An Address From The Heights
Lost One, Lady
Tell me this
Tell me that
Ask of me
Who follows you?
Where do you go?
What did you find?
Which one are you?
Tell me again
Which one are you?
- nonsense chant heard in the Baronies of the Covenant, originator unknown.
'Stochastic calculation shows the development of three major causation vectors centred
around Terminus, within the last month.
'To put it in other words, three major forces in the chain of cause and effect have
formed in the last month.
'At /least/ three.
'What does this mean?
'It means that the future is becoming increasingly unpredictable. The more force vectors
in the course of causation, the more unpredictable the future becomes.
'And the Lords of the Covenant have had no hand in this.
'That scares them.
'They are looking anywhere, everywhere, for the agency working against them.
'One of their own? A Lord outside the Covenant? A force from within Hell itself?
'Perhaps, though none would mention it for fear that the others would see it as a
weakness, and then tear him apart, perhaps this is the Paladins of Gallifrey's final
strike against them, set in motion centuries before, as they made their final stand.
'They are, of course, completely wrong.
'Now, let us move on to the forces themselves, and where they began to form.
'The first originates /here/, when Ember Ashe arrives in the Barony and hires herself
out as a witch.
'Ember is one of the Tainted, those marked in some way impossible by normal human
biology. In her case, it manifests as a deformity of the eyes, and the ability to call
upon the Flame - to call up and manipulate fire.
'/Here/, we note a forecasting, a prediction. Ember has been alerted to the vector.
'And /here/, we note the arrival of the warrior Frong-Zhu-Waah, also known as Francois.
He will form another part of the vector.
'If we look further, we can see the addition of two others, completing the vector.
'We may also note the action of other vectors - the Lords of the Covenant - upon this
one, specifically the Serpent and the Lady.
'/This/ vector, though, has been centuries in the waiting. /Now/, it is set in motion.
'The second originates here, /outside/ the Badlands. Lord Magnus and the shapeshifter
Varne have been catapaulted here by a dimensional mine.
'To Varne, the Badlands are no more of a hazard than they would be for any other,
although she would do well to be wary. This is no place for the otherworldly....
'Ah. To him, they offer power - and damnation, once again.
'He can /feel/ it, calling to him, asking, demanding, pleading... and he runs. He will
/not/ be so caught again.
'He searches for a Hellgate, a way /out/... and one of the Covenant's Lords has seen fit
to offer it to him. Wary of it, as well he should be, he has accepted. And so the second
vector is set.
'The third begins /here/.
'Yes. I know.
'A prison. A cage. For certain of the forces herein.
'One has escaped. Has found a flaw, and broken free.
'Seeking the one who imprisoned it.
'Seeking out the Kapoor.
'It finds her /here/. In the Barony of Mondas.
'She is caring for the daughter of the Barony's 'lord', Charlotte.
'Charlotte is one of those called Powers-Touched. Marked by a greater power, they
believe, exalted or damned - while still living.
'She could not have found a better guardian than the Kapoor.
'A demon watches the Kapoor - a demon she often castigates, rages against, drives away.
'But she cannot ever banish it - such was the way of the binding. They are exiles,
together in a strange land.
'Names have power.
'Both of them know this to be true. The Kapoor in particular, for her name was taken
from her before she ever left.
'And so she uses her title, a word that means 'magus' and 'lady' in the language of her
'And so the demon keeps its True Name hidden, that she might not drive it away.
'And it is the demon who comes to her, warns her of what comes for her.
'Here, another part of the vector. The Church of the Cross that stands within Mondas.
Its priest, Michael. A cripple - one arm is twisted, useless - but not Tainted. Not yet.
'Then, the arrival of the 'lord's' Herald, Isabelle. She /is/ one of the Tainted -
marked by her multicoloured hair, and by the ability she calls the Hook, to lay hands on
something, and to know its location and condition afterwards. An... unpredictable
talent, in some ways.
'She has come to arrest him. He goes willingly enough.
'Or he would, if his Church had not given him a Sign - its windows changing, showing a
new design upon them. A Question.
'Before they explode.
'And then /it/ tears its way into reality.
'Through Michael's shadow.
'It /tears/ his shadow from him, /becomes/ the shadow, uses it to take form and shape.
'/Now/, he is Tainted. The Grandfather's mark is on him.
'/Here/, a third part to this vector. The prediction of the vector.
'Angeline is a witch woman. One who bargains with spirits, who sees fortunes.
'She has the Sight. The true Sight.
'And she bears the marks of the Old Ones, the Shining Ones, upon her body.
'Young, for all her talents. All too young.
'Still, when another from the town comes to her, asks for her fortune... what is it to
'And the Sight shows her the vector.
