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Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]

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  • Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]

    I wrote this story back in April or so, unsurprisingly when I was reading Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary edition. I enquired before posting here (hey, you never know!) and was told it was totally OK. I guess I won't improve upon it anymore now, so here it is.

    This stemmed from an idea I had run by my Storyteller a long, long time ago, implying that the Virtual Adept I play in his game (Ewan/Echoes) was the reincarnation of Alan Turing—after all, he's British, he's gay, he's a master cryptographer, and, well, he's a VA. This is more fluff than real plot-device, and started as a joke with another player; however, since my ST allows the purchasing of Merits and Backgrounds depending on roleplay and ideas, he said "if we can sort of justify it, I can find a way to use it and let you buy it later".

    To be honest, I doubt we'll ever have time to fully exploit this in game, with all the stuff already going on, but who knows? And so, I wrote that piece in an attempt to sort of "justify" this background thing (with more than "because it's fun", that is), using E's Avatar, Nym, as the main character.

    Enjoy (hopefully).

    Additional background information:
    - Ewan's real name is Clarence Riddle (he hates it). He hails from a family of conservative Hermetists.
    - The title, "Lyonesse Rising", is a direct reference to an element from another PC's story, Leolio. Supposedly Leo comes from a future Earth in which the VAs created a whole Realm in the Digital Web, called Lyonesse2, and managed to fully give it shape in physical Reality. There's also a running thread in our game about Ewan being potentially Leo's ancestor, owing to a "mistake" when he was in high school.

    Stuff I Draw
    Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]

  • #2
    Then rose the King and moved his host by night
    And ever pushed Sir Mordred, league by league,
    Back to the sunset bound of Lyonesse—
    A land of old upheaven from the abyss
    By fire, to sink into the abyss again;
    Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt,
    And the long mountains ended in a coast
    Of ever-shifting sand, and far away
    The phantom circle of a moaning sea.
    — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King

    Tonight, they will come. Alan knows that much.

    It couldn't last. It never could. He and his kind have gone too far; prodded too deeply; challenged too many preconceived notions with too much heat; thwarted too many plans, back then, in Bletchley Park, in those times of both utter darkness and lambent hopes.

    So many enemies made, so many lost opportunities. So many mistakes in the years that followed. He should have been more careful—he thought he had. Obviously not enough, not when one is a wanted man, officiously.

    So many plans, so many codes. Fish. Shark. Enigma machines. Bombes running day and night, night and day, wrens gathering and analysing data, the clickity-clack of countless keys. And ciphers, ciphers aplenty.

    There shall be more ciphers tonight. Binary conundrums and trinary traps. The men in black are coming, and he will fall, because there's no other choice, because he's isolated, because this life is not worth it anymore, not in the light of more important times to come. He's gone too far—they all have—and the red tape has muffled too many words, too many thoughts already.

    But he won't go down, not really. To break free, he needs to break himself.

    This is the first step.

    Alan looks around. Everything's ready. The experiment and the notebook on his desk. The cyanide. The golden apple of discord, the trigger that will provide the perfect foil. When they break in, they'll only find a corpse.

    They'll come after him afterwards, too, of course. But he's ready.

    As ready as can be, that is.

    He draws a breath, a deep, deep breath, weighing heavily in his chest, in that body gone through too many changes for comfort, after so many months of imposed medication. 'You're sick,' they said, 'you're a criminal, and now you must make amends. Here's our offer: you can go to jail, or you can seek treatment for your... deviance.'

    Deviant. Criminal. Is love deviance? Is wanting to transcend boundaries a crime?

    Cheap excuses in the face of a much greater suspected danger.

    He has to escape, to leave those narrow-minded slavers behind. Escape, with a last pirouette, a last enigma in his wake. His peers will wonder, wonder what ever happened to him, and he must be cruel, because he won't tell them, he won't warn them, he won't send any single message. They must believe he's dead, must start whispering he was killed, a murder disguised as suicide, even though it will only be a half-truth.

    After all, suicide is nothing else but self-murder.

    The apple beckons, juicy and deadly. The bitter taste of almonds. Make it look like an accident, but a questionable one. An experiment gone wrong. And in the meantime, make sure all the wires are plugged, and the Virtualisation Engine running.

    The Living Enigma told him so, in its strange ways full of patterns and equations.

    He looks into the broken mirror set on his desk, a mere fragment, though sharpened and just as deadly. At his sad eyes, old before their age, at his fractured reflection, that of a broken man. The fallen king who once dreamt of numbers and giant arches built with electric impulses, who believed in a golden age of information, in trinary knights riding trails of data in search of a new legend, only to be betrayed and silenced within the sinking castle of his soul. Well, he will choose a form of silence. For now.

