29 December 2015

Significant Digits, Chapter Thirty-Four: Directoire Exécutif






Significant Digits, Chapter Thirty-Four: Directoire Exécutif


When we look for a guiding hand, where do we look?  Ever upwards, ever upwards!  The stars above radiate a divine influence, and it washes over everything.  It gives shape to the lesser seers and to our own wishes, and it gives magic to the flower in the field and beast in the fold.  Their unknowable will provides for the oddities of magic.  Why does a certain word have effect with a certain wand?  Upwards, ever upwards!  It is the will of the stars!  If you wish to find a pattern to the world, then you must look only upwards… ever upwards!  That is the secret of all magic.

-excerpted from Lord Runcible LeValley‘s translation of The Stars Our Destiny, by Guileford Wednesday

What possible congruence of theories or schemes could explain the many aspects of magic in the world?  It is an outright impossibility, and any attempt to square the circle must reckon with the seemingly innumerable contradictory and unfathomable aspects of the magical world.  The blanket assertion that the stars are at work is not explanation enough.

Gamp’s Law of Transfiguration, which sets limits seemingly imposed by culture and custom?  The inherent magical properties of the subjects of magizoology and herbology, where unthinking flora and fauna both defy consistent categories?  The law of sympathy that underlies many rituals or potions, drawing upon either a metaphorical intimacy or a synecdochal partiality to a power or target in order to channel the effect?  The potent accidental magic of the underaged, which seems to have no relation to any theory of practised magic, but instead dwells in a realm of will, wishes, and wild randomness?  The linguistic uniformity of high ritual and new spells alike, with onomatopoeic properties to incantations which range from the most ancient syllabaries to last week’s innovations?  Wordless or wandless magics, which rely upon a twist of thought or frame of mind to produce the intended effect -- even when that twist or frame bears not the slightest resemblance to the spoken spell?

Magic is a mystery by its very nature, and each field and aspect of study deserves its own theories -- they cannot be reconciled with each other in some grand schema.  In every age, and even in our own waning era, the only advancements have come from dedicated transfigurationists, potioneers, magizoologists, enchanters, and the like… never from the grand madness of addled “magical theoreticians.”  Magic is a gem with many facets, through which we may shine light from many directions.  But try to shine light through them all, and you produce no illumination: only confusion.  Try to combine these facets into a single face, and you produce no lens -- not even the manifold lights of Wednesday’s much-beloved stars: only fragments.

-excerpted from American Mage’s review of same


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡

On the shores of the lake of teeth, where the black hills end, Tír inna n-Óc
May 15th, 1999
Three weeks later

Once upon a time, a city of tents and pavilions stood here, illuminated by its own small sun.  Bundiwigs and lejis would run in laughing circles before gladsome parties of elegant gaunts, while the visc let tissue-thin wings carry them in lazy loops overhead.  When their sun darkened, it would be time for the sharpening.

But all of that was in the past, and no one today remained to tell that story.  There was only the gentle whisper of tooth on tooth as the ivory waves rolled upon the shore… and a certain quiet wail hidden in the wind.

Three figures stood in the uncertain grey light, their dream-flesh composed of intricately moving shadows.

“So then,” said the first figure.  “Our American witch and her organization are gone -- years of management, wiped out by incompetence and chance.  And now the British bishop has been captured, wasting more of our time.  Entire days of our time, considering the effort spent in scrying for her location, altering her to our needs, capturing her pawns from hither and thither, and using the Touch to maintain our position.  Our situation has worsened, and the Tower remains beyond our sight or reach.  We cannot trigger the Lethe Touch and protect ourselves.  We are exposed.”

The second figure listened silently.  After the first was done speaking, it turned to regard the third creature of living shadow, inviting the conversation to continue.

“And so we need a next move, Meldh, to build on this one,” replied the third figure.  “It seems clear that the attack worked in its essentials.  The Tower was breached and its defenders defeated.  Yet there is little discussion in the British gendarmerie about changing their defenses.  There is no reason not to awaken Tineagar and send her to the attack.  We still have the wolf at Busan -- if we double the force we send, then they will succeed by main strength.  There is little risk.”

