Scintilla, The Guardian Of Knowledge and The Custodian of Science – was quite enthralled by yet another scientific experiment.
She had been exploring the properties of this new wonder material called plastic, and her harbinger’s so called electromagnetic fields, when she got an interesting notification screen.
An entire settlement had just been consecrated in her name.
She read over the notification again, and smiled widely. Ethan was hard at work on the primary material plane, and he’d just devoted an entire city to the aspect of science, and consequently, to her faith.
She looked over her Wheel interface and checked out her available Faith Points. Thanks to his hard work, she’d been collecting a steady income of Faith Points ever since he built that workshop in his settlement, which she assumed was just the start of something greater.
She lamented the fact that she could not see through his eyes like any normal person, but she thought that was also a good thing, since this meant that the other gods couldn’t do so, either.
Not that it mattered much in the grand scheme of things. Every single discovery and invention he’d made so far had counted towards more Faith Points for her Aspect in the eyes of The Wheel, and every Research Point produced by the settlement was converted into a significant amount of Faith Points for her to use. To her – and to The Wheel itself – any scientific discovery made by Ethan was essentially an act of worship, and the same applied to the whole settlement now.
Even if Ethan was not aware of the fact.
She was truly ecstatic with this state of affairs, since – as a newborn Goddess – she was supposed to start out as a weakling, and slowly grow in power and influence; but now… now she was making huge strides, and her rise in power was becoming truly felt throughout the Celestial Plane.
She considered her next decision briefly, before spending a substantial amount of her Faith Points through The Wheel’s interface. She considered it a sound investment, since it would help Ethan and his settlement to grow faster, and thus Scintilla herself would grow, too!
If Ethan was working to bring her power – knowingly or not, then she would lend him aid. She focused her attention on The Wheel’s interface, and cast a complex blessing over the entire population of the settlement.
It was not just any blessing, mind you. She used her first – and usually any God’s most potent – mass blessing and graced them all with [Enlightenment].
It was a subtle, permanent, and potentially hereditary status effect that would help all the citizens and their descendants develop and flourish so much faster in the near future, and most importantly: one that would slowly transform them into the avid seekers of knowledge she wanted for her followers. She would make them the heralds for a new age of science and discovery.
This act took all her focus, and she was surprised by the intensity of the momentous feat. She supposed it was somewhat similar to spell casting; but working with blessings was much more intimate, and involved a godly amount of willpower. Especially since it worked by imposing her will on the world, which was then amplified and reinforced through The Wheel itself.
Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your point of view, she was momentarily distracted from her ongoing experiment, which caused it to go out of control.
A massive electromagnetic pulse with the power of a solar flare exploded forth and quickly began spreading across the Celestial Plane.
It would not harm the other Gods, thanks to their nature; but it was felt nonetheless, and this particular incident would set a curious chain of events into motion.
At first, the mad cackles of Morty – The God of Hopeless Love Interests and Incessant Stuttering, could be heard echoing all over the celestial plane – which wasn’t a very unusual occurrence, admittedly – except in this case they did not stop for a fairly long time. A fact which she – and others – found quite alarming.
The second event was that an unsuspecting Ethan West, back on the primary material plane, was summarily granted an entire level to a certain passive skill associated with the aspect of chaos.
The third and most important event – which Scintilla would not realise had happened until some time later – was that she’d just set a certain someone free from imprisonment.
And Memeta was well and truly pissed.
That would bring us to the fourth event in this chain, which came as a direct consequence of the previous events happening in rapid succession, and that is the beginning of the third – and oddly, strangest to date – Celestial War.
Although the Gods could not engage in combat directly on the Celestial Plane, they could still direct their followers to challenge one another, or in this case: wage a different kind of war on their behalf on the material planes.
From this series of events, a ripple in time would manifest; and slowly, but surely, it would start creating other ripples in the stream of time. Touching and propagating to unseen proportions.
Chaos at this level… it was something that only served to appease a certain god.
And now, that God’s cackles could widely be heard.
“Ethan West! Wake up!”
A familiar sensation entered Ethan’s mind, and he tried to pay it no attention and go back to sleep. His head was killing him. He rolled over in his furs, trying to ignore the disturbance. Unfortunately for him, whatever was trying to wake him up was persistent.
“Wake up you fool! What have you wrought last night?” A voice said, Ethan still tried his best to ignore it and maintain his well needed sleep.
He felt something poke him in the side yet again, much more forcefully this time, and judging by the voice, he knew whose cane it was.
“Wake up!” Elder Ro jabbed him with the cane again.
