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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    Demented
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Though not present in every chapter, this story will contain graphic violence and coerced sex/rape, some of which involves underaged characters. Keep this in mind before reading. 

MageCrafter - 26. Chapter 26

The Bertolde Estate infirmary had been bustling with activity in the past twenty four hours since the attack. Maids, Paladins, and Clerics alike who were suffering from the Curse of exhaustion to one degree or another lay in beds irrespective of who’s group they belonged to. Though High King Vinal had taken his leave from the estate and had taken his exhaustion cursed soldiers with him, High Priestess Marigolds Entourage took up the Bertolde estates offer to house their magically wounded soldiers till they made a recovery. Some others who were there were getting treatments from the various sick orders that the FearCrafter had given in his short and silent reign of terror on the Estate.

The FearCrafter had not just struck those within the meeting area. In the vile hareling’s infiltration of the Bertolde estate through the Bavaram Circus, he had targeted around forty individuals to help conceal his movements and find out where ‘the lynxian, his love’ was going to be. Of those forty, twelve were now dead, ten were suffering from an Exhaustion curse to one degree or another, and the rest were rattled beyond words and suffering from what they had to do in order to make sure the Geas didn’t kill them.

Marigold and her entourage had moved out with the Copy of Lord Baldric almost immediately after they had made sure the duke was safe to comb the estate for more victims of the Fear Crafter.

“FearCrafters are not content with simply leaving potential victims alone.” Marigold had said in a tense voice to the Illusory Baldric as she gestured for her entourage to fan out and use the items she had provided for them on those who were affected by the hareling. “They are driven by their gifting to sow as much fear as possible. I’ve seen many strongholds be destroyed from the inside from just one of these vile servants of the dark god of fear. We have to be mindful that some of these servants might be ordered to attack us in order to keep their soul alive. Do your best to subdue them and use the item I provided you as instructed as soon as you are within range.”

Many who had survived on that harrowing day did so by following the deranged harelings orders. Some frightened servants and slaves were given the sick order to play hide and seek, and if they were caught the geas would kill them. Marigold had found trembling and crying slave boys in a closet and one of her Clerics had moved to open the door.

“NO!” She had called out, but it had been too late. The second the two boys had realized they had been found, the Geas registered that as them failing their order and killed them on the spot. Baldric let out a pained cry and dove for the two lads even as they tumbled out of the closet, but by the time he had caught them it had already long been too late. The two lads had been apart of his harem, and he had known them for years. He shared jokes and fun times with them, and now they were gone right before his eyes. He could do nothing to save them, it had been that quick. They had managed to save others who had been given similar orders, but the sight of those two dying that horrible death seared into Baldric and the others minds.

Others the hareling had taken a disliking to had been given the order to hold their breath forever, and every time they breathed their Geas would attack them. By the time Marigold and Baldric came upon that unfortunate group, only one lone maid had been left standing among a small pile of servants at her trembling feet. She had been given the additional order to not move or call for help, but she had managed to craft through her maid outfit an alternative method to breathe that didn’t violate her Geas’s orders, and it had been what she had needed to stay alive long enough for Marigold to cure her. She was now in the infirmary suffering from the mental trauma of the ordeal however.

Despite the terror that the FearCrafter had brought to the estate in his short time there, he had done so very quietly. He never hit large groups, instead sneaking up on random servants who were doing solitary tasks, or at most groups of three or four. As long as he was able to coax out or exploit the fear in one of them, the effect on the group was almost instantaneous.

During that ordeal of trying to save as many lives on the estate as possible, the group had almost had an altercation with Sargis’s group when they had come back from guarding the Lair. The reason for that was the bodies that were on the floor and the appearance of Lord Baldric when they had clearly seen their young lord leave through the Lair just a little while ago.

“What is the meaning of this?” Sargis roared, a swarm of Silken threads erupting from his gloves and encompassing the area as they gave off a menacing glow of magical power. Baldric knew from seeing his butler in action that he could slice up enemies to mince meat with his threads in his most basic type of attacks. “Have you betrayed your estate so completely that you’ve resorted to attacking your own servants, or are you even Lord Baldric?!”

The Butler and the maids who were all on guard let out a noise of surprise and alarm as the Baldric before them dropped the illusory disguise that was superimposed on top of his ice body to reveal what was underneath. What they saw looked almost like an ice sculpture of Lord Baldric, yet it was more complex than that. They could actually see veins of water circulating, a heart that was thumping within the chest, bones, muscles, all of which were just transparent enough to see with the naked eye. It was as if he had made the equivalent of a complete human body made entirely out of ice and water.

