Wednesday, March 16, 2011
At the Dojo -/|\- Reconnaissance
Experimenting with formatting for these posts. For better or for worse, if all this goes south I want it to be a lovely apocalyptic log detailing who I was, what I did, and what stupid mistakes I made that got me killed. Maybe that'll help the next hard-headed idiot like myself with their maneuvers.
23 days to go.
It was a Tuesday today. I go to the Dojo on Tuesdays. There, I drink tea with a group of martial artists who study a variety of different styles and have been studying for some time. They are all much, much better than me. Among the many things they have taught me is that you never get good, you only suck less. We all walk the long and difficult path of not-sucking. I listen to them, I watch, I practice, and I learn. I've been doing this for barely a year, but I'm getting a solid appreciation for Crane Kung Fu, Karate (no specific school yet), and Aikido. Let there be no doubts: While everyone says that you ALWAYS suck, and you can only suck less, I really really suck. I mean, there's suck, and there's what I do. The level of suck involved is beyond the norm, and I am a clunky clumsy person who is only just starting to get his footing.
Lets be frank, ladies and gentlemen: I may have been doing the whole demon-hunting thing for a while, but I made it very clear early on that I was not a very physical person. Most of what I do revolves around astral projection, and magic that never actually touches the physical world. Unless you've got a heavily evolved third eye, you'd think I was doing a lot of silly gestures and making strange noises. Unless of course I'm insane. The point being that this is all very new to me. But I train harder, and I hope for the best.
I learned new things today, and actually used some of the Crane I've been learning successfully in a sparring match! ^_^ I am very happy with this outcome.
That said, around 11 PM, I did some reconnaissance.
Philadelphia is not a happy place, not in the spiritual sense anyway. It slowly gets better, since the devastation of the 2002-2004 period of time. I project a form from my body, and take a look around.
My neighborhood is the worst. Bodies stacked as far as the eye can see in one putrid energetic mess of decay. This area hasn't recovered very well from the devastation, not yet anyway. Dark clouds float around these stacks as far as the eye can see, slowly breaking them down. These are void creatures, and they are a good thing. They find and break down spiritual energies from dead things, and rebuild them into something that can help create more life. It's hard to explain, lets go easy on ourselves and just say that they are weird. The good news is, they do their job well. The mountains of bodies used to be twice as high. Otherwise, the spiritual realm near me is a wasteland.
In the physical world, there are trees and lovely suburban living. In the astral, it's hell on earth. Whatever order there was, it left Philadelphia years ago.
There are many entities out there other than demons, many good, many bad, many neutral. People are people wherever you go, and entities are no different. They all have their basic needs, wants, and some have formed truly great societies. You wouldn't even know they existed unless you had the senses to see them. Some of them have names, like the Seelie and Unseelie courts of Fey. Others are decidedly rarer and harder to define. I don't like labeling them if I don't have to. This is not because labels aren't important, it's because as I've said before: no two people astral projecting will ever see the same thing. Not normally, anyway.
I fly out my window in this other world, landing on the ground. My astral form has a strange flaw that I don't think anyone else suffers from. I don't ACTUALLY have the ability to fly. I can pull threads of energy and propel myself in a direction. I can take a step, and appear where I want to be. But I can't fly.
I look down at the ground. Actual grass. You wouldn't have thought it could exist during the thick of the fighting here. But there it is now, actual grass. The world is getting better again. Maybe.
I take a step, and this part of the world fades. I am going to meet The Baron. I reappear elsewhere in a castle not too far away. Pinpointing where a location is on the Astral Plane and what place it directly corresponds to on earth is a crapshoot, at best. The Astral Plane isn't constant, it shifts and moves depending on actions in the physical world as well as actions on planes of existence nearby. However, if I had to take a guess, I'd say this place was somewhere near Camden.
I have something of a presence. Blue robes, one of those straw hats from Japan, sword at side...lets be fair, I don't carry around a katana and this outfit because the internet says its cool. I do it because I've actually been shown how to use this sword in the last year or so. The robes and hat were...well, it's a motif. After 8 years, it's become a pretty awesome motif. Yes its cliche, but goddamn it, it's MY cliche and I'm sticking to it. Anyways, most of it is obscured by a strange, thick white fog. That's the charm that's giving me my remaining 23 days.
As I walk into the castle courtyard, I see two ghostly figures on either side of the entrance. They start to lower their spears to bar my entry, and then recoil. They know me.
"It's been six years M'lord, and that strange shadow hides you well."
I wave them off. I honestly don't care. They relax as I go on. The courtyard is a vast, beautiful thing, with a tall fountain of silver with all kinds of ornate decoration surrounding it. I'd be more specific, but like I said: Astral Vision is a very inaccurate thing. Creatures of all shapes and sizes make a path for me as I walk. It's like Moses parting the Red Sea, but the path closes about thirty feet behind me as people crowd in to get a better look at me without possibly inviting my wrath. I can sense what they're communicating to each other as I go by.
"...the Man in Blue..."
"...The last man standing..."
"...the weapon that walks..."
"...The war without end..."
As I near the main entrance to the castle, one conversation catches my sixth sense.
"They say he's been a hermit for the last six years, contemplating the vastness of it all."
"I heard he went mad."