He groaned and rolled to the side. Slowly opening his eyes, he tried to ignore the flashing prompts at the corner of his HUD.
“What happened?” He asked groggily.
“You tell me, you foolish child! Everyone fainted last night after we heard the Voice Of The World talk to us! All of us at once! And that does not happen!”
Ethan looked up and found the elder glaring at him silently, clearly bothered.
“I just picked a specialisation for the settlement, that was all!” He said defensively, whilst he edged away from her cane when she started to lift it.
“That was all? Then what’s this about a goddess’ blessing?” She asked accusingly.
“A blessing by a goddess? What are you talking about?” He literally had no idea.
“Get dressed, you’re coming with me to see the rest of the elders. We must discuss this.” Elder Ro said with a huff as she turned and left the tent.
A blessing? What in the world?
He noticed a few notifications from his AI in the corner of his vision, and those looked different from system notifications.
Not bothering to look, he decided to ask his AI about it.
AI, what happened while I slept?
<A foreign interference was detected in the process of applying a change to the structure of the host’s brain. Countermeasures were taken to prevent the changes. As a result, the host was placed in an induced state of sleep for 8 hours and 32 minutes while this unit attempted to suppress the changes.> His AI intoned.
Did you manage that? He asked apprehensively.
<Negative. Requesting permission to reset to latest backup.>
Ethan sighed. What his AI was requesting meant losing some of his memories, depending on how long ago the latest backup was performed.
When was the last backup? A full backup was a very involved and taxing process. Rarely, if ever performed.
<The last full backup was performed before a direct memory transfer procedure. The snapshot was recorded 143 local days, and 4 hours ago.>
The day he learnt to use magic? That was almost 4 months ago?
Wait! He was transported here only 4 months ago? It felt like he’d been struggling in this world for ages.
He didn’t miss the huge implication, though. This meant that if he went ahead and restored that backup, he’d lose a large percentile of his memories since coming here, which was why his AI was requesting his explicit permission in the first place.
Of course, he could – in theory – leave reminders for himself of what had transpired, or have his AI play a recording of that entire time to him after the reset, but still: it’d make him incapacitated for an indeterminate period of time.
He didn’t want that. He made a decision, and hoped he’d not regret it in the future.
No. Don’t restore that backup. I’m good for now. Begin monitoring and alert me if you notice any big changes in my behavioural patterns. He commanded, resolving himself to making a new backup as soon as possible.
Ethan was getting angry. He really wanted to know what the hell had happened. He never thought that choosing a specialisation would have this much of an effect. He thought it would be a gradual process, if he had to be honest.
Sitting up, he decided to take a look at the piling system notifications flashing in the corner of his vision.
The first was a blue window. He'd never seen a coloured window before, and as he read on, his anger began to dissipate.
|You have selected the first specialisation of for your settlement: [Science and Technology]. As the first settlement to select this specialisation in history, your settlement has been awarded a pioneer bonus of 10% to the effects of this specialisation per level!|
|This bonus will remain in effect for as long as your settlement fulfills the following condition(s): have the highest level of this specialisation amongst all settlements in the world.|
So they had to stay at the top to keep this benefit… Well, that was fair.
The next window was slightly different. It was made of bright gold! Even the edges were decorated beautifully with golden vines and swirling inscriptions.
|The Dawn of Science!|
|Rejoice, Harbinger! For dedicating a settlement to her aspect, your settlement has been blessed by Scintilla – The Guardian Of Knowledge and The Custodian of Science! The first-blessing of [Enlightenment] has been bestowed upon you, and every citizen of your realm!|
Ethan quietly wondered what this meant, why it was emphasised in bold, and what this blessing exactly entailed. He thought for a moment, before his eyes widened in realisation and his anger fled him in a flash. So that's what caused him to faint! The AI must have perceived the attempt to bless him as an attack on his mind!
He shook his head and wondered what changes this would cause. Would it change his personality? He wasn’t too keen on that aspect of the blessing if that were the case.
What was the blessing of [Enlightenment]? And what did it entail? He tried accessing a help screen from the system, or to get a tooltip with a description for the blessing; but it didn’t look like he’d get his answer from the system.
No matter, it was at least beneficial, as far as he knew; and he wasn’t belligerent enough to take offense at an attempt to help him.
He looked at the next prompt, which wasn't a special announcement like the previous ones, but a regular notification.
• Chaos Reign has reached level 3. [+30 XP]
He briefly wondered why that skill levelled up, of all things… maybe it was random? It certainly fit the theme of chaos the skill had going on…
Sighing, he decided to move on.
• Thanks to a blessing, your recent affliction: [Mana Deficit], has expired. The debt has been paid in full, and your mana regeneration has been restored to normal.
