall away from us. They were...unreasonable. Irrational. They broke the alliance with a savagery that makes me doubt if any mage or Kindred would be stupid enough to try another.
"To answer your question, boy, we are no longer allies." He spat these final words out with true venom.
After a long pause, the mage spoke again. "Go downstairs, and retrieve a book I left on the table last night. I have... business."
The boy complied, setting down the shotgun as if it were on fire.
The mage crept close to the cage. There was 30 such books on the table. The boy would be a long time in finding the right one. He needed that time, alone...with this.
"Oh, how far we have fallen, Friend Garou. If only your people would cease their blind rage, and see the world as it actually is. Must I now prey upon you, in order to defeat a greater evil? Is that the child of our noble alliance, forged and forgotten so long ago?" He glanced at the mirror, and wished he could smash it into oblivion. But no force on earth or beyond could even crack its surface. Such was the power of the magic.
He withdrew from a pocket a scrap of parchment, and read off the list of ingredients. It was there, as he knew it would be. The one ingredient he knew he would never have the courage to seek out had just been delivered unto him. Providence? He doubted it.
Crossing the room with slow strides, he came to the door. "Scott! Forget the book! Come here, and fetch the silvered cord in the lab."
He stared at the helpless killing machine sprawled before him. "With but a stroke, I could ease your pain forevermore, but I need it as fresh as possible. I am sorry..."
The boy burst through the door, the supplies in hand.
"Excellent. Onto your next lesson..." He opened the cage, and bound the garou tightly. Extracting a set of silver knives, he approached the creature.
"...Garou Anatomy," he finished. "We begin with the heart..."
The Mirror of Salavation is a wondrous device indeed. Created during the Shadow War, it was used to recover those Garou too injured to pass the Gauntlet on their own. It exists simultaneously on the Umbra and "normal" plane, through on the umbra, powerful spells have been cast on it to make it a beacon of light and hope, repelling the creatures of the Wyrm who happen upon it.
Part of the aura the Mirror gives off is the reason for its danger. Once, when the wars raged, it became neccessary to be able to sense it from a distance, so that an injured Garou could limp toward it. Now it acts as a mental lure, leading the Garou into a trap.
The effect is emulated as per the Mastery Gift. The mirror launches an 8 die attack against the Garou, the command being "Enter the Mirror." Difficulty is the Garou's Wits+3. For every success, the Garou is subconsciously drawn toward the mirror. Even if the Garou beats the mirror, she is unaware of the attempt, and the focal point should be depicted as very curious, perhaps leading the Garou there anyway.
When the garou gets close enough to the focal point, (which can look like anything in the Umbra), Movement of the Mind 5 is engaged, to draw her in. This was a passive system, designed to minimize the trauma of stepping sideways. The mirror generates a Gauntlet of 4, allowing easy transportation, but if the victim struggles in any way, the Gauntlet is popped up to 9. The victim is still drawn towards the mirror, but the mirror starts draining health levels, to "take the fight" out of a possibly crazed beast. This is non-aggravated, and the mirror senses when the creature reaches Incapacitated. The amount of time it takes to pass the creature through the Gauntlet, once she resists, is equal to the amount of successes she achieved fighting the Gauntlet. For instance, a garou with a Gnosis of 5 resists the mirror. The difficulty is now 9. She rolls three successes. The mirror will inevitably draw her in in three rounds. The only way to defeat the mirror is to get more than 5 successes, then beat the Movement of the Mind 5 using Willpower as strength to get away. Another way is to realize that the mirror will only transport one at a time through the surface. While being drawn through, any companions can seek to extricate their friend. Three can try at a time, rolling Willpower versus the Gauntlet's strength. Adding successes, if they exceed 5, they have drawn their friend to safety. This can be attempted even if the Garou willingly enters the Mirror (Gauntlet of 4). However, this violent expulsion does damage equal to the number of successes garnered, even if not successful. This is non-aggravated, and can be soaked normally. Further, those now freed should flee as quickly as possible, for the Mirror keeps on trying.
Once captured, the garou can try to escape again, but each attempt burns a willpower point, and the battle continues anew, gradually weakening the beast.
The device is nearly invulnerable, breakable only by reversing the proceedure that created it. First, the mirror must catch the reflection of the full moon in its surface. Then, the surface is stained with Tremere vitae (at least 2 BP). Then a Garou must use Silver Claws, smashing the mirror's surface. Only then will the item be destroyed.
The device possesses two command words. One turns on the mirror, alerting the user when a Garou approaches in the Umbra. The other turns it off, making it completely undetectable (this was invoked so that Agents of the Wyrm could not find the mirrors for their own benefit). When the mirror is disengaged, the Garou may use it to enter the Umbra safely, as if it had a Gauntlet of 4.
A few mirrors are also equipped with Sense Wyrm, which is on when the Mirror is on, detecting the approach of an Agent, either in the Umbra or in the mundane Realm. These mirrors also have a new Gift: Ward of the Wyrm. Ward of the Wyrm (Level 4 Gift): This gift allows the user to either fool or scare an Agent of the Wyrm away from a given location. The Garou first burns 2 Gnosis. User must roll Manipulation+Performances, difficulty 8, to see if the ruse works. If it does, the Garou rolls Charisma+Expression, difficulty equal to an Agent's Willpower. The results depend on what is trying to be achieved. If the Garou seek to scare, every success eliminates one of the agent's attack dice for the next scene. It the Garou seeks to fool, each success stands for a turn in which the Agent is confused, unable to find the Garou. If five successes are scored, the Agent is so confused, he wanders off.
For purpose of the gift, the mirror has eight dice for all rolls, and 2 Gnosis, replenished each night.
Note that a few mirrors were forged after the Shadow War. These have surfaces of silver, and not glass. All damage taken fighting the Gauntlet then, is aggravated. Fortunately only three of these horrific weapons are known to exist, one currently residing on the bottom of the Atlantic.