“The risk is that we would be wasting our time, enacting the same foolish plan again, and we would be risking leaving the American in their hands, as well.  She has much of your lore, Nell -- would you see it released back into the world, to strengthen and perpetuate the threat of magic?”  Meldh’s voice was strident.

“Success will mean we might eliminate the risk of exposure through Bellatrix Black, as well as the threat of the Tower, and cut off the entire threat of this new approach to magical discovery.  A few charms and Brittonic rituals are a small risk,” said Nell, dismissively.

“When your toes are at the brink, every handspan of distance counts.  What if it is the spread of the Babylonian Garden that pushes us over?” retorted Meldh.  “I do not doubt you equipped your bishop with that ritual, in addition to a pack of howling idiots.  What if the boy employs it in conjunction with the Philosopher’s Stone?  How many of him do you wish to face?”

“A direct hand is needed,” said the second figure, interjecting.  “You were correct in our last conversation, when you said as much.  We have passed the point where we can hope to deter this new regime.  By the time any further action can be taken, all the world will be united.  It is time to take control, and employ this new tool that has been readied for our use.”

This suggestion, phrased in the mildest of tones, struck the other two like a physical blow.

“You will venture forth and risk yourself?  That is... surprising,” said Meldh.

“Not myself.  You.”  said the second figure.

This prompted an even longer pause.

“I am not certain that is wise.  Putting myself beyond your sight, protection, and aid… I would be submitting myself to greater dangers than I have encountered in centuries.”

“I will enrich you with my own lore.”

“I am grateful,” said Meldh, although his tone of voice suggested otherwise.  “And yet it would be risky beyond ken.  The dangers are… formidable.  I am more accustomed to moving other pieces.  That is the sure way: observe and touch at a distance.  Until this moment, there was much to be learned even by simple correspondence games.  And then a whispered word or the gift of a bit of knowledge… that is the way to do it, I think.”  But rather than assertive, Meldh’s words were hopeful.

“You are powerful and wise, and more than capable,” offered Nell, who had been quiet during this exchange.  “And you would have all of our support.  You are the master of the Touch -- it was you who reshaped the pyromancer we employed in our first attempt to curtail the boy, and neither of us could have done it better.  If any of us must take control --” (and her tone left no doubt that it was as good as settled) “-- then it can be no other but you.”

“We cannot wait and attempt influence by less immediate means.  New devices appear every month.  They defy the very grasp of the earth.  The risk is untenable,” said the second figure.

“I understand,” said Meldh, slowly.

The second figure spoke reassuringly.  “The Mirror, late of Atlantis, proves to be the means by which the Tower has escaped us.”  Meldh and Nell both moved slightly, and had they visible faces rather than fractal shadow, surprise might have been evident there.  “It is being used in a manner that is crude but effective -- a single realm of the boy’s choosing, with passage left unspecified.  All may enter, and all are subject to its strictures… but it is another world, out of reach.  When you do this, it will be yours, along with the Stone of the Long Song.”

Nell turned sharply at this, saying, “But --”

“His,” affirmed the second figure, and Nell fell silent.

“Very well,” said Meldh.  “But we will act with completeness, then.  We have our pawns in the goblins -- rouse them.  And a secondary line within Britain.  If I am to personally intervene, then I require everything we can bring to bear.  If we succeed, I will not begrudge whatever extra time is necessary afterwards to hide our hand.”

The other two agreed, solemnly, and for some time they discussed the ways in which they would ready themselves.  Eventually, they departed the realm of nightmare-stuff.  The dark shore was once more unpeopled, and only a gaunt’s lost wail within the wind was left to suggest it had ever been otherwise.

Tír inna n-Óc endured.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡

John Snow Center for Medicine and Tower School of Doubt (The Tower)
The same day

“Okay then,” said Harry Potter-Evans-Verres, Dean of the Science Program at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, head of the Tower School of Doubt, key advisor to a series of expendable Ministers for Magic, chief architect behind the development of entire new fields of wizardry, and guiding hand behind the course of the world.  “I would like someone to seriously explain to me why we are calling them sfaironauts, and why I can’t change it.”