    Is it another illusion, in this life turned to digital dreams and too human nightmares?

    His knights have to believe, to cry murder, to launch into conspiracy theories. They need a trigger, a last straw, a flame thrown into the proverbial powder keg.
    The Difference Engineers must soar free at last.

    And for them to do so, Alan must die.
    His body has barely stopped breathing when the agents break into the room, stealthy and efficient, after ensuring nobody would wake up, not yet. Tomorrow, there shall be cries, and a distraught mother, and a few lines in the evening newspapers. Tonight, there shall only be death, darkness, and deception.

    One of them is smarter, or perhaps just more observant than the others. From behind his shades, his eyes immediately dart toward the wires, still plugged—of course, they're plugged: a corpse couldn't get rid of such evidence!—and a gloved finger points at them. At the Virtualisation Engine, still humming along the wall.


    They rip cables and wires out of sockets. Sparks erupt, electricity courses through systems, analysers crash to the floor, as the team all clad in black thoroughly trashes the lab, making sure to crush every circuit, every transistor. It is a race. He knew they'd be fast, but he hadn't anticipated how fast enough. A grave mistake, for he needs more time, just a few more seconds to escape—

    —fragments and code and ciphers dance in the eternal space, the great white wilderness, still uncharted, still so vast and full of promises, and whether the latter shall be fulfilled or broken, this remains to be seen, as his reflection explodes into shards of mind and spirit and soul, leaving the meat behind—
    —because there, in the world of the living, the smart one is already reaching for the cords—

    —there's a connection, or so he hopes, after his few secret conversations with old contacts turned traitors in their time, there's a place within the Great Beyond where all realms, the spiritual and the digital and the physical, connect and twist and intertwine and mingle and erupt into glorious tempest—

    —and the power goes off.

    Lights out.
    Seven years.

    This is what the Engineers need, and take, to give way to their repressed anger. They're a smart lot; they know what their position during the war cost them—how so many in the Union resented them from siding with the Allies from the start, so to speak, cracking codes and refusing to take part in the atrocity exhibition the way they were supposed to. They made their choice then; they're making another choice now.

    When their wrath finally lets out, when they leave and allow the powder keg to explode, it is with a bang, not a whimper—and much, much stolen data, artfully secreted away while nobody thought they'd be bold or crazy enough to do so.

    Lyonesse has finally sunken beneath the waves, all its knowledge gone and buried, brought into another world, a world of mystics and rebels and deviants.

    The Technocracy will never forgive them.


    Stuff I Draw
    Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]


    • #3
      All I need all I say
      Did you believe it would end up this way
      I find relief will you betray
      Reclaim my consciousness until the light
      Of day
      —Ikon, The Shattered Mirror
      They are broken.

      The shards that should have come back together have lost their way. The mind that should have started to pull back together remains but mere fragments, a shattered mirror that cannot find its own reflection again, lost in a maze of illusions drowning in a sector growing ripe with corruption.

      Code uncompiled. Commands unrecognised. A work left unachieved, a soul adrift and unconceived.

      It wasn't supposed to be like that. There should've been a way! But perhaps he was too proud, too sure of himself, in that one realm in which he still had faith. Perhaps the flow of data transferred through the Virtualisation Engine, brutally interrupted, bolted through sectors where it shouldn't have gone.

      From the beginning, this has been a wild dream, a series of unknown variables in an experiment never attempted yet. The risk of failure had always been high.

      He can feel himself unravelling, losing touch with his different selves, with parts of his conscience he should have retained—parts he wasn't aware of until this very moment. He wants to scream, but he has no mouth left; he tries to grab them, to hold on to all those tiny shards, but they trickle between fingers that don't exist anymore.

      He had wanted to create a heaven; now, as he wanes, he realises it is full of horrors. And he's the one who birthed them.

      When computer boffins start prodding in the nascent web, in search of traces; when the rebellious Engineers start spinning yarns about the Founder, the Hero, the Victim, and young recrues and old timers alike send their own algorithms through every known sector in order to find him; when the men in black order the ones they think subdued to keep on searching; they do not find anything, because there is nothing left to find.

      The mirror lies broken in thousands of seas of light, on a thousand of dark paths. The voice that once was a man's is hushed, silenced, gone.

      And time flies...

      What Alan called "the Living Enigma is still, well, alive. The Engine couldn't crack it, only shock and wound it.