'And the one who sought that fortune is sent running, fleeing back into the town.
Becoming unwitting witness to the rest of this. Laura Tobin, her name is. Of noble
blood, trapped in a nightmare, and about to wake to a worse.
'Bystanders in this, yet still a part of the vector - the outlaw Sade, and the Sheriff,
Townsend. They are witness to the confrontation, as prisoner faces jailer, grandfather
faces granddaughter, as /it/ faces the Kapoor.
'In that confrontation, the Church explodes. The town is devastated, becoming lair to
the Grandfather. This will rebound across the lands of the Covenant.
'Those who form the vector know this. Desperate, hungry, they escape the town, the
Grandfather's touch, and strike out for Terminus.
'They arrived as another part of the vector played itself out, as Terminus brought
itself back from the demon-hunt, hunting the demons, the Tainted.
'/Anger/. Deep, burning anger. Fight or flight - and they chose to fight.
'It wasn't just the death of one girl at a demon's hands that brought it about, however.
'The faith of Terminus' people is strong. But there is ...something unspoken in
Terminus. A blindness, so long as none are harmed too much, are killed. They let the
Tainted about their business - no hand is raised against them; no hand needs to be. The
Tainted know this. They know they will find little welcome here.
'Still, some come - like Ember. For even Terminus needs their services, sometimes. And
it's easier - not by much, but easier - to work with a "witch" than one of the Tainted.
'Those demons who can pass for human - or who had the power to do so - could walk
Terminus' streets, too.
'And the Lord's Champions are a law unto themselves. Something apart.
'They came, too.
'Terminus has long been a staging ground for the Covenant's powerplays. It is one of the
town's dirtier secrets.
'But when the powerplay comes into the open... when the secrets are threatened... when
just /how/ tangled the town is in the Covenant's webs becomes almost plain to see...
when the darkness comes close to the light...
'When you know how corrupted the town is. When you can prove it for all to see.
'When you know that corruption will bring about the damnation of all within, that
eternity itself will be lost to them.
'Root out the demons, root and branch, they howled. Root out the damned, the Tainted, by
noose and by fire.
'/Then/ worry about their human agents.
'Calmer heads advised caution. Murder - even against the damned - is still murder, still
leaves its mark on the soul, damns the murderer.
'It was worth it, the others said. To risk themselves that the many would be free from a
'And a few of the calm ones wondered how far damnation in the name of salvation would
go - and how many would accept it.
'Before the Fall, they said the road to Hell was paved with good intentions.
'These days, the roads of Hell are many. But few are darker than those taken in the name
'They say what count are actions, not words. They are right - at least partly.
'But your intent while carrying out those actions... that counts for something too.
'Frustration. Anger. Self-blame. Fear for others. Fear for self. /Guilt/.
'The town went to the demon-hunt.
'And it will again, when the Sheriff tells them what became of Mondas.
'A major factor plays out in the chain of causation.
'And those caught at the centre - they have left.
'They complete the vector.
'The blood-drinkers, the self-proclaimed Yssgaroth, were among the greatest foes of the
Paladins - and from them sprang the demons known today as the vampires, the vant-al, and
the cenobites. All three descended from the same dark source.
'One of them plays a part in this - a vant-al now calling himself William.
'Who has taken the responsibility upon his own shoulders, for it was /his/ actions that
initiated it. The demon at the centre...
'Self-hatred is not unknown in demonkind. The motivation, on the other hand... Loss.
'For himself, for an ideal, or for another?
'The answer may prove to have ramifications beyond himself.
'What he will forge from this remains to be seen.
'The other at the centre, ally to demons, sister to a victim... a girl, a /young/ girl,
younger than any of the others in this.
'In helping a demon, she risks her soul. She does not care. Only that she does not lose
the last link, the last connection to all she has known.
'The damned provide salvation. The saviours bring damnation.
'Such has become the way of things in this world.
'The actions of each vector affect the others - some way, somehow, though they need
'Perhaps they /will/ meet. Perhaps not. Who can say?
'Not me. Not this time.
'The world is moving on. Promises have been forgotten, sins drowned, in all the blood
spilled after the Fall. As the future rushes on, things seem ever and more inevitable.
Cause leads to effect.
'But the chain can be broken, the future turned aside.
'The force vectors have formed, are forming, have yet to come.
'But they have begun
'And so have those who would see /their/ future come to pass.
'Know their titles.
'Lady. Serpent. Hag. Wolf. Four of the Seven Lords.
'More than three centuries have passed since the Fall.
'Three hundred years since this began.
'Is it too late to end this, to bring about a new beginning?
'Has their time come too late?