There was a series of groans from around the table.  Cedric Diggory crumpled up a wad of parchment and threw it at Harry, while Amelia Bones and Alastor Moody gave each other despairing glances.  Draco Malfoy looked annoyed,  Percy Weasley looked uncomfortable, and Luna Lovegood probably would have looked bored if she had been paying attention (she was thinking about fish).  Reg Hig didn’t react at all, only glancing up from the stack of parchments in front of him.

“I would like to discuss Bellatrix Black,” said Bones, folding her hands in front of her on the meeting room table.

Harry sighed, and appeared to resign himself.  “What about her?”

“Alastor and I agree that she cannot remain in Nurmengard.  It’s not secure enough,” Bones said, glancing over at Moody.  The handsome young man said nothing, but his roving eye -- now back where it belonged, after long hiatus -- whipped around to fix itself on the youthful Supreme Mugwump.  “It has taken fully a week and an entire dedicated staff to begin to engage her mind, and we are nowhere near the depth of penetration necessary to extract secrets or spells from her, but recent events are a different thing.  She has seen, well…”  Bones trailed off, pursing her lips.

“Her mind is nastier than a Hungarian Horntail and twice as dangerous,” said Moody, finally.  “It’s like she’s taken an Unbreakable Vow to fight all intrusions into her brain.”  He paused, and his eye spun in his head.  “Not a bad idea, actually.”

Harry shook his head.  “If you’re looking to move her somewhere more secure than Nurmengard, the obvious question is: why is there anywhere more secure than Nurmengard?  Whatever you’re doing better in that other place, do it at Nurmengard, too.”

“I maintain that we’re being short-sighted about her, Potter,” said Draco, frowning.  Cedric nodded in agreement with the blond boy, paused as though he’d realized what he was doing, and then turned his attention back to Harry.

“The ticking ‘blastbomb’ scenario?” Harry asked, rubbing his forehead.  “Look, we’ve spent years and years trying to heal people in St. Mungo’s with severe mental trauma, and so have Muggle doctors.  It’s possible there are some things that can be done to the brain that can’t be fully recovered.  If Bellatrix Black’s mind has been… well, made into some sort of maze, then it will just take a bit longer to get what we need from her.  We’re not going to tear it free and damage her, not if it could leave her beyond repair.”  He looked around the table, but too many faces were skeptical.  “If Hermione were here, or one of the Returned, they’d agree with me.  ‘Save one life,’ remember?”

“This ‘one life’ might be risking that ‘whole world,’ Potter.  You wouldn’t hesitate to kill her in battle if it was necessary to save the lives of others.  This is the same thing.  The fact that it’s just less pretty and less obvious doesn’t make it any less true,” said Draco.  “Does anyone here doubt that she is going to suddenly disappear from her holding cell, and in six months we’ll be facing her and two hundred wereknarls or whatever?”

Cedric shook his head at that and held up his hand.  “No, no, please let’s not get back into the ‘sick or evil’ discussion.  Let’s keep it on Nurmengard for a moment.”  He looked back over at Moody.  “Our people posted there have been doubled.  She has two decoys, one of whom is herself convinced she is Bellatrix Black.  And there’s probably at least two other plans in place that I don’t even know about, despite one ordinarily thinking the head of the DMLE might rate inclusion on all of that sort of thing.  And of course, beyond all that, it’s still Nurmengard: one of the most secure places in the world.  Where could you possibly move her?”

“Here,” said Moody.

“It’s --” began Draco, but Moody cut him off.

“The magics that Dumbledore left to help you build this place can’t be replicated elsewhere,” lied the head of security, smoothly.  “Dumbledore’s rituals prevent scrying and prevent intrusion -- they even make the Killing Curse as dangerous as buttermilk so long as you’re in the Tower.  But we can’t do it in other places, yet.  No place can be made as secure as the Tower.  If you’re going to insist on soft-shoeing the interrogation process, then she needs to come here.  We’ll expand -- new wing in the back.  You wanted that anyway.”