“I am Lord Baldric. I am just controlling this body with my mind.” While not a lie, it did obfuscate what he really was doing. The way he worded it could be interpreted that Baldric was controlling this clone from a long distance away instead of being a duplicate mind. Marigold caught on that he was trying to keep that a secret and played along.

“Loyal and honorable Butler, we are not your enemy. We are aiding your young master in an effort to mitigate the damage a very dangerous magecrafter has brought to the estate. I need your assistants to help find as many personnel in this estate as possible without directly interacting with them. Any wrong move could get a servant killed like the ones you see behind us. Many lives could be in danger.”

Sargis quickly regained his composure and bowed to Marigold “Thank you for the assistance High Priestess, and apologies for the misunderstanding. The Maidstaff and I shall do our utmost to aid in the rescue of our fellow servants.”

After that long and harrowing day, the aftershocks of what had been done to the estate could still be felt. Not only had beloved servants and slaves who had friends and family on the estate who were now dead or suffering from the effects of whatever twisted orders they had been given, but the Duke himself was in critical condition. The fact that Lord Baldric had left the estate had not been made widely known thanks to orders from the Copy Baldric to keep it under wraps, but the general sense that a near fatal blow had been dealt to the Estate’s longevity was felt by all.

If Lord Baldric did not step up to the plate to run things on the Estate in his fathers place, a power struggle from surrounding territories would almost certainly ensue. That wasn’t even touching on the ever looming threat of Collaring that was on the horizon for Baldric. Though he was a copy, the very act of them attempting to do so would send a message that he was no longer a valid noble under Silbel and they would almost certainly take advantage of his fathers critical state to assume control of the Dukedom.

He thought about this in the back of his mind as he helped the High Priestess in her treatment of his father. He followed her lead, listening to the instruction of a being so much older and wiser than he was.

“Thank you again for everything you’ve done.” He said to the high priestess as he stood on the other side of his father. “ I would have lost so many more people I care about if you hadn’t stepped in to help save them. I had no idea what to do with an adversary like that. I felt so powerless.”

“There is nothing to be ashamed of, young Vicar.” Marigold said, her facsimile of a face taking on a warm smile as she did so. That smile faltered upon seeing Baldric staring at his father with tears in his eyes. He caught himself lost in thought when he noticed the masked woman staring at him with concern and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

"It's weird, this body is just a fake yet it can do stuff like tear up on me. What do I need functioning tear ducts for anyway?" He tried to play that off as a joke, but the pain in his face every time he looked down at his weak and shallowly breathing father made her feel for the boy. He might be powerful, potentially rivaling the heroes of old, but he was still a boy at heart. He was at that age where pulling away from ones parent was perfectly natural and even to be expected, but experiencing such a close call at losing his father forever must have been truly terrifying. The way he had cried for those two boys who had been in the closet must have further drove home for him how close his father had been to dying.

A silence grew between the two for a moment before Marigold spoke again. She thought broaching this topic now might be a good way to take his mind off his current emotional turmoil. It was also information she needed to gather anyway.

“How long have you been making copies of your mind?”

He jolted at the question and then looked up to the High Priestess. After a moment of weighing his thoughts carefully he made some gestures the vapor assistants that were in the room put down a thin layer of fog in front of the door to blog sound from leaving the room. After making sure no one would be able to listen in on their conversation he turned to her and answered her question, though he wasn't sure why he wanted to do so.

“The main body has been producing copies of his mind for a little over seven years now.”

She visibly shuddered at that, which told him she knew a lot more about how this magic worked than he initially thought. An uninformed person might think it was a wonderful invention and well worth the risks involved. In truth the people around him in his life had no idea the kind of risks he was taking on a daily basis just by having those duplicates around. He preempted her before she could ask another question. He could tell she had a lot of things she wanted to ask, but she couldn't decide on where to even begin. Which was why he interjected with the following.

“Before you ask. Yes I have learned the hard way that using such items is incredibly dangerous. I have made some pretty dire mistakes in my youthful arrogance, and it’s left me in a situation I can’t really dig myself out of.”

“If I may ask, how many has your main body made besides yourself?”

Lord Baldric pointed up to the ceiling, and by extension the sky above the estate. “There are thousands in the clouds above this estate alone. I have many others in the Undersea Kingdoms and within my Lair

She took a step back at that, her facsimile of a face taking on an expression of horror at what he had told her. She let out a string of exclamations and prayers, making holy gestures in front of her person in an attempt to give her heart strength at learning this information. He nodded understandingly at her reaction and raised a hand to explain himself.