'Hell, too, moves on. The void sickens.
'/Is it too late?/
'In a world where Darkness seeks to rule unchecked, where Light rages without Control...
is it too late?
'How did this happen? How can it be ended?
'How did the Old Times come to this? Who holds the answers?
'What must be done to end this? Where can it begin?
'I do not know.
'I can only lay this before you.
'The rantings of a madman, or the visions of one who sees?
'At times, even I do not know.
'Things are breaking down.
'It has not ended. As long as that remains true, there may still be a chance.
'For all of us.
'For we are just as much a part of this world as they are.
'No matter what the others say.
'They have spent too long gazing at the world from their windows - so long that it no
longer seems to matter to them.
'Does it surprise you that I say this?
'You are /surprised/. That is something new to you, is it not? Surprise. /Here/.
'You do not know what will happen. You can no longer trust the future.
'They have had to live with that for three hundred years.
'Three hundred years.
'As the world moves on, as the Lords consolidate their power, waiting for the struggle
all of them know will come... as the world /dies/ around them, humans have lived and
died and lived and died...
'Generations of them.
'The world falls apart. The void is sick, dying.
'Distrust and self-interest are the coin of the realm.
'Such has been the way of things for three hundred years.
'But things will change.
'For what, for who, no one knows.
'But things /can/ be changed.
'Is it too late?
'I do not know.
'I can only hope.
'This ia where it begins.
'With a ragtag group of the damned, the insane, the criminal, and the infernal.
'With two who do not belong, who the land seeks to claim.
'With the fallen, the wanderer, and the outcast.
'Remember this. It begins with them.
'Perhaps you have heard. The fantasy, the dream, of the underdog, reclaiming the land
for the people.
'They are not out to do that.
'What matters salvation if those who seek to save you are already lost?
'Then who will save things, you ask me?
'Ask the people out there. All they ask is that tomorrow follows today, that things stay
'When that illusion is taken from them - when confronted with change - people grow
'If you asked, they would complain about their Lords... but to confront them, to bring
'But still the Lords grab and clutch for power, for their own ends. There is little
concern for those they rule - except to ensure they are never desperate enough, angry
enough, to rise up. Or that they are /too/ desperate to even attempt it, too desperately
scrabbling to survive.
'And the Lords are canny enough not to take the second path. Down that path, dissent
'Besides, the Lords aid /against/ the demons who come through the Hellgates.
'/Partly/, this is out of preservation - what does rulership matter if your populace has
been wiped out? But part of it is /self/-preservation - ensuring that none comes through
the Hellgates who might prove a challenge.
'Things will be maintained. The balance of terror will be preserved, for as long as they
can do so.
'Can a war be averted? Can the wounds the void has suffered be healed?
'And then what happens?
'Stopping it is one thing. Rebuilding is quite another.
'Anyone expecting a Utopia if the Lords disappeared tomorrow is living in No Place...
'Rebuilding would be hard. Would be difficult.
'And those who had caused it would be villains and heroes - both at the same time.
'For exactly the same reason, in both cases. They /caused/ this. They made rebuilding
'If they saved lives, if they eased suffering, if they assisted in the rebuilding...
then the balance swings. They are heroes. For they are helping people rebuild and get
'But if they deliberately /caused/ the suffering and death of innocents by their
'Yes, sometimes heroes are needed.
'But oftentimes, what's needed are people.
'People get by.
'That is their wonder.
'Yes, I know. I contradict myself. I condemn it in one breath, and acclaim it in
another. They get by. They rebuild and restore, after the damage has been done.
'They recover. And continue with their lives.
'Consider this, when you talk about this, when you talk about how things change. People
do not want change, they get by without it. But equally, when it happens, they adapt,
they cope, they survive.
'I have told you I /want/ things to change. Why?
'Because unless something does, everything will end, long before its time. Long before.
'There /must/ be a change, somewhere, somehow. There /will/ be a change.
'And if we are lucky, if we are fortunate, if the promise is kept, that change will
prove to be the saving of things.
'If we are not...
'It will happen, this change. Then we shall see what happens next.
'Pray that change proves to be our salvation.
'Then, things will be rebuilt and remade. Things, no matter how infinitsimally small the
change, will be different.
'A worse world? A better one?
'That depends on the people. And on the vectors of change.
'They cannot change the world. They can /bring about/ change in the world.
'The difference is subtle, but important.
'And the change they bring about depends on who they are. On what they do. On both
action and intent.
'And that is why I point out that their quest is /not/ to save the world. They are
beginning to understand what the actual nature of their quests will be. What it will
involve. The choices they will have to make.
'As they do so, all I can do - all we can do - is watch.
'And may your powers be with you.'
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat