Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Libri Vidicos: the Headmaster's Testament

Off a day-- hope to post again tonight. In the last session of Libri Vidicos we saw the fallout from a pretty major event-- the death of the alignment ambiguous Headmaster of the school Gravast Direlond. He left behind a testament to be given to the players, reproduced below:

I arrived at Libri Vidicos thirty some years ago. I had nothing. I had, rightly, earned the enmity of my people and had been forced to leave my homeland. I had tried to find some place to live and perhaps figure out how to carry out my agenda, but had been thwarted both by the Illumuri and, moreso, by my own temperament. It was in those darkest days that Headmaster Souldain came to me and offered me a place at Libri Vidicos. At first I assumed it was because he'd seen my native talent and vision. Only later I would learn that was not the case, but I will come to that.

Libri Vidicos takes in the great and the misfit, and throws them together to see what happens. We have always stayed above the fray. We do not act, but we create those people who have have the opportunity to act. Even with all that we teach, you would be surprised at how few can take up that mantle. Libri Vidicos does not make heroes-- it makes people with the potential to be heroes and the understanding of the choices and consequences involved. Some do for good, and some do for ill. I suspect over time that has shifted, that the ethos of these places may be cyclical, but that is another discussion.

I came here and became a teacher, and a staff person. And, as you can imagine, I served in House Darsksoul. I was ambitious, overbearing, and possibly unpleasant to be around for my strange sense of humor. Of course, I'm much different now and have grown into my beloved nature. But in those days, some might not have liked me. Headmaster Souldain pointed out my faults, laughed at my errors and in general helped to shape me. Though I did not see it as help at the time. In fact I found the Headmaster irritating and suspected he might be on the wrong side of things. Perhaps because of that, I eventually became close friends with the Headmaster's son, Vas Souldain. He was handsome, popular and well-placed within Libri Vidicos. Like many others, I considered it an honor to be counted among his company.

I was perhaps, blind in this. But as some excuse, I will say that I was not alone in this. It is not to say I did not have some warning that my judgment might be clouded. The Lady Darkbough, for example, had a distinct dislike for Vas, and told me so. But I discounted her opinion-- one among many errors I made in my treatment of her. I knew Vas would be Headmaster after his father would retire and I knew that to advance in station I must tie my star to his. But beyond that, I liked him. He treated me with deference and respect, or at least he flattered me in that regard.

I stay on this point too long, when I should come to the heart of the matter. When the Autocthonians came, the Headmaster knew of their approach. He knew something of what they intended and how dangerous they could have been to the world. Mind you, he didn't share that information or how he came to it, but that is the way of Headmasters. When the crisis erupted, and the call came to us- the Headmaster moved into action, or rather into discussion. Libri Vidicos had held itself apart, remaining away from some of the greatest crises of the ages. Voices were raised in different directions as to how to deal with the situation, a situation most of us did not fully comprehend even at that late hour. Most spoke for continuing our policies of avoidance. Vas spoke for active intervention-- for bringing the resources of Libri Vidicos to bear, and using that as leverage for the advancement of the school. And I backed him in this. As did many others, some of who you know.

After much discussion, the Headmaster decided on limited intervention and aid. He'd made up his mind before this meeting, but he wanted to see how everyone would fall out. To lead the LV contingent, he selected Avansa Nullproof, an eminent teacher and someone I disliked intensely. She'd stayed on the fence for most of the discussion, generally supporting non-intervention. But when assigned the task, she agreed and did it. You may not realize this, but like your own Saberhagen, she was on the Great Southern Dragon when it went to the Moon and when it battled against the Autocthonians. Most of the LV contingent perished in that battle, attending as they were to the potent weapons they brought, which became prime targets for the Autocthonians.

Vas, saw all of this as a slight to him, as he should have. I began to see at that point, the rift that existed between the son and the father. I didn't understand the nature of it at that time.

We survived the Autocthonian war thanks to the efforts of many, relatives of some of you. And the War itself caused a shift in the world-- tearing the closest layers of the dimensions and making some of them more accessible, not for travel beyond our world, but within. And some of these levels had a potent power to them, a shapefulness that we've only just begun to understand. Those who had survived and had been present at what occurred in the War returned and brought us information on that. Again, the Headmaster seemed to know something of it already-- and again his knowledge seemed to come from sources we had no knowledge of.

In any case, a number of the staff soon turned their attention to this problem. As you can imagine, the presence of such new territory excited many, particularly among the most youthful instructors. Among that number was Vas, and many of those close to him. I played with it somewhat, but for different purposes, having my own projects I still had not made headway on. Parties, quiet and subtle, may quick surveys of the crash sites we could reach. Discoveries were being constantly made-- beyond the ability of the various administrators to track, and perhaps something of the teaching suffered. Arguments and debates filled the halls as to the implications and consequences of these new things.

