Excerpt: Astride The Veil – Fourth Edition,
by Lumas DiRadole

By the fourth day of trying to translate for my colleague, I was desperate. Occipitale’s over-riding curiosity about everything and anything had led to enough misadventures across the last three days.

The fourth morning after my resurrection, Occipitale flew into the college stables and spooked the horses badly. I cannot fault them, objectively; a flying mass of eyeballs is a little much for even an experienced collegiate member to take in before breakfast. Much less one that insists on flying about you from every angle, staring and staring.

It did not help my case that the stablemaster overheard me chastising Occipitale. In any other place, I’d have been put out of town. He told me later he’d overheard me saying something along the lines of “Porcupine quills in the tear ducts.”

Of course, I had consciously said no such thing; my rebuke to Occipitale was sharp and pointed. But in the fugue of convening with my colleague, I recalled it as a stern and polite warning not to spook the animals, and to temper his curiosity with patience and caution.

To a fellow spirit-walker, speaking to a spirit is as natural and thoughtless a process as it is to turn and speak to a neighbour. You don’t think about the process; you just look over at the nearest person, open your mouth, and words come out. You have conversations, and interact socially, often thoughtlessly, without higher care of the actual process of communication.

Speaking to spirits is no different for a spirit-walker. The transcriptions of my discussions with Occipitale are useless gibberish, objectively speaking. Yet any spirit-walker in earshot would understand me as clear as day, and would find Occipitale’s blinking, stares, and shifts of focus to be as natural and easy to follow as any daily conversation.

Translation can be difficult, however. Many concepts of the spiritual mind are extemporary, or conditionally temporal. There is no easy allowance in spoken language for ‘that which might be if that which might be were not that which might be but is but might be’, for example; and yet this is a perfectly ordinary conditional-tense clause by the thought patterns of an immortal spirit.

Included herein is a simple transcript as recorded by a volunteer scribe of the College. I believe I was discussing breakfast, that day:

Lumas: “Refract the retinal blink dissipation, iral opthamy of lacrimal asthenopia. Ectropion estropia, macula presbyopia.”

(Transcriber’s note: Lumas DiRadole was observed to blink his left eye four times, his right eye twice, and blinked both eyes simultaneously once. His left and right eyes tracked independently of each other for approximately one second, while saying ‘lacrimal asthenopia’.)

Occipitale: (Transcriber’s note: The attendant spirit Occipitale was observed to blink eyes 34, 21, and 17 in this order, while eyes 5 and 8 and 44 rotated sympathetically in counter-clockwise directions. Eyes 1, 6, 13, and 19 remained focused on Lumas. Eyes 3, 4, and 10 observed me, the transcriptor. Eyes 2, 5, 12, and 16 explored the room. Eyes 7 and 9 did not open during this interaction. No detectable pattern observed from other eyes.)

As the reader can surely appreciate, no meaningful communication can be drawn from this interaction without the benefit of living astride the veil.

Experiments with the linguistic roots of spirit-walker communication have borne no meaningful fruit. When asked to repeat to Occipitale, the phrase: “The dog barked.” multiple times, the following transcriptions were recorded:

Lumas: “Tonometric vitreous sclera.”
Lumas: “Optic perimetric fovea.”
Lumas: “Drusen pentocular saccadal blind blind.”

(Transcriber’s note: Lumas insisted he had repeated himself exactly, three times. He was mildly surprised to see the transcription indicated entirely different words for each repetition. As for the third repetition, containing a fourth and fifth word repeated, he could not at all account for.)

It was when I invoked the Divine in my frustration at tempering Occipitale’s boundless curiosity, that I held his full attention. To my transcriptionist’s ear, the word ‘divine’ was invoked without the usual garbling. This implies that the concept of the Divine is one shared by both spirit-walker and mortal alike.

Occipitale inquired deeply and greedily of my knowledge of the divine. And so began a great many days of eager study through theological tomes, scripture, prayer books, and the lives and histories of saints. The tales of the Pope and Alektos was of particular fascination to Occipitale.

On matters of the Divine, the spirits look to mortals for guidance. Our souls are replenished by the Divine, they explain. At the point that a soul is divested of its final memory, whether it be stored, stolen, or simply allowed to be lost, Occipitale confirms that souls vanish briefly from the realm beyond the veil.