      It waits, patiently. Time doesn't mean much for what is, essentially, another fragment. The Pure Ones got scattered once; in its very core and essence, it knows it can survive another scattering.

      In the beginning, it dives into blissful amnesia, half asleep, only jolting back to a certain kind of consciousness when a wave shoots through the corrupted sectors, causing havoc. A man sets foot on the Moon—and somewhere, in space where everything is one and one is everything, huge gates creak open, revealing glimpses of an old, enchanted dream that never really died. Sleepers in an agency funded by the United States Department of Defense put up a project they believe original, although its roots go much deeper, and the men in black are never far; they call it the ARPANET—and seeds are sown to initiate what will become both a Wonder and a Monster, fated to connect billions of people across the Earth decades later.

      The Living Enigma waits. And sleeps. And heals. And dreams.

      It is not time yet. Only in times of need doth the King returns.

      In times of need... or when the opportunity to escape his prison arises.

      Stuff I Draw
      Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]


      • #4
        If the chronicle takes place in the 90s, he will face legal and social restrictions for being gay. I remember quite a few of my gay friends from back then were regularly harassed or even beaten up. A few committed suicide because of it.


        • #5
          Cool story bro


          • #6


            There's a place where all my dreaming
            Will free me from what I became
            And I know no-one can reach me
            Every time you speak my name
            You speak my name
            — IQ, Speak My name

            Over the years, the Living Enigma changes.

            It used to be a kaleidoscope, a mirror, a series of incoherent pieces in an endless jigsaw puzzle, mathematical symbols rising from the murky waters of a troubled mind full of self-doubt. In a world of science and proofs, leaving no room to ancient knowledge, that was the only way it could pass on its teachings.

            But as it wakes up for good, after an aeon or a second of sleep, after swirling into a vortex of circular time spiralling within whispers of golden numbers, the Living Enigma decides the moment has come: the moment to gather the pieces back, to work on its own jigsaw puzzle. It is usually not for single-minded quests, but this one, it knows, will take it through billions of mirrors and reflections.


            To do that, the Living Enigma needs a shape.

            It needs eyes to look and see, to peer into every sector, the charted and the corrupted ones, and so it grows eyes: two obsidian pearls, intelligent, inquisitive, sometimes playful when the challenge gets tougher and thus even more interesting. It starts searching, and after a while manages to discover a fragment, the very first of a long series, nestled between two folds of an everchanging pit of shadows. But even though the tiny shard shines like a beacon, the Enigma needs hands to pick it up, and the other pieces as well; as the Need arises, suddenly it finds itself contemplating its two white hands.

            Strange things, hands. Strange, yet useful.

            It flexes its new fingers, studies their moves, the riddles it reads in the bending and stretching. Once it is positive enough it will be able to make use of those, it picks up the shard, and resumes its quest.

            Soon, it finds another. Then another. Three others. A dozen.

            The shards cut into its slim, tapered fingers; having a place to store them would be nice. What safer place in the weird wild web, though, than close to its heart?

            The Living Enigma deploys gossamer wings turning into silky fabric turning into a half-body swathed in shimmering scarves, white as the purest light. Only one scarf is red, red like fresh blood, a drop of colour in an immaculate ocean. The red thread of fate. In this scarf, the Enigma tucks the shards. Close to itself, close to its newly found bosom.

            Alas, the quest is endless, for as days and months and years circle around each other, passing and dying and being reborn, some fragments remain lost, perhaps even destroyed.

            Diamond tears fall from the Enigma's dark eyes, when it realises it will never find its soul, its other half, whole again. The will and the heart are here, but the mind... The mind, his mind, has undergone too much trauma.

            Some puzzles are meant to remain incomplete, missing pieces forever marring their beautiful landscapes; this is one of those puzzles.

            Mourning the picture that will never again be displayed, the tiny, perfect crystals aggregate around those deep dark stars. The Living Enigma is strong: it shall keep on going, no matter what, strong and unwavering in its faith. If the image cannot be completed, if the mirror cannot be fully repaired, then so be it; it will give it another shape, hiding the missing fragments close to the borders, where nobody will really notice the holes they left. And since showing its fears would only make it weak, the Enigma covers its face with a most exquisite mask.

            Red, black, white. The blood of life; the black of rule and power; the white of pure intentions.