Not being perhaps as interested in the Etherplaces, my connection with Vas weakened. We remained of the same clique and he treated me as well as always, but I know now I was not as much in his confidences as before. Others were and they began to work more feverishly in private. It was only through those channels that I first heard of the Headmaster's speech to his son-- that Vas would not succeed him as Headmaster. That this was a given and his energies were better put to use elsewhere. I tried to speak to him when I heard the news, since it had not become public knowledge, but he laughed it away- saying his father's words meant little now. That he had bigger plans.

As one given to ominous speech I should have noted that, but I instead hoped for the best.

So we come to it. There was much before this-- things I and others should have seen. Portents and signs. But I do not wish to dwell on it. I should have liked to have written a full autobiography of myself someday, to lay down my memoirs in hopes it would encourage some and dissuade others. That is, I fear, not to be. What I say next is in confidence. It will be believed by some and discounted by others. Most of those present at that incident are dead, deranged or gone over to something else. I have allowed the rumors to persist that I killed the Headmaster, as it served my purposes-- but I did not do that thing. Far more unwisely I allowed certain things to fester and grow and perhaps also handled other things with less than expert precision.

I could go to the long of it, but I will not. Suffice as to say, Vas had a plan. He had allies, a number of instructors and staff who hoped for greater power in a coup. As well, he had a group of students bent to his will-- perhaps a group not unlike yourselves, who followed him and thought they were moving to defeat a great evil. And, though I did not realize it at the time, he had acquired an ally outside of the school. That, again I will come back to, as it remains a stubborn question in this.

Vas and his allies worked to empty the school and sow crisis before the attack. It is perhaps to my credit that I was not seen as a credible ally or threat, and found myself rushing to try to make sense of what was going on. I found myself with a few other instructors-- men and women I wish you could have met. They grabbed me up and set to try to stop whatever danger faced Libri Vidicos-- unsure of how it had managed to breech the ways. I knew as soon as I saw Vas' fingerprints on the situation-- he used the Etherplaces and undoubtedly some kind of vessel.

And so there came a battle—a long-running and horrible one, with students- convinced by Vas of their own good intentions-- caught in the middle. Some died, some panicked and a few recognized the error of their ways. Teacher fought teacher, staff member fought staff member in the great halls. It was there that Lady Darkbough met her fate at the hands of the d'Ambreville as you must know by now. Even as she died she pressed me to go and rescue the Headmaster.

Again, being underestimated served me well as I stood well down on the list of targets and I managed to make my way up through passages and entryways I'd committed to memory. I had turned my back on my Illymuri heritage but I was still a dwarf and knew stone and construction like my own blood.

I came onto the scene-- to find Vas standing over his own father, preparing to deal the death blow. He'd prepared and worked hard in his plans. He'd crafted a weapon to strike at his father-- attuned to his own blood to cut through defenses. It worked and the Headmaster had been undone despite his protections. We spoke and Vas taunted, laughed at me for my foolishness and stupidity as I attempted to turn him from his course.

And then we fought and Vas learned a little of why I'd been chosen to come here and why I'd been forced to leave my own people.

As you know, Dwarves are not magic-casters. We have shamans and priests and those can work the principles to build machines and harness those powers. I, on the other hand, was a sorcerer. In fact, I was an arch-magi, not unlike the Lady Ozeros. However, I had one important distinction-- I could not cast. I knew and understood everything about magic-- saw the spells woven into everything. I could not help but see every movement of energy and tie that bound power. Like every arch-magi, I suspect I went a little insane from that.

But I never spoke of that to anyone, save a few later on, my wife and now you.

So Vas cast and I tore his spells up with a gesture and a word. I walked through the hail of sorcery-- all of the magic he'd held in reserve in case his father-slaying wand had not worked. And I'll confess I felt some satisfaction as he began to realize his plight-- and then we engaged. I lept and headbutted him in a most satisfying way.

And we come to that-- you see I'd gotten that far and I hadn't really thought it through perhaps as well as I could have. Vas was skilled, of course, in dueling and weapons, and I well, I like hats and candy. Still we wrestled and my girth perhaps gave me a little edge. That and Vas' own exhaustion from having tapped the last of his magical strength.

I had the moment then, the knife at his throat and the chance to finish him. But I hesitated. I'd never killed anyone, and perhaps I recognized the consequences of such an act through the chaos and confusion. Then even as I readied to make the stroke, he activated his means of escape-- having put it off until the last possible second in the hope of claiming victory. I twisted the knife as he vanished and had the satisfaction of laying his neck open even as he departed. I had a hope-- a small hope-- at that moment that he had died. But I suspect I knew he hadn't.

