The Whorl

Game 50 / Game 25 - The Priest

5,130 XP = Totals: 184,530 and 62,720

The Journal of Ulanni, Entry 1,231

I am, to my knowledge, the last surviving Arch-Thaumaturge from the pre-godswar era. My life has been carefully preserved by all of Yama's children because it is by my arts that the Guardian is able to manifest in our Underworld outposts. As a result, I have been left mostly to my own devices to maintain the network of summoning apparati. Not for me the endless war, the endless death and resurrection that so afflicts the others. Over the long millennia of my service I have had countless opportunities to speak, one on one, with one or more shards of the Guardian. I have pieced together deep truths from dropped morsels over all my centuries of effort.

This day the Guardian revealed most of these truths, without prevarication or subterfuge, to a decade of inner-surfacers.

One might think I would be jealous of them, but no… I am instead deeply terrified. For the Guardian to speak as it did to Cargo, for the Guardian to completely disregard the ancient laws that bind it, says a great deal about the speed at which the status quo is crumbling, and the increasing desperation of the gods.

These ten strangers, alien to the Underworld and our eternal war, arrived in two groups, each advancing (wittingly or unwittingly) the agendas of different factions of gods and entities within the inner reaches of the Whorl. The first to arrive, and the ones who made by far the biggest splash in the Duskward Outpost, were led by the will and the agenda of a Forged Cleric of Brahma named Ballast. This cleric had been given a choice by its god. It didn't like either option and came to petition the Guardian to break the rules and rewrite reality to suit its desires. The second group to arrive were the very same individuals who freed the power regulation systems from half-functional exile. They came seeking Ballast, but also seeking answers from the Guardian concerning the agenda of the Archdevils (supported, it seems, reluctantly, by the goddesses of Civilization).

Neither group, however, were uniform in their desires. There seemed to be a broad spectrum of opinion and disagreement within each group about how, precisely, to resolve the problems they could perceive in the agendas of the gods and other beings who sought to use them as pawns. The Guardian brought clarity, but no easy answers.

As the sole local witness to this large conversation with the Guardian, I will seek to distill its essence. I will doubtless fail in some particulars, but hopefully this record will serve to remind me of necessary details should I require them.

The core paradox at the heart of all things is this: the magical technology exists (and has always existed) to win this war, or to abandon it. There are multiple methods by which we could crush The Outsider's forces, and even bring the war to the world below, some of which the visitors had already grasped. But to pursue any one of those methods would be to violate the very core purposes for which the whorl was built, to overturn Mahadeva's plan entirely, violating countless Laws woven into the fabric of reality, possibly risking catastrophic system failure.

The whorl was built, some 87,000 years ago, by Mahadeva using the power and magic of a society of humans who had elevated themselves to something beyond even the gods. They had left physical bodies behind, creating and inhabiting them only as desired, and otherwise existing in Realms custom-built to suit their needs. These ancient god-like humans had once been physical, biological creatures, certainly, but over the eons they had grown to something entirely other. Part of their magical technology included the capacity to copy themselves, edit or change any aspect of their own being to suit their purposes, and to exist in multiple places simultaneously. They had left the very concept of mortality behind. Although it was technically possible to slay one through a process enigmatically referred to as "datacide," it was incredibly difficult, and generally not done. 

Mahadeva, or perhaps a faction of beings allied with him, realized that humanity, as a concept, had become extinct. They sought, then, out of either nostalgia or some desire to undo the perceived mistakes of the past, to reconstitute physical, mortal humans and relocate them to a new world far from the indolent society of "ascended" humanity. For this purpose was the Whorl built, and physical humans created to populate it. 

Mahadeva made a copy of himself to guide the Whorl to its destination, and that copy created the Gods, lesser "programs" meant to govern the various complex interlocking magical systems that kept the Whorl functioning for many millennia of its voyage through the eternal void. Mahadeva would also shave off "shards" of himself, lesser copies devoid of most of his great knowledge, created to do repairs or other specific tasks. This is what the Guardian is, and why I refer to it in the singular even though there are multiple "angels" in existence. 

For a being such as Mahadeva, it was trivial to create souls, persistent real-time copies of every mortal mind in the whorl, existing in the Astral Plane and tied to each sapient being. But because he intended for people to live, love, breed, and die in the model of the humans of old, he never intended for their souls to be persistent, endlessly living copies such as exist today. When people died, their souls were archived in Elemental Earth, functionally asleep, stored such that their knowledge might be a source of wisdom and information for the Cargo once our destination was reached, but never to be cognizant and "alive" again. Mahadeva's destruction shattered many systems, and the breaking of the law of death was one of the more significant. While Kali does the best she can storing the souls of the dead, the best she can do is keep them relaxed and unconcerned about the passage of time. They remain aware, essentially "alive" even though they can no longer be resurrected.

This is the fundamental problem. The Triune Gods of the Underworld, Brahma, Durga, and Yama, seek to circumvent Kali without negating her function or overruling Mahadeva's plan by using the "loophole" of "undeath", spinning up the Forges once more to create soulless Forged bodies and implanting the souls of dead warriors into them. This creates an army of immortal warriors not bound by the laws of death or birth. The problem is that the Forged are, currently, bound by those very laws, and Brahma cannot create more of them without undoing the changes he and Mahadeva initiated to make them sentient, granting them the facsimile of sapience. Furthermore, even if the Forged as a species cease, replaced by vast armies of the dead inhabiting bodies of metal and wizard-glass, what is to become of those armies once the war is won? Will the immortal dead come to rule the mortal living?

The Archdevils and (apparently) the goddesses of Civilization seek to avoid such a dichotomy by removing mortality entirely. They seek to slay Kali, freeing thousands of years of dead souls to live again. Ending the requirement that death claim us, allowing infinite resurrection, infinite life, not only for those who currently live, but for those who have been dead since the godswar. With such a host the war could easily be won. Each death would be but a momentary inconvenience. Furthermore, it seems The Thrannis wishes to push the plan into the realm of creating persistent copies of souls/people, allowing any one person to be a potential legion. This removes the problem of "undead" immortals potentially ruling, dominating, enslaving, or exterminating mortal humans by removing the very concept of mortal humans. Of course this just insures that the people who will win the war are, in most respects, identical to the society from which Mahadeva originated, a society he created the whorl and its people to get away from.

The systems of the whorl were not designed to host the spirits of the dead indefinitely. They tend to break down, go mad, suffer something the Guardian referred to as "data corruption." The devils and the fae are excellent examples, but any soul that persists long enough will suffer from it. If humans are to (once more) shed their physical forms, the systems of the whorl, the rules by which it was built, will have to be changed in countless ways to permit it. After all, Mahadeva built all of this specifically to prevent exactly this outcome.

What, then, are we to do? We are caught between a foe that grows ever more knowledgeable and cunning and a paradox that prevents us from using the magic and methods we have always possessed to win.

Needless to say, the paradox was not resolved by ten inner-surfacers over the course of a handful of hours. They all DID agree, however, that we need to buy more time to work on the problem. To that end, they have promised to lend their efforts to an extremely ambitious plan to destroy The Elder, the node or entity or disembodied mind that acts as a hub for all enemy activity in the Underworld. To that end, they have departed the Guardian's spire and have returned to speak with the Triumvirate. May they find success in war. 

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ardhanari

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