How and where they go is unknown, even to Alektos. But it is the consensus of the spirits and mortal theologians alike that it is the privilege of the mortal soul to return to the Divine. Upon their return to the mortal realm in reincarnation, they mass their original twenty-one grams, restored and renewed.

It is from the spirits we can confirm that reincarnation is a fact. Some spirits mark souls by magic, in the hope that their prayers will be conveyed by the mortal spirit to the divine source. These souls marked as messages to the Divine return from their rejuvenation still marked, though it is unknown if the Divine reads them. What is beyond the realm past the veil, not even the greatest Spirits know. They look to us for guidance, seeing us as closer to the Divine than ever they can be.

On the matter of the Saints, they too are verified by independent observers, and taught in most any liturgical manual. The first incarnation of the Pope struck a grand pact with the spirit Alektos. Within Alektos, the souls of the Saints sit in eternal council, invited to rest and lend their voice to matters of the mortal realm. It is the Pope and Alektos who speak with their voice, but many are the individual spirits and spirit-walkers who seek the guidance and ear of a Saint. Many spirit-walkers lobby them for favorable voices and votes in matters brought before their council.

***

Excerpt: Quantifying Miracles
by Anilas Teferi

When Milos Saliazeri hypothesized that energy and matter were intertwined, it raised irresistible questions about the soul. Through experimentation on the dead and undead, we have verified that it is the soul that is the wellspring of all magic. But if the soul contains or generates the energy of a lifetime worth of magic, then assuredly it must have mass.

With the kind assistance of the patients and staff of the Basilica Hopitale in Cadalenza, I arranged for dying volunteers to be carefully weighed prior to, during, and after death. In an experiment spanning ten years and two hundred and fourteen patients, a consistent variation of twenty-one grams was recorded in the post-mortem mass of the patients. Saliazeri’s hypothesis of the soul having mass was thereby verified to the satisfaction of the metaphysical sciences community.

More intriguing than the baseline twenty-one grams, however, were the exceptions. The first indication that the mass of a soul was variable was with the death of the spirit-walker Arturo Guiseppe, in which a change of mass of only eleven grams was noted after his death. A few years later, Samantha Cartier of Montaigne fell afoul of her attendant spirit’s temper, and was struck a mortal wound. Once more, the change of mass was anomalous after death, recorded and verified as only eleven grams.

Further observations of volunteer Spirit-walkers have borne out the hypothesis of variable mass of the soul. In the Thousand Kingdoms, I had the strange fortune to befriend a woman, Mother Priya, who led a cult of spirit-walker students. Raised from birth to be spirit-walkers, each volunteered at the age of twelve to be placed under the sacrificial knife. In a barbaric ceremony, they were struck dead with instructions to return to life pacted with a spirit. Approximately half of all those struck dead never returned; but with the cooperation of the cult, they permitted me to weigh the surviving and deceased children, before and after the ceremony.

The variation of mass between the living and the spirit walker was verified, consistently, as ten grams. This represented the tithe of the soul to the pacted spirit, payment in advance for a lifetime of service.

But the most rare and fascinating of the oddities and anomalies that arose from experiments in quantifying souls, occurred with the passing of Mathilda Veracrenza. She was a regional celebrity, acclaimed for the Miracle of Santa Fieri. Thirty-four years before her death, Mount Posta, a volcano dormant for the past two centuries, erupted violently and without warning.

With the peril of lava and pyroclastic flow streaming down Mount Posta towards her family and farmlands, a hysterical Mrs. Veracrenza was seen by witnesses screaming, and then slapping the stone face of the mountain.

The change in the shape and geographical topology of the mountain has been measured and recorded. Her hand struck the mountain, and moved an estimated six million cubic meters of rock by four hundred meters to the west, diverting the pyroclastic flow safely away from her home and community.

Over four thousand witnesses around the region came forward with testimony verifying the miracle. Her impending passing of natural causes, three decades later, was a cause of deep lamentation for the community proud of it’s local candidate for sainthood.