Finally! Yes! He thought to himself with glee. He was finally rid of this damn affliction! He looked at his character sheet, finding his mana regeneration rate at the expected 3.9 per minute.
Oh joy! He was cooking with gas again! He could finally finish the constructions he started working on yesterday at a decent rate, and with less breaks in between!
This instant gratification component to the blessing was a pleasant surprise. Although the affliction was bound to expire on its own, he still found this to be a good outcome, as it confirmed that the blessing was beneficial. He was thankful for The Wheel’s unintentional validation.
He slowly got up, and finished dressing quickly. He smelled his clothes. Could probably use a wash. He thought grimly. Feeling inspired, he focused and attempted to cast a quick spell. The small accumulations of dust, grime, and any foreign particles on his clothes were quickly repelled away. Curious, he also smelt his armpits.
Ah, that’s a shame. Sweat wasn’t included in the effect.
Just then, a new notification popped up.
• You have discovered the spell [Cleanse] of the magical school of [Manipulation]! For discovering a [Common] spell yourself and without external assistance, you have been awarded a one-time bonus to experience. [+50 XP]
• [Cleanse] has reached level 1. [+10 XP]
That message was new, but it confirmed a long held suspicion of his: The Wheel tracked Spells too, and not just Skills.
But why now?
Was this a side-effect of the blessing? It was certainly possible. He remembered getting an actual quest after his integration with The Wheel deepened following his ascension to his current position of leadership with the Krell. Maybe this blessing deepened his integration with The Wheel further, too?
Did that mean that, perhaps, he could learn new skills; and not just purchase them like he’d done in the past? He decided to ask somebody later.
He knew there was a rarity ranking associated with spells from the past, ever since he was awarded for the [Legendary] spell he’d cast to grow The Mother of Chaos. So that wasn’t new information.
This meant that The Wheel had a record of all known spells in existence, and that made him burn with curiosity.
Turning back to his immediate needs, he thought about breakfast forlornly, but decided it would have to wait. He exited the tent to find a crowd gathered nearby by the central totem, surrounding the elders in the middle. The elders were deep in discussion while the tribesmen listened.
He briefly wondered what had them all riled up, before he was noticed. The people turned from the elders and looked at him warily; then quickly parted to make way.
As the crowd parted, the heated discussion abruptly stopped, when the elders noticed his approach. They looked at him with varied expressions.
Some looked elated, some looked contemplative, some eyed him warily, and one of them was especially furious, from the heated looks she gave him.
Business as usual.
Looking to the side he noticed Eragoth, passively observing with a predatory smile for some reason.
Okay, that was unusual. It was quite uncharacteristic of her to smile, for any reason.
Thinking on it, he recalled never seeing her genuinely smile. Not even once. Even when he recalled her smiling, it was always that kind of smile that screamed one word: predator.
It made him slightly nervous.
He cleared his throat, and looked to the rest of the elders, who were silently regarding him.
“Ahem. What’s going on?” He asked hesitantly.
The hostile elder looked at him scathingly. She took a long breath, preparing to roast him, when Elder Ro interrupted her.
“What’s going on is that, for the first time in thousands of years, our Gathering has been noticed by the Gods!” She rapidly started firing questions that made his head spin in confusion, apprehension, or fear, “have you ever thought about the consequences of your thoughtless action? Of the consequences of consecrating our settlement in the name of a Goddess? Of what that would mean when her enemies fall upon us? How our settlement is like a beacon shining to all the churches in the world now?”
Her tirade over, she took a slow, deep breath to recover; to solemn nods from those around her.
Ethan lifted his index finger to his chin in contemplation of her words and questions. His response was measured and ponderous as he made his rebuttal.
“We are at war. This war is coming whether we are prepared or not. Death is hanging over our head, and yet this Goddess has seen fit to support and bless us in our time of need.” He paused to let his words sink in, looking all gathered in the eyes, and continued, “Would you turn down help from any who would offer it freely? And more importantly, unconditionally?” He made the effort to emphasise unconditionally.
The hostile elder was about to roast him again, but he interrupted her, not giving her a chance to form the sentence he knew she was going to say. “You mentioned her enemies, but what of her allies? Would we not also make new allies out of this allegiance? Would we not have brothers in arms who stand for the same principles, share our goals, and can shoulder some of the burden?”