I turn my head to look at them. They act as though nothing was said, and do their best not to piss themselves. I accept this. I humble myself with the knowledge that if any of these things had a physical body and chose to punch me in the face, I'd go down after the first hit. For the record, in reality I'm at height of about 5 foot 11. In this form, I'm about 5 foot 5. And these creatures are all, at their shortest, around 8 feet tall. They LOOK human, but they're not. I can't explain what they are in a way that would be satisfactory, but lest just say that they're made of wind and be done with it.
I go through the castle interior, and frankly it's what you'd expect for The Baron. Very ostentatious. Very stupid. All magically glamoured material made to look like some beautiful mixture of artwork. It's a shame I spent the last six years deciphering illusions made by a madwoman. I could have even enjoyed all this, if I wasn't worried it would suddenly become a dagger and stab my face if I wasn't careful. But no, without the glamours it was all wood, gold, and silver. Nothing more than what a cheap mortal could come up with.
Meet the Baron and his Court. Whatever matter they were discussing, they drop it and go quiet when I arrive. In this world, I get that kind of reaction.
The Baron is an entity that's maintained his holdings on the Astral Plane in spite of constant demon incursion in the New Jersey area. He's a shrewd, powerful thing. I always imagine him as having the mustache and goatee of evil villains everywhere, the fact that he's spent his time on the side of the angels (or what we think of as angels) doesn't change the fact that he's a bastard's bastard. At least 200 years old, he did a good job of taking control of the nearby fiefdoms that were entirely destroyed around Philadelphia. I know that he applauded HER decision to seal me away with her illusions. I have no proof, but considering how much of a danger I am to anything and it's plans in Philadelphia, it would only make sense. I'm a walking threat to all of these things at this point in my life. The fact that I went out of my way to protect them notwithstanding, everybody gets nervous after they find out what you're really capable of when the chips are down. As all of them figured out in Philadelphia, I'm willing to do a lot of things when I'm pushed.
Bear with me, fellas. I know there's a lot I'm not telling you, but I'm going to go back to it. In a few weeks, I'll be out of chances to set the record straight, so I'll HAVE to tell you before my 23 days are up.
The Baron waves to me, and says, "Ahhh. It has been some time. As always, a hero of your stature always has a place in my court."
I smirk, "Stature. Yes."
I'll take a short joke from The Baron now and then.
The Baron laughs this big, jolly laugh, and says, "Would you care for refreshment?"
One of the creatures holds out a tray to me with a liquid I cannot identify. I wave him off.
I say, "One such as myself gains no enjoyment from the food or drink of this world. But I thank you for your offer. I came with a question, actually."
The Baron nods, leaning forward on his throne.
He says to me, "Oh? Well, however we can be of assistance."
I ask him, "Why does the one who wears the fashions of man, has the nature of a tree, and walks the earth unseen go unopposed by the armies of this kingdom?"
And there it is, that deathly silence I've grown accustom to. That moment when you ask a question that sends people in to the depths of terror.
Before anyone says anything, I say, "I did not say its name. But it is certain we all know of who I speak."
A long, long moment passes. Silence reigns in the court. No one will talk now. We've entered high-end diplomacy territory now, and only the Baron himself has the right to speak.
The Baron says, "The monster has stalked the lands of mortalkind since time immemorial. We would no more oppose it than we would oppose the sun or the stars. It leaves our kind alone, and thus is a mortal matter. Or perhaps, a matter for Guardians such as yourself."
I say, "Has the monster gone after Guardians before?"
The Baron says, "Surely that is you purview? You and yours bridge the gap between our world and the land of man, surely you would have a better understanding of such things than I?"
I don't like this interview. I'm not getting any kind of decent information, and as it is I already know that my colleagues aren't going to be that useful. The thing is, that Me and Time Lord and one or two other select, rare Guardians, survived the 2002-2004 war. The rest are kids, new to what we do and new to the astral plane. Guardians can go their entire lives without ever meeting another Guardian, and the fact that what few of us have come together have done so is amazing. The point I'm making is this: None of us that have found each other have been around long enough to know what the Monster's past eating habits were, and whether or not it's encountered us in the past. The only reason I think it exists is because it's out to kill me.
I say, "I will take your words to heart. But I will ask: have any in this realm ever opposed the monster directly?"
The Baron shrugs, "An angel from the higher planes now and then, but even they give up after a time. You cannot fight what you cannot find. And no one can track the Monster."
Confirmation of what I already know: trying to actually locate traces of this thing on the astral plane is like looking for a particular blade of grass in a rural hillside.
I say, "With your resources, finding it would not be hard."
The Baron shakes his head, "One does not bring an army to fight this Monster. It is far easier to slit your own throat at the outset and save it the trouble of tearing you limb from limb."
I give him my best murderous smile.
I say, "It seeks my life. Tell me Baron, what are my odds?"
There it is, wham, that lovely moment when everyone in the court forgets their discipline and starts talking to each other in whispered voices. The Baron just stares at me. By the end of the day, they'll have put together a betting pool."
The Baron says, very slowly and with great care, "It walks your world and kills with but a thought. You can no more stop it than you could stop day from passing into night."
I tip my odd hat to The Baron and nod, turning for the exit.
I say as I go, "Welcome to the Impossible. It's time to save the world."
The only good information that I got was confirmation of the fact that in 23 days, I will most likely die. The sad part is, I'm used to it. So very many things that have wanted me dead over the years, and so very little time to survive it all. I need a vacation.