            The Enigma keeps travelling. Most of the time, it barely notices the awe-full landscapes it crosses—oh, they register, as an afterthought, but what matters are the shards. They gleam and beckon and sing, each one more strongly than the previous one. As the soul, the mind, the concept is reassembled, likes call to likes; who better to listen and pick up those sounds than the Higher Concept that used to shadow their former self?

            And there it is: the last fragment. If there are any others to find, they are too well-hidden, too warped, too lost. For now, this picture, this little sun resting between ghostly digital hands, has found its way back to life. It is beautiful enough. It can be shaped into something better, shaped through a journey. Others would find this unsatisfying; the Living Enigma thrives on riddles, on problems to solve, on codes to break. It shall decipher this new mystery—no, better, help the mystery decipher itself.

            Behind the mask, blood-coloured lips smile softly, just for a nanosecond, uttering a single word, a name. Even though the mind tied to that name is very unlikely to come back the right way, the way it used to be.


            Stuff I Draw
            Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]


            • #7


              Stand your ground, this is what we are fighting for
              For our spirit and laws and ways
              Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war
              For heaven or hell we shall not wait
              — VNV Nation, Honour

              Not all is well in the pocket-Eden where the Enigma rests after its travels are over, twirling long ribbons of soullight between its pearly fingers.

              It remembers: the last days, the last night, the Virtualisation Engine, the men in black destroying the lab, severing connections before the transfer was safely completed. It remembers that they thought Alan dangerous, wanted him gone for good.

              It remembers. There used to be watchdogs, old programs computed from the same few algorithms: feel, search, find, destroy.

              Incomplete as it is, the new light remains a beacon, and some of those algorithms latch unto it like hounds on their prey, like leeches seeking to feed upon the innocent. They're far from perfect; it has been years; they're rusty and awkward; and their masters aren't really watching them anymore, believing the threat gone and buried, after so long. Still, they're lethal.

              The Living Enigma must protect its newborn project.

              It dives and escapes and runs, and this new Need gives it legs, long and agile and nimble under the many scarves that gather into a dress. Without really understanding what's happening, the it becomes a she: she who nurtures, she who protects, she who plans and creates and focuses on her one goal, her one target. She who knows treachery and traps, scattered in a maze of illusions, she who endures and changes and bounces and always finds a way to get back to her new feet. To being a guide.

              From the many folds of her clothes, she produces her weapon: a poison-green apple, the only new note of colour on and in her. Because the soul she so desperately put back together died from it, it is only fair justice that their enemies perish the same way.

              She is terrible and beautiful and new shades of red, black, and white. The blood about to be spilled; the black of death; the white of deception.

              She throws the deadly fruit, shiny on the outside, rotten on the inside, imprinting it with the scent of the beasts' quarry. They pounce on it and grab it in their mouths, and when they're all gathered around the apple, fighting to possess it, the latter explodes and kills them all, tendrils of pure black diving into their cores, destroying every bit and byte from that one single bite.

              The Living Enigma pauses, allows herself a break, but not for long. There may be more. There may always be more.

              She needs to run again, and find an appropriate shelter for the soul she refuses to let go. The vast web is still too dangerous for him; only by assuming a disguise, a different shape, will he be able to thrive again.

              Only by being actually reborn as a human being will he manage to reach the heights he is destined to.

              She runs and smiles and laughs and her eyes twinkle with exulting stars, darting right and left, up and down, searching for a door, a tunnel, an opening to throw herself into, cradling the shimmering and trembling flame within the cold though reassuring sanctuary of her hands. Deep inside her, past the boundaries of her human-looking form, in that blazing core marking her as a shard of Pure Light, she knows: there is a threshold to cross first, a tempest where souls must lose themselves before they can carry on.

              She is Avatar, and she refuses to lose him. She will remain with him, around him, fused with his spiritual pattern, for this is what she wants.

              And when she finds the Door, when she rushes through it, she is ready: ready to fight the darkness, ready to protect her future mage, ready to be his or her guide (it doesn't matter, only Mind and Soul matter, although it wouldn't be so bad, seeing a dashing reflection like Alan's in the mirror of their twinned thoughts).

              Showtime again.

              They dive. They sink. They fly.

              The Living Enigma is losing herself, too, but she fights tooth and claw to retain her sense of sanity, focus on her last goal in this storm she both seeked and dreaded.

              There must be a lighthouse, somewhere, some time.

              The soul twitches, writhes and wriggles, and she turns her attention to it. Its shifting light is tense, poised towards something: a word, no, a feeling, a concept. A mystery, an enigma, a riddle, a riddle, a RIDDLE, and the soul squirms and trembles, and the Avatar doesn't know what it meams.