“I did.  And it will give us an opportunity to keep working with her, and maybe keep her mind intact.  I don’t know if she can become a fully-functional person at this point,” said Harry, unwilling to be turned to the new topic.  His voice was cool with anger as he continued, “but it’s possible, especially on a long enough timeline.  It’s also possible that kicking her brains apart to get inside of them is something that might have permanent consequences, no matter how long the timeline.”  He glanced over at Draco, lips tight.  “And killing is when you have no alternative.  We have an alternative, so we’re taking it.”

“And if she wasn’t alone?  How about the ‘Three?’ ” said Draco, cool as well.  “If they exist, and they’re not just an obvious bit of misinformation from one rogue American,” he continued, ignoring Hig’s abrupt attention and sharp glare, “then they might have had a hand in this.  They, and not Voldemort, might have been the source of this, ah, ‘Multi-Form Ritual.’ ”

“It wasn’t Voldemort, and so that leaves Limpel Tineagar or the Three as the likely source,” said Harry, firmly.  When Cedric gave him a skeptical look, he tapped the lightning-bolt scar on his forehead.  “I know it wasn’t him.”  Cedric nodded, acceptingly and with a hint of sympathy on his face.

“Then can we risk them intervening?  Surely we need to know about them now,” said Draco, pushing his point home by rapping the table sharply with his knuckles.

“ ‘Save one life,’ ” said Harry again, shaking his head.

“How about saving more than one, instead?” retorted Draco.  “How about saving all the lives we lose if we wait too long, or open ourselves up for another attack?  How many people were lost to the time-lock Bellatrix cast when she attacked?  How many of her werewolf soldiers are still alive and sane?”

“If you start maiming minds because it’s convenient,” said Bones, frowning, “then I begin to wonder what we’re fighting to protect.  Let’s not go down the path of the ‘greater good,’ if possible.  It has an ugly history.”  Moody again said nothing, although he clearly favoured Draco’s way of thinking.

“If we can just resolve the matter of Nurmengard, as Mr. Diggory suggested?” broke in Percy, tapping a finger on a parchment in front of him.

“Right, then,” said Harry swiftly.  “We’ll expand.  Alastor is right, we were going to do it anyway.  I’ll be glad of the greater leg-room, too.  Unless there’s an objection?”  

There was none.

“How will we do the transfer?” asked Cedric.

Moody’s eye wobbled over to point at him.  “I’ll be in touch.”

“Will Ms. Granger be assisting?  I think that would make us all feel better,” said Percy, with an apologetic glance at Cedric.

“No argument here,” agreed Cedric, with a broad smile.  “But I understand she’s at Powis for the time being.  She deserves the downtime.”

“She’s as likely as most to work out how that ritual works, and better than anyone to actually try it,” said Moody.  “So I hope she’s not just resting and scourging blood out of her sleeve.”

This was a rather more grim note than Moody had perhaps intended, and there was an awkward pause.  Draco shot him an annoyed glare, and Percy looked a little pale.

“Don’t forget,” Harry said, gently, “that her sleeve was still bloody when she began trying to heal that Bellatrix.”

“Mm,” grunted Moody.  “Shame the ritual ran its course.  If it had been permanent,” he said, and his eye whipped around to regard Harry, accusingly, “then we’d have two of them to interrogate.”

Harry ignored him.  They’d had this discussion several times already, and he expected it to become a common one (not just in the Tower, but among humanity).  What are the ethics of creating new sentient beings, when you knew they faced an uncertain or unpleasant end?

“It would be helpful to be able to send Ms. Granger to China, I think, when she has had her rest,” said Bones, interrupting Harry’s train of thought.  There was the slightest hint of judgment in her tone.  “Now that the recent conflict has been, er, resolved --” and she gave Draco an ambiguously intent glance “-- she can begin representing the Treaty once more.”

Draco smiled, and raised a finger, as if in reminder.

“The Treaty for Health and Independence,” Bones said with a heavy air.