They looked at him in shock, and some looked contemplative as he elaborated to drive his point home, “You’ve lived your entire lives in isolation, hoping to be left to your own devices; but let me ask you this: what has that brought upon you? A war with a foe that’s trying to capture, enslave, and failing that, eradicate you. A much stronger foe; a foe that I’m certain has allies amongst the Gods.” He let them think on that bit before resuming, his voice growing louder, “Do you think the rest of the world will let you live in peace if you bar your doors and shut it out? If you insist on standing alone against the tide of enemies encroaching on your home? Without a strong deity to back you against theirs?”
He hadn’t really thought of the implications of a Divine supporting a faction against another, but if the Polarii had the support of another deity – or multiple, he was sure – then a blessing such as the one his settlement just recieved was possible, if not a regular occurrence. If they followed a martial deity, he was quite sure they’d be at an advantage when it came to war and assaults.
If the Gods were capable of affecting the outcome of conflicts and wars, then he was sure there was a strong deity behind the Polarii’s martial prowess. He determined to ask Aylin to confirm this fact for him later.
The seething elder was stopped in her tracks as she thought about it and weighed the outcomes. None of them were stupid, he knew that for certain. After a lull, she asked her question.
“What does this blessing do?” She asked a question on everyone’s minds.
He cringed at that. Should he just bite the bullet, and admit that he didn’t know?
It was Eragoth who saved him from this particular predicament.
“Why ask him, Dala? Why not ask the goddess directly?” She calmly stated with her smile plastered to her face, and her next words shocked him, “Pray, and your prayers may be answered.”
Wait a second? A prayer? That was possible? More importantly: had Eragoth already done this?
It might explain why Eragoth seemed completely unconcerned.
Elder Dala closed her eyes and murmured some vague words in reverence, and when a bright golden-blue light descended and surrounded her, everyone present gasped in shock.
Her eyes opened, and they had the same glow. She started reciting a poem in a melodic, celestial voice that was most assuredly not her own. Her measured cadence, which rhymed and jingled, sent uncontrollable shivers down Ethan’s and everyone present’s spines.
It was the most beautiful thing Ethan had ever heard.
“Knowledge, I bring ye,
And allies, due north,
My seekers you shall be,
So know this! Henceforth,
Science shall set you free,
And knowledge will prove your worth.”
Ethan caught the woman before she collapsed, since he was standing closest to her. A shaman quickly cast a spell to rejuvenate her and set her to rights. She gasped and opened her eyes, before falling to her knees and weeping freely.
He glanced around, noticing the smiling faces of the followers of Memeta kneeling to the side.
Hiding to the side whilst trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, Aylin Merza was feeling deeply conflicted.
These – she supposed she could no longer call them savages now – people were dedicating themselves to such a powerful deity, and more importantly, to a deity with an aspect she practically worshipped and sought her entire life: knowledge, and more recently… science, the rational method with which to obtain the aforementioned knowledge.
The celestial revelation – which was certainly what had just occurred, she was quite sure – had broadcast a very strong message. One which resonated with something inside her, and left an unshakable impression ingrained in her psyche. She painfully craved what this deity offered. It was almost like the revelation had opened – or reopened – a wound deep in her soul. In her sense of self.
When a deity offered something that aligned with your goals so completely… that resonated so deeply with your whole being… it was difficult to ignore.
And so, for the first time in her life, Aylin kneeled in supplication of her own volition and with no ill will. She started praying with her whole being.
“Goddess of Science, if you will have me: I pledge myself to your aspect. I am forever yours…”
The dangers of her action quickly caught up to her, and she winced at the anticipated torture she knew awaited her, if her new devotion was summarily rejected.
She felt something tearing deep within her, as her old allegiances were torn apart. A furious Denvar – God of Strength and Vitality – directed his attention, and his divine wrath at her. He tried to kill her off quickly, using what remained of his divine influence over her; but a halo of golden-blue light quickly descended and enveloped her, signalling acceptance from her new deity, protecting her from the worst of the divine wrath her action had wrought.
While the Gods did not typically bypass The Wheel’s influence whilst interacting with mortals, sworn followers were another story. Like most Polarii of noble birth, she’d originally sworn herself to Denvar’s service at a young age, which was one of a few acceptable options allowed when meeting the stringent requirements for joining The Magisterium, to be trained in the arts of magic.
Denvar was notorious for killing off forsakers of faith, which she supposed she qualified as, now.
It was well worth it, she thought in rapture as the voice of her new goddess filled her consciousness, whispering new information and concepts that quickly flooded her mind.
Ethan looked to the side, where a new commotion was beginning to manifest with the descent of yet another blue-tinged golden light. He barely caught a glimpse of Aylin Merza ensconced in a holy halo when another descended, and then another.