I went to Headmaster to see what I could do-- and tried to go to fetch what medics might still be available. But he clutched my sleeve and pulled me back.

He apologized to me. The man who'd seen and not done anything to stop this ahead of time. The man who failed to save him. He apologized and told me why he'd recruited me-- that he'd seen that I would be the next Headmaster, that things would go wrong and I might be able to put it right. And then he apologized for not being able to pass on the knowledge of Libri Vidicos he possessed-- the answers to so many questions, questions you yourself asked me-- the Student Council, the Eidolons, and so many other things. He directed me to some answers, and he told me a little of the Omnimostikon.

And then he died.

No one had seen this scene and when I came down to survey the battle, I found more dead than living among the combatants. Many more dead. For those among the enemies, I had them put away until we could question and perhaps extract answers from them. Especially the Lady d'Ambreville-- who had not been a Vampire before. I wanted to learn how she'd come to that state. And, I confess, to perhaps use her to find a way to revert the Lady Darkbough to her previous existence. Among the few living, some were broken, badly, like Osric and Esandra. Some lived but quit themselves of Libri Vidicos soon after, like Damaels of Soul's Point. A few remained, like Mr. Arendasi and Ishnarod Kant. In most cases we wiped the memory of the students who lived. Some stayed in school while others we returned home.

Mercer Spoon, who you have met, was among those students, but he'd realized early in the fight how badly they'd been tricked. He tried to save his fellow students and get them out of harm's way. He begged to keep his memory, and I granted him that.

The vast number of scholars and staff, however had not been involved with this and returned to the chaos. The next year was one of tumult. Many left then or departed in the years which followed. I struck the names and memories of the traitors of that day from the records- in retrospect an overreaction. I put the work of the Etherplaces under careful regulation and control. I disbanded the Explorer's Club- more out of memory than purpose and I pressed on.

That is until years later that the Omnimostikon revealed to me that Vas had had a son. A that the child of Libri Vidicos' adversary had to come to the school. I spent the next years watching and when he came of age, I called Sokka to this school. A first I thought him bait-- and that I'll confess early. But it was no long before I realized that he had, despite appearances and likeness, not Vas and would never be him. It was then that I determined to protect him.

My hour grows short-- I can see the symbols aligning themselves on this. I have perhaps made my fate a little more strongly than I wished to. But that is the great trick of foretelling and binding oneself to knowledge of the future. When you do that, you weave yourself into those threads and accept them as given. You cannot turn away when you practice those magics.

In brief so you may know these things-- Avansa Nullproof will be the next Headmaster. And I can't imagine that's going to be too much fun. Hopefully the councils and the Omnimostikon will point her to a suitable Assistant Headmaster to balance her temper.

The Omnimostikon will be hers-- if she can figure out more than she already knows. I have left her some instructions, properly cryptic, and no doubt she will be ill-tempered because of that. And no doubt she will have read this letter I have instructed be given to you. And she will give it, because if she does not, she will find more problems for herself.

The Omnimostikon is a foretelling and reading device. It is a heart, old in the body of Libri Vidicos, one set here among the various systems. It helps determine some of the students who will come here. Some things it tells are certain, and others more metaphorical. But, over the last year I have begun to realize, or rather once you spoke to me and passed certain information, I realized that the information I have received had been suborned-- not entirely corrupt, I believe, but the signs have been shifted and perhaps indicated things alike but not entirely what they should be. There may be some struggle among the Eidolons, knowing as we do now of their corruption. They cannot speak directly on these matters however-- the Omnimostikon operates under a different system and they merely feed it. So, that's been of no use in deciphering this.

I do not believe that Codici Malefactus is involved with the greater danger we face. They are a danger, but not our real enemy. Instead I believe that enemy is one I have overlooked in my assumption of Vas as the threat. Vas had an ally or allies when he struck before. I never considered that a significant factor until now. It seems clear to me that whomever he tied himself with now represents the real threat to our school; that enemy sent the Soul Taker we saw last year; and he or she has arranged present events, including the escape of Lady d'Ambreville.

I have other advice and other speech to give to you and perhaps you will discover some of it in the future. But my time grows short. I will fight this as well as I can but I suspect our enemy knows a good deal about me. He undoubtedly has at least one agent among the staff. I've tied myself to the paths of the future and the price is now come to be paid.

I leave you with this letter and also a gem I found in my travels-- Sokka, you have lived in poverty and I hope perhaps you might be able to sell it so that you can have a bright future away from all of the darkness which has surrounded you.

He comes now. I have only a little time to get this to Lethe.

Yours in trust,

Former Headmaster Gravast Direlond.

P.S. My hats are to be put on display properly in a memorial area of the school.