Upon her death, the staff at the Basilica Hospitale recorded a change in mass of only nineteen grams. After careful calibration and verification, no measurement error could be determined. Here was a soul, an exceptional soul of an exceptional individual, publically lauded for an act of the arcane so titanic in scope and scale that it exceeded all human imagination. And her soul massed two grams less than the baseline.

When these reports reached me in my office at the College, I travelled immediately to the Basilica Hospitale to meet with the surviving family, and interview them. The widower Salazar Veracrenza was kind enough to accept my intrusion into his grief, and speak to me at length of the life of Missus Veracrenza after her miracle.

Most relevant to my investigations was the report that after her miracle, Mathilda appeared to be depressed and withdrawn from the world. While her reaction might have been natural to an introvert, Mathilda was, prior to her miracle, known to be an energetic social butterfly at ease at festivals and social engagements.

“She changed,” her husband said to me. “She became quiet. Not sad, exactly, but it was like life had dimmed for her. She could still laugh and cry now and then, but the passions of the world seemed muted. She told me that on the day of her miracle, she had been so frightened at the thought of the loss of all she loved, that part of her never recovered. She told me: ‘It feels like a little part of me died that day, to save the rest.'”

It would be fourteen more years before I could repeat my findings. This time it would be with Catalina Madeline, the Saint of Eastwinds, who held back a hurricane for four hours to rescue sailors trapped upon a sandbar. By her and her family’s kind courtesy, she permitted her pre-mortem and post-mortem weighing. The deviation, post-mortem? Her soul massed twenty grams.

At this point I had reasonable evidence to hypothesize the mechanism by which miraculous arcane workings are generated: At the cost of the consumption of some mass of the soul, miraculously powerful works are produced. The cost appears to be permanent, both in spiritual, emotional, and magical capacity. Consistently, we see reports of those who have performed miracles suffering depression, withdrawing from the world, and complaining of their arcane expressions being weaker in all applications than once they were.

With the output of Thaum previously given quantified measurements, quantifying miracles became a matter of orders of magnitude, both in scope and rarity.

For example, we can calculate the energy required, to perform the Miracle of Mount Posta:

Six million cubic metres of rock, multiplied by the density of the rock at 2,700 kilograms per cubic metre, multiplied by the energetic requirements to accelerate that mass sufficiently to move it four hundred meters in the span of just a few seconds. With some approximations, we can quantify the Miracle of Mount Posta as so:

Total mass moved: 16,200,000,000 kilograms
Estimated acceleration: 150 metres per second
Energy required: 182,250,000,000,000 Joules
Thaum required (660,000J per Thaum): 276,136,363

We arrive at a comfortable approximation 182 trillion Joules. Expressed in Thaum, the values are astounding: Approximately 276 million Thaum.

The cost of this miracle to her soul? Two grams.

Extrapolating from this miracle affords us reasonable working approximations of the titanic, but finite limits, of the capacity of any soul for a miracle:

21 grams of soul, expended entirely in one second, would generate approximately 2 Billion Thaum, or 1.9 Quadrillion Joules. If expressed as conjured mass sustained for one second, a conjuration of 5.6 Quadrillion kilograms of mass would be created before dissipating. If expressed as an output of 1 Thaum per second, it would output continuously for 63 years. This is plausibly close enough to the lifespan of a human being to raise interesting questions about the very purpose of Thaum biologically.

For a brief moment, a single frightened woman fearing for the life of her family and homestead, exerted more magic than the entirety of the population of Montaigne could voluntarily channel. There is no more appropriate word for such an event than “miracle.”

***

Excerpt: The Bricks of Faith
by Radcliffe DuLaurier

As the battles for the unification of the faithful continued, the physical security of the Third Incarnation of the Pope and his staff were of paramount concern. While Bastia had welcomed unification of the faiths within thirteen years, the patience of the people and the Empire for religious battles in the streets was never thick to begin with.

Desperate protestants made concerted efforts to strike at the Pope and structure. Most fielded armies of the faithful, and were soundly trounced by the superior strategic capacities of the Church of the Saints. Unification was on the horizon, and as that dawning light grew ever brighter, more and more faiths were finding truth and comfort in the counsel of the Saints. When the Kamzites agreed to fold their faiths into the Church of the Saints, it was a watershed moment, regarded around the world as the sign of an inexorably ascending unified Church.