In the span of minutes, he was suddenly standing in the midst of a swirling vortex of shimmering holy energies, as more and more of those present began to kneel and make their oath.
What the fuck was going on? Why would Aylin – of all people – devote herself to Scintilla? Why were other people doing it?
Maybe it was an effect of [Enlightenment]? If so, maybe it was a smart move on the Goddess’ behalf. Perhaps this was more of a political move than he thought; or maybe he was just being paranoid about things.
Regardless, the effects started spreading further, as more and more people came running from all over the mountains, wondering why there was a shimmering golden-blue light rising in the skies, and unwilling to miss their chance at witnessing the birth of another celestial tree, as that was the prevalent assumption.
The newcomers asked what was going on, and after being told about the effects, some of them elected to experience the phenomena for themselves. Either for divine favour, or for the sake of simple curiosity. More and more people knelt in prayer, and soon stood again, reborn in so many profound ways.
The most evident effect witnessed was with the craftsmen and smiths who devoted themselves. After which, they all rushed away to their workshops with a look of mad inspiration, some of them screaming about a new idea for an item or a technique that they had to try.
More of their ilk rushed to kneel and pray. Wishing to experience the same divine inspiration they had witnessed for themselves.
Then some of those practicing the arts of Alchemy under Aylin’s tutelage decided to follow her example and make a pledge. They knew her well by now, and knew that the opportunistic mage wouldn’t make such a pledge lightly, so there had to be a compelling reason for her to do so.
When they finally pledged themselves, it was to a shocking conclusion.
Most of the people studying Alchemy were Shamans – with a majority of classes like [Sage] and [Druid] – and their oaths had a much more profound effect: they were instantly offered a new class: [Priest – Science]. The less knowledgeable – like those new to their classes or with very low levels – were offered the position of [Acolyte].
Some accepted eagerly, some became contemplative and put off the choice for later, and some immediately rejected the offer; which caused their original classes to become touched by Science in some capacity.
[Sage] became [Enlightened Sage], [Druid] became [Wise Druid], [Seer], and so on. They all welcomed this new aspect with glee. Being touched by an aspect was not a common occurrence in everyday life. People grew up learning that having your class touched by an aspect led to greatness and a brighter future.
When people heard about this, they began kneeling in droves.
Combat classifications who pledged themselves were offered the [Paladin – Science] class and a chance to attain secret knowledge. Some were tempted, and some did accept. Those who didn’t experienced the touch of science, and went through a similar transformation, when their classes were touched by Scintilla’s aspect.
They became [Solert Spearmen], [Erudite Archers], [Scient Scouts], or a similar advanced classes. Apparently, having knowledge and science as your combat aspect meant more potent potential for directed damage dealing – more specifically: situational awareness – in their case.
In a flash of inspiration, Ethan asked the elders to compile a list of all new classes, and they took to the task with newfound respect for him. A surprise came when they found out that some people received a divine boon as a result of their pledge, usually in the form of a new skill, a spell, or some form of knowledge useful to the recipient's worldly pursuits. Only now realising why the crafters had rushed off to their workshops, they recorded those boons as well, and made plans to visit the crafters at a later date to record that knowledge, too.
Unbeknownst to Ethan – who stood immersed in a flood of notifications about changes to the settlement’s morale – what he unwittingly started and witnessed that day was the birth of his new church, a new religion, and creed.
Those who pledged on that day were the true pioneers, forming the kernel of this new faith. One that would soon sweep north, growing exponentially, changing the entire world in its wake.
“A new church has been founded to the North. One of our followers has defected from the path of Strength, and invited the God’s wrath.” It was a statement of absolute fact, without a hint of doubt or emotion permeating it.
The acolytes hearing this quickly bowed their heads. When the High Priestess spoke, all had to listen.
She turned away from the statue of their God, her sharp eyes scanning the temple’s hallowed halls. When they fell down to the acolytes, she spoke again in determined tones.
“Her name is Aylin Merza, a mage with the Magisterium. Send our strongest after her. She must pay in blood. Denvar commands it so.”
The acolytes hurriedly left the temple, and a messenger was dispatched to the Magisterium to enquire after her whereabouts. The messenger quickly returned with news of her disgrace and defection from the frontlines.
Upon hearing this, the High Priestess sent back to the Magisterium, calling for a Divination to performed to locate her posthaste.
The messenger returned with the news that a divination had already been performed and with her last known whereabouts. A mission was then posted amongst the followers of Denvar, and many [Paladins] were dispatched on a holy quest of divine retribution from all over the Polarii empire.
After all, defection to another faith was a serious blasphemy to their God, and it wasn’t every day that they got to crush a defector to an enemy church.