Excerpt from the Book of Mahgnus
Bakesh, a world of gears and pistons, liquids and gas, clanks and cranks . . . wonder and potential. That was my home so many years . . . so many ages ago. I was just an explorer then, and sometimes a gentleman. Traveling the world was a passion and mapping was but one profession. I had aspirations of harnessing the secrets of our world, discovering untapped sources of power, and untold marvels never before seen. I sought places others would not even dare. I could not reach these places alone, however, and persuaded volunteers to aid me in my endeavors.
One expensive but lucrative expedition that nearly killed us all led to the discovery of an awesome power source, a chamber deep underground that held the secret of the Krylstals. My life, as well as the world’s, changed forevermore. The Krylstals, a select and secret group including me learned, possessed a raw power, an energy unlike anything our world had encountered or made before. This energy could spark mechani to operation as a sort of battery. The potential was astounding and hearkened a new age, a technological revolution, albeit not without a few bumps and bruises along the way.
Early in experimentation I tried to harness the raw power within them and ended up nearly destroying the lab. When I awoke I discovered that I had somehow been fused with the energy of the Krylstal. At first I could not control the mystical power I developed and found it difficult to hide from the general populace. Even still, several of my cohorts wanted to duplicate the experiment for themselves, even against my urging against such. Their attempts failed and thankfully did not take their lives in the process. We dedicated ourselves to learning the full potential of the Krylstals and called ourselves the Mahgni, with I as the First Mahgnus.
When the capabilities of the Krylstals were revealed to the public, a few collectives formed. A group calling themselves the Preservers believed Krylstals were a limited resource that was found only in one dangerous region of the world, and that resource should only be used sparingly and with great deliberation.
In secret, the Mahgni continued experimentation. Volunteers were selected for testing, but most of them were incompatible and perished in the procedure or shortly thereafter. Those who exhibited promise and receptivity were added to the ranks of the Mahgni. Those able to harness the mystical power were capable of astounding results; however, we learned it was not without consequences. For each use of the mystical power a price had to be paid, albeit indirectly. A benefit of the infused energy extended our lives and enhanced our natural ability to stave off disease and illness.
One experiment yielded a wholly unexpected consequence: a gateway to another world. I volunteered to go through first, just in case something else unexpected occurred.
While I traversed the worlds I defined myself as my rank in Bakesh: Mahgnus. My travels took me to the self-proclaimed commerce capital world of the dimensions: Gha Zreh, whose inhabitants are short slender gray bipeds with large dark orb-like eyes with sharp-witted personalities. Our travels were kept secret to prevent world hysteria. The Mahgni as a whole but on its own established relations with the merchants to bring various goods back to our world that we utilized at our own facilities or introduced to the public as inventions of our own. Our exploration introduced us to a formal interdimensional society, and eventually we gained enough clout with both their government and ours that we were able to introduce emissaries to begin the process of building a bridge between the the two. Shortly thereafter, however, greater interdimensional politics presented reason enough against unification at that time. Had I been present I might have been able to do something, but I was distracted. I encountered an influential group and among them was someone who inspired me, a particularly powerful individual named Arehdeus. Efforts were made on my part to impress him; however, I seemed to have misrepresented my intentions and made an enemy of him.
Ta’Lorn had unknowingly stumbled upon project information connected to Arehdeus and Paradox. At the time he knew nothing of its importance, but much later he began piecing the pieces together. Paradox ordered Arehdeus to end Ta’Lorn for knowing too much. Arehdeus manipulated Ta’Lorn without being revealed, poisoning him in a way that responded to use of his mystical powers. Whenever Ta’Lorn would use his mystical powers the price would have immediate and direct effect on him.
Somewhere along the way I contracted a disease that reacted whenever I used my mystical powers, taking its price immediately and directly from my own essence and spurring spontaneous cellular corruption and degradation. Eventually I was forced to stop using my abilities altogether until I found a solution.
For an extended duration of time I isolating myself in a library sanctuary I established many years prior, where I researched my condition and anything similar to such in my travels or collected tomes. In the process I discovered a method to bind another being to myself, which would allow me to siphon their life essence and quite possibly stave off the condition. I knew this method would be merely a temporary fix for the problem, not a permanent solution. Regardless, I began the necessary ritual, setting as much in place prior to seeking a viable recipient. My search brought me to Seone of the Kitsune Tribekin, a naturally very long-lived species with plenty of life available for the taking; I ensnared and trapped her in my library sanctuary in such a way that she could not escape even if she tried. Then I departed to experiment with the bond, as well as continue my research for a permanent solution.
I found returning to Bakesh difficult but managed to succeed. I went to check in on the Mahgni, learning that the order had been subjected to nigh-extinction. Apparently the political strife that discouraged Bakesh from joining the once-great interdimensional society still raged and had embroiled even non-member worlds. Bakesh barely withstood the onslaught, and the collateral damage resulting from closing of the portals took the lives of many lesser Mahgni and even one of my peers. The Mahgni were subsequently accused of having brought this destruction upon the people of Bakesh by opening the portals in the first place, for which many were persecuted and killed. A handful of us went into hiding. I frequently disguised myself to salvage what remained of our once-considerable resources and Krylstals not destroyed by the Xeklos or absconded by ambitious artificers. Needless to say I received a bitter scrutiny when my presence was discovered by the general populace. At that time I managed to parlay a compromise by promising that all living Mahgni would withdraw from Bakesh, to never return unless invited.
The Mahgni established a new base of operations on Gha Zreh.
- – -
“You’re wasting my time.” Vashrath’s calm voice hinted at an impatient snarl as he paced behind his council table.
“I … I’m sorry, your L … Lordship,” his servant stammered, trying to build up enough nerve to continue, “Re … reports inform us w … we are very cl … close to locating the ta … target.”
Vashrath turned on his heel to face his servant directly, an eyebrow arched in question. “Proceed.”
His servant shivered, feeling the solitary word of command physically course through his veins and take hold with a vice-like grip.
His servant coughed before speaking, “T … Trackers have followed the ta … target’s path to a ca … cavern in the Sh … Shan-zhu region. Fur … furthermore, signs there i … indicate extensive use o … over several months. W … we have recovered a jour … journal, Master.”
The servant stole a moment to catch a breath before continuing. He felt his veins constrict slightly, more of a prompt from his Master than a reprimand. One mis-spoken phrase and his life would be forfeit.
“T … the hand, i … it was wri … written, my Lord, w … was indistinguishable, th … though it is en … encoded. O … our experts are s … studying it now. H … hunters lie in wait f … for the target. T … the one you s … seek is near.”
Vashrath released his hold on his servant and turned away.
This was as much of a compliment as his servant was ever going to receive. He cherished the reprieve and the honor to continue to serve. The servant silently bowed in respect and backed out of the chamber as quietly and efficiently as possible.
Vashrath clenched his jaw as he set his attention to the council table and the geographical features inscribed on its surface. He traced his finger along several sigils carved into the border and then touched a gem to complete the ritual. The edges of the map glowed for a moment before images appeared in the air over certain areas.