The public popularity of the Church of the Saints could not be ignored, nor could the political dangers of such growing influence. After difficult negotiations with the Emperor’s families, and in exchange for concessions and vows to remain apolitical, the Church was given a gift of fine land in the heart of Bastia. Construction of the Grande Cathredale began within three years, as tithes of the faithful flowed along Bastia’s rivers, aided by grand artist renderings of the cathedral to be completed.

While rebuffed initially in the Thousand Kingdoms, emissaries and priests found some toeholds for the united faithful. Hanshu tolerated the Church of the Saints presence as they did all religions; with mild disdain, but with unimpeded religious practices.

It was in Venicia that the Church of the Saints found a second home. The First and Second Incarnation of the Pope having both been born in Venicia lent an authenticity and joy to to the Pope’s welcome, and the services of Alektos and the counsel of the Saints had benefitted Venicia greatly in but two generations. When news of a grand cathedral being built in the Empire reached the ears of the nobles and king of Venicia, a polite sort of riot broke loose, as purse strings were opened and promises lavished, land gifted and artisans and masons retained.

Within five years, the first phase of the construction of the Grand Cathredale of Bastia was complete, with construction ongoing for thirty-five more years, set back by two damaging attacks and sacks by knights of rival churches.

In Venicia, no such attacks were permitted; conversions were many, and resistance few, and the amicable nature of the Church of the Saints required no forswearing of worship. Within a generation, most churches in Venicia had converted and embraced the Church of the Saints. Their cathredale took seven years to complete, and while not as richly appointed as that of Bastia, the arguments as to which is more beautiful are the legendary debates of centuries.

Of particular note and debate are the careful arrangements of wards and runes throughout both structures. Not only fashioned to protect the building and the faithful within from every sort of calamity, but they were fashioned with a great harmony in mind, intended to be pleasing to every sense welcomed through the gate. It is the life’s work of no less than twenty-five master runesmiths, working in concert, to assure that every rune was tuned and positioned in a fashion pleasing and kind to visitors and residents alike.

“To be secure of the body requires stout walls,” said Juliet Racipe, lead Runemaster of the Grande Cathredale during its second renovation. “But to be secure of mind and heart requires harmony. It is the joy of our vocation to lend comfort and protection to not only the body, but the senses, and thus the mind and heart. Every place within these walls should be a comfort. Every place should be not only safe, but kind. That is the promise of the church to the faithful.”

***

Excerpt: Prima Relicario di Cerchio – Catalog number #534

Artifact Description:

A prayer book bound in brown deerskin leather, numbering three hundred and eight pages. The inside front cover is inscribed: “This book belongs to Jordina Aysha, my fine sunshine. – R. S. Please return if found.”

Notations along the margins are found with accompanying prayer verse, and are noted in the briefing notes below.

Presentation instructions:

Upon presentation to reliquary or bearer, a full briefing should proceed, with forty-five minutes allotted for the passing of the sacred tale.

Honored Brothers and Sisters are reminded to be kind and calm in the giving of the tale; the heart and soul of her memory lives on through our words, and by these do we kindle the faithful, and guard their hearts.

Artifact context:

Saint Aysha provided divine intervention in the cleansing of a curse of Miasmer origin, in the summer months of 453 in the town of Chantile, Montaigne. The Miasmer curse was self-propagating by design, behaving in a fashion similar to plague. Corpses of the dead rose and attacking the living, further spreading the disease. The town of Chantile suffered losses in the hundreds. Saint Aysha’s miraculous intervention cleansed the town and surrounding countryside for miles of the taint, preserving the lives of fifty surviving faithful, and countless future victims.

The artifact is her personal prayer-book, and functioned during the time as the sole resource she had at hand to record her observations and thoughts during her trials.

Priority distribution: Forensic pathologists.

Recommended distribution: Reliquary, medical support, detectives, and sanctifiers.

Replication permitted: Yes. Original is housed. No more than one replica to be distributed per continent.

Excerpted notes follow, see full catalog listing for complete sacred tale.

[Page 4, Estimated date, July 5th, 453]

I’ve never been so tired.

