Monday, July 27, 2009

Chapter 9, part 2

Porphyria stood a small distance away from Vurp, considering something that had been tickling the back of her mind. For one thing, goblinoids of any stripe were not known to be exceptionally gifted magi, since their short lifespans made the kind of intensive long-term study required to be a mage of any caliber a life-long pursuit. Hell, humans barely had time to make a serious go of being a decent mage, and they tended to live a couple of decades longer than any goblin. And yet here was a boglin who was wearing the robes of a full Frater Zephyrius Mutatoris, and had obviously learned a thing or two about magic. Porphyria wondered if boglins ever got gray hair, or went bald -- the hair on Vurp's head was a stringy black mess, not showing any real signs of aging.

"Uhm Vurp," Porphyria started, causing the boglin to fidget uncomfortably at the sound of his name, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but how old are you?"

Vurp smiled slightly at the question responding, "I'm somewhere around thirty-five years old, madam."

"But you don't look all that old..."

"I live a clean and healthy lifestyle, and generally keep out of danger. And I'm also a devotee of a certain sect of worshippers of the longevity aspect of Zo, goddess of life -- we learn some useful techniques to retard the aging process. Very useful for one whose lifespan would normally be measured in decades." Vurp grinned proudly at his own cleverness, showing a mouthful of sharp yellow teeth. Whatever other benefits that might have been passed on to worshippers of Zo, good oral hygiene was obviously not one of them.

"Well, I'm glad to hear you won't be keeling over anytime soon then. At least, not from old age." Porphyria saw the boglin's smile dull slightly as she made the comment. She knew that the magi of the OZM tended to be a lot more careful with their lives than the typical ELF operative. Hell, almost everyone was more careful than the typical ELF operative, and often times, that recklessness spilled over onto those closest to the agent. Vurp would either learn to excel in his craft, or find himself on the wrong end of something sharp and pointy (if he was lucky) fairly quickly.

Vurp shifted nervously in his seat, and Porphyria realized that she had been staring at the boglin in an almost predatory fashion while she had weighed his chances of survival. She smiled reassuringly, and Vurp relaxed somewhat. "You and I should make a good team," Porphyria told him, "I've worked with people from your order before, and always enjoyed the experience."

Vurp nodded slightly. Some of the other magi of his order had been quite vocal in the past concerning their experiences with Porphyria. The phrase 'madwoman' came up with astonishing frequency, but then again, what could one expect from an ELF guerilla? The ELF form of magic basically relied upon calling up ancient and terrifying Powers and letting them rampage, all the time hoping that they hit the right target. It was nothing like the studied control that an experienced Frater gained over the elements. One would almost acquire madness as a survival tool, working as an ELF agent.

Vurp gathered up what little courage he had, and asked, "So what's the plan, mistress? Taking over the world might be a bit much for just the two of us."

"Oh, it probably is, and I was just joking, really. I think we should start with someplace smaller first, like Camille."

"You really mean to take over Camille? But why? I thought that we'd be spreading chaos. It seems like taking a place over would require imposing some sort of order, which is kind of the opposite."

Porphyria smiled happily, and replied, "Sometimes the surest path to true discord is to encourage the aneristic principle to flourish and begin to dominate. After all, very few really good revolutions start because there's too little control. And when empires finally fall, they tend to create enough discord to last hundreds of years, even if the empire only lasted a handful. Loosen the reins of power enough, and society becomes essentially self-ordering, but tighten them until society has no concept of self-order, and then let those reins snap, and that's when things really get interesting."

Vurp looked into Porphyria's eyes as she leaned towards him, entranced by the yellow runes that seemed to swim through her deep black irises. He looked for a hint of sanity somewhere behind those eyes, but could only see inscrutable depth. Vurp felt some fear at what this strange ELF agent proposed, but at the same time felt against his better judgment that he should work with her to see that her goals would be achieved.

"Madam, excuse me for questioning you," Vurp begain, seeming to wince at each word as it came out, "but I thought that chaos was all about giving people freedom, not about causing a new dark age."

"It's not about giving people freedom, Vurp. It's about making them realize that they already have freedom, no matter what their king or priest says. The State and the Church enforce order through a complex system of fear and force, and people buy into it -- they even begin to crave it. If you just kill the king, soon enough people will raise up another king. But if you make it so that people don't want any more kings, then you've got something that can last." Porphyria stood back form Vurp and turned around, looking into a dark corner of the room, continuing, "Dark ages are when people are the most free, anyhow. In order for people to experience real freedom, the system has to break down as utterly as it can."

Wow, Vurp thought, she really is completely bonkers. But there was still something in the back of his mind that couldn't simply dismiss what she was saying. For some reason, he found himself twisted more and more towards Porphyria's way of thinking, the more he thought about it. Maybe there was something to what she was saying, even if the first impulse of his gentle nature was to rebel against it.

"I see your point, Madam." Vurp's answer was timid and reverential.

Porphyria stood silent for some time, and then said, "We'll leave for Camille in a few days. I doubt we'll have much trouble with the Justicars there -- the strength of the Pantarchic Church in the city does tend to push out all the other religions. At the very least, we ought to be able to make a bit of a stir there, won't we?"

Vurp nodded, happy to at last have a hand in bigger events -- to have a Higher Purpose, even if it would probably get him run out of every town he set foot in, if not killed.

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