Hig lowered the parchment he’d been reading, and turned to stare at Draco with his dark little eyes.  He let his gaze linger for a moment in warning, and then it broke into warmth and a pleasant smile.  “Health and Independence indeed… and more importantly, an end to all the unpleasantness of recent years.”  He turned his attention to Bones.  “I concur with you.  The Goddess is far and away the best envoy we could send.  I don’t think the outcome is in doubt, now that Russia, the Sawad, New Zealand, and the Caucuses are all with us -- and now that all the concessions they demanded are in place.  But don’t forget Cappadocia… they’re still out of the fold.  A bad example.  We need the best envoy to ensure that China or Thailand don’t try to forge their own way.”

“Or we could bring Cappadocia in,” suggested Draco.

“Oh good,” commented Cedric.  “I was just saying to myself, ‘I sure hope we repeat the same arguments every single time we meet, oh Merlin, am I glad we’ve gotten so much blonder around here.’ ”

Bones cut in over Cedric’s sarcasm.  “I agree with Councilor Hig.”

“Myself as well,” said Percy.

“After she takes the time she needs,” said Moody, roughly.

“Measured thrust will be easier if we use something similar to those goblins chargers,” said Luna, nodding, as though her words were somehow germane to the conversation.

The discussion hiccuped around her interjection.

“So do we wait until she feels ready, or should I go and see how she’s doing?” asked Cedric, hopefully.

“The goblins haven’t been able to come in to Material Methods for several weeks -- something political going on in Ackle, according to Urg.  Preparing for a major meeting of the Urgod Ur, I think,” said Harry, seizing on Luna’s words.  “But we can prototype something on a smaller scale in the meantime.”

Bones gave Harry a despairing look, then glanced back at Cedric.  “No, the ‘Goddess’ is diligent enough, as you well know.  She’ll be back when she’s ready.”

“Let’s pick this back up tomorrow,” said Hig, smiling indulgently and gesturing at Harry.  “Other things are pressing, clearly.”

“Harry?” said Moody, leaning forward.

“Unless Percy has something else?” said Harry, rising from his seat.

“No, sir,” said Percy.  He was smiling.  “It looks like everything is working out.”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡

The propaganda agents of the Tower have been toiling away in rotten old England, trying to convince you that the Walpurgis Night War was a resounding victory for the forces of meddling and the armies of colonialism.  But thankfully, they protest too much.

In reality, events since that night, when the world teetered on the brink of destruction, have proven to be far more favorable to the Independents and their British counterparts, the Honourable.  The leader of the Honourable and one of the voices of the Independence movement, Lord Draco Malfoy of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Malfoy, was only barely able to keep a smile of satisfaction off of his face when interviewed at Siegfried’s this past week.  “Virtually all of our demands have been met,” Malfoy said to this reporter over a Muggle meal of squid-ink pizza and cranberry foam, “and we are very happy with the changes to the Treaty for Health and Life.”

When asked about concessions, the handsome young nobleman was more coy.  “The negotiators for the Independents, who kindly invited me along, did have to give up some things in negotiation, of course.  I understand that Russia has reluctantly agreed to contribute their own aurors to help protect the Tower.  Thankfully, that will also let them keep a close eye on it,” said Lord Malfoy, with a twinkle in his eye.

The Honourable leader conceded that he would be ending publication of his long-running journal Unbreakable Honour, due to new responsibilities.  “I understand that the Thunderer and several of the Emirati Councils insisted on having representation within the Tower, if their people were going to be expected to cooperate.  A reasonable request.  But to my surprise, they thought my long… association with Harry Potter would make me the best person to keep an eye on things in some sort of executive capacity.”  Lord Malfoy did not appear to be unhappy at the prospect of exercising oversight on his old schoolyard rival.

A representative of the Tower has called the outcome of negotiations between the two treaty organizations an “equitable outcome.”  But the results would appear to be markedly in favor of the Independents, regardless of the spin you might be hearing.

-Excerpted from “A New Age,” by Sylvia de Kamp in American Mage.



3 comments:

  1. I think there's a mistake at the start of this chapter. It says "Three weeks later" but it's only two weeks after the events of the last chapter. The same date is correctly described as two weeks later in chapter 36.

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  2. so they're in the bloody Mirror. as ass-pulls go, that's.....not a terrible one. xD

    I am stupid for not seeing that.

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  3. It is so cheating... they can heal people in the Mirror but Death curse is not working there...

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