The hospice was overrun last night. I don’t even want to remember what it felt like. Doctor Belin won’t talk to me, won’t even look at me.

I’m not sure what’s worse, being wrong, or being too late to be right.

It’s burning in my lungs again. Every few days I clean it out. But someone’s always coughing.

Divinity in light, and flesh in shadow,
it is the right of a soul to linger to life,
but not death.

Saints wait to greet us, and Saints wait to guide us,
but first is our duty to the Divine to preserve life,
not bring death.

I bow my head to Saints and Light,
I bow my head to life
may Death take me when it is due,
and may I preserve for myself and others
that which is due.

I will proclaim the Divinity of Life.
I will guard the light in my breast
I will guard the fire of my sister’s faith
I will guard the earth of my brothers bones
and the water of my mother’s womb
and the blood of my father’s heart
and the joys and sorrows of my fellows.

To all that is divine I would give life,
from all that is life I would receive the divine.
May the Saints guide me.

[Page 208, Estimated date July 17th, 453]

Doctor Belin died last night. We pushed his body out the bell tower. He bit three. Coughed on me. Cleaned it out. It stinks, every time. Like ashes and cabbage gone just a bit moldy.

It’s getting to the point you can just smell who’s sick and who isn’t.

Three times, I wrote up my findings and observations. Three times. Now everyone who ignored it is dead. If you find this, it’s the stink of it. Once you smell it, it gets inside you. You can clean it out. But there’s so much here. Every time it gets in, it stinks.

This isn’t just a plague.

Restful make the dead.
Allow no grave defiled,
no shell unblessed.

Make my hand yours,
and my heart,
and my will,
that the dead may rest,
until born anew.

Restful make the dead.
Restful make the dead.
Saints and Divine,
restful make the dead.

[Page 106, Estimated date July 19th, 453]

Rain again. Water from the gutters. Some were too thirsty to wait for it to boil first. That’s how the cholera will get in, or the dysentery. Paul found a summer-spoiled pigeon egg under a rafter. Sophie and Marcus fought him for it. They ended up smearing it on their faces in their haste to eat it. It stunk up the attic, worse than the dead below.

We’re out of food. But we’ve got water enough for a few more days. I barely sleep. I clean out the stink in one person and find it in two more. Recurring cycles of infection. No immunity. It’s not a plague.

IT IS NOT A PLAGUE.

Saints guide my healing heart,
faith and piety lay fever to rest.
Compassion for a pox, and
make of your love an anti-plague
that it may find and make strong
all the hearts of the faithful.

To Saints and Divine, I ask, guide my hand.

[Page 19, Estimated date July 22nd, 453]

Marceline is due. The baby is coming. Into this filthy, wretched attic. The dead still shuffle below. The stink is everywhere. I can’t clean it. I can’t. I clean it and it goes and it comes back and it comes back and I can’t stop it I don’t know how to stop it all Saints please help me please don’t let my niece be born not in this stinking box we’re all waiting to die

Divine guide this life anew
faithful and pure, aglow in joy
ready the runes for the infant’s
first squall, for mother’s first tear
for the powers of joy arisen
in our hearts

Divine, guide this life anew
from bosom of the Saints
and back again
its path lit forever by
the light of our joy

Divine, guide this life anew.
We welcome you with love.

[Page 219-220, Estimated date July 23rd, 453]

Nicole was born. She smelled of ashes and cabbage
[Inventory note: The rest of the page is torn.]

[Inside back cover, Dated July 27th, 453]

They said I should write down what I remember. I don’t, not much. I was so, so scared, and so sad, and when Nicole started to gag and cough I couldn’t [Inventory note: The line cuts off, water damage noted.]

Nicole is fine now. Everyone is. Maurice says I held Nicole close and I said something and then all this magic came. It came and it came and it was so big I don’t know how I could stop it even if I wanted to.

Maurice said it was like arms of Light that wanted to wipe the world clean. He said it smelled like daisies and sunlight.

I just wanted Nicole to be okay. I wanted everyone to be okay. I don’t know what I feel now. Numb. Relief, I think.

Nicole is okay. That’s what matters.


Click here to read Chapter 3.0 – Witness