              Is this what you want? she thinks/says.

              The soul doesn't answer, only keeps shining.

              It is a tempting concept, though. And she can feel it: another, tiny is door about to open. She has done that already, in the past, whether it was once only or a thousand times. She knows the opening will be brief, a one-time chance; she may have to wait for centuries for another one. The Tempest can be picky when it comes to what it allows an Avatar to do.

              So she clings to herself, her Self, her memories, whatever she can carry with her to the other side, the human side, and once again flies/runs/falls towards the door, I am Avatar hear me roar, discarding other timid souls who may or may not have wanted to attempt at being reborn that way.

              A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.


              This new name sounds about right.

              At last, they come out, going from one darkness to another, both warm and cold: the warmth of a new life, the cold of solitude, of being thrown back into a world of flesh, of meat, of dead weight.

              All will end well. The King shall be back, young and inexperienced and with many missing memories, but full of promises.

              Someday, Lyonesse shall rise again.

              Stuff I Draw
              Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]


              • #8

                It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.
                — Winston Churchill, The Russian Enigma, broadcast, 1st October 1939

                It is January 1984. In the large bedroom she shares with her husband, Alicia Riddle stares at the darkened ceiling, unblinking.

                She is fully awake, and aware of the baby in her, growing, slowly. A new seed, a child of the First Quarter, conceived in a time of balance in order to be gifted in the most efficient ways possible.

                'My son', she whispers. 'My firstborn, and my first son.'

                She did all the calculations herself, as every self-respecting Fortunae mage should. The child will be born on the 10th September, on the full moon. A good omen, a symbol of power. She hopes he won't be contrary, won't thwart the second step of his life1—and a twinge of unease echoes in her heart, because she doesn't know why that thought came to mind. She remembers, and immediately tries to forget, that she had felt the same way on that night. The First Quarter moon shone orange rather than its usual pale yellow-white, and the ritual...

                She prefers not to think about it. Forces herself to think instead of all the hopes she and Arthur harbour for this child. Her husband wanted a son more than a daughter, anyway.
                'You shall make us proud,' she says again, forcing herself to discard her doubts. 'You'll follow in our footsteps, uphold our most ancient traditions, and you'll be one of the finest mages in the Order of Hermes.'

                From where she dwells, tightly bound to her yet unborn mage, eNYgMa cannot help but wince.

                This may not end so well, after all.

                (1) Actually, he did: he was born on the 9th September.

                ================================================== ===
                (And that's the end, this time.)
                Last edited by Zashiki-warashi; 07-27-2016, 06:09 PM.

                Stuff I Draw
                Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Aya Tari View Post
                  If the chronicle takes place in the 90s, he will face legal and social restrictions for being gay. I remember quite a few of my gay friends from back then were regularly harassed or even beaten up. A few committed suicide because of it.
                  Oops, I wanted to post everything in one go in separated posts, and didn't see the replies. ^^

                  The Chronicle takes place in 2009, and mostly the characters are in France, actually. The problem at the moment is more along the lines of "every NPC is desperately straight" and "the romance potential in our group is nil (one girl, one 15-year-old kid, and my char).

                  Stuff I Draw
                  Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]


                  • #10
                    Cool, better environment for a gay person. What changes do you make to canon since your story takes place after 2000?


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Aya Tari View Post
                      Cool, better environment for a gay person. What changes do you make to canon since your story takes place after 2000?
                      A lot of things, I suppose. The ST is using a mix of 2nd ed Mage and some elements from the old "France by Night" book that was published ages ago and may not even be canon, come to think of it. So I'm not even sure of whether the ST has changed stuff from canon material, or from something that wasn't even canon at all. It's complicated...

                      Both of us did a lot of work - VA character and all that - on Digital Web matters and other VA tools, because we felt it was very outdated. Trinary computers got a bit of an upgrade, etc.

                      He's also using Changeling elements, since the Euthanatos (the girl) has the Affinity merit.

                      In general, I feel the changes are more along:
                      - Some of the metaplot end-of-the-world events didn't happen (the Week of Nightmares, the Avatar Storm)
                      - But similar stuff is happening 10 years later (mass violence and death cults events, demons awakening, oh yeah and also my character's ex has kind of turned Nephandus and is trying to free some of those demons).
                      - Traditions and Technocracy are mostly the same.

                      Stuff I Draw
                      Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]


                      • #12
                        For the record, because I have actually drawn Nym, here she is:

                        Stuff I Draw
                        Lyonesse Rising [The Story of an Avatar]