“Many of us have vapor or water bodies. I technically am still vapor, but I was given this form from the main body to control. Not having a human shaped body helps us stay in sync with the main body. It allows us to stay focused on our various tasks instead of allowing ourselves to diverge.”

“So you know about diverging then.” Marigold said with some small amount of relief in her voice, though she still looked quite horrified.

“I, or rather, the main body had not known about it before we had already made so many of us. King Morcant says that because we were all so focused on one main goal this whole time, it has allowed us all to maintain much better cohesion with each other than we otherwise would have been.”

“You must have a very strong mind and will to be able to maintain your sense of self with that many duplicates. I am confident I would not be able to handle such a burden. ”

“We keep our connection with the main body as light as possible and touch base with him a few times a day normally. I had to cut off connection with the main body due to that fearcrafter attack, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to link back up with him since then. I’m… I’m not exactly sure why I told you that.”

“You’ve been diverging, that’s why.” She said, gesturing with her hands to continue working on his father. They were using a combination of water and gold dust with enchantments of Marigold’s direction to fortify the duke’s severely weakened body from disease and illness while he was suffering from the effects of extreme exhaustion.

“Have you had any particularly notable experiences that have set you apart from the main body?”

“Does coming face to face with the avatar of a god count?”

She looked up at him with some shock in her facsimile of a face. It was so strange talking with someone whose mouth did not move when she talked, yet had so many expressive ways it moved itself regardless of her mask like visage.

“You did mention that you had met with the God Cernunnos. I had thought you meant that the main body had. You are saying you, yourself, the one I am speaking to right now, is the one who ended up meeting him?”

“It was the most terrifying and awe inspiring moment of my life. The other copies have the memory of it now, but it's just not the same as actually being there and seeing him. I’ve tried to think of myself as the same as the Main body, as just a copy, but it has gotten a lot harder lately now that I have this form.”

He dropped the illusion around his hand and down to his elbow, revealing what looked like a transparent diorama of a human arm made of ice and water. Water flowed through it like blood, different textured ice stacked in layers to make muscle tissue and skin. It was so life like that anyone touching the ice that made his skin would swear up and down it felt like genuine living flesh.

“The Main Body designed this puppet to fool others when interacting with them. It allows him to send us in as spies to ask around for information. At first they were nowhere near as complex as this, just enough to pass a handshake test. This body however was designed to fully interact with people without ever letting on that it was a duplicate. However there’s a small problem that I’m finding now… One that I’m reluctant to share with the main body.”

“Your body feels so real that you can’t get yourself into the headspace of thinking of yourself as a Copy.” Marigold said with an understanding nod.

He looked at her with a perplexed expression. “You seem to know an awful lot about this. Do you have copies of yourself?”

She reached up and pulled off her mask, and his eyes went wide seeing that there was nothing underneath the habit. The golden habit was just holding itself like there was someone underneath it. His surprise only grew as a floating circular pendant with the symbol of the golden maiden rose up from inside of the cloak and floated where her facsimile of a face normally was.

“I am a duplicate mind. More specifically I am the duplicate mind of someone who died a very long time ago.”

Confusion grew on Baldric’s face from what she had just said. Puzzle pieces from his investigations into the dark age wars and the heroes of old made things click into place while raising much more questions than it answered. Then he looked closer at the pendant and his suspicions were only solidified. The description of a certain cleric’s lost legendary magic item that he used for powerful healing and resurrection spells came into his mind as he ran through all the information he knew on the subject.

“Y-You’re the duplicate mind of,” he halted himself, stumbling over his words before he finally asked the question that was immediately on his mind. “B-But he was male was he not?”

“Jayceon and I diverged quite a bit after he made me.” The pendant said with a nod of it’s circular body that was reflected in the habit nodding as well. The pendant glowed off and on with each syllable as she spoke and it was clear that the sound of the voice was emanating from the pendant itself. “After a while he and I just let me find my own identity and let me operate completely without linking back up with him. It was during that time I became Marigold.”

Baldric nodded at that. “Though we don’t have anyone who’s changed their gender among our duplicate minds, we do have seven that are extremely different from the rest of us.” He paused before he continued, raising a question that was growing a pang of fear in the pit of his stomach. “You survived after the main body died. Is...is that going to happen to all of us as well?”

“Not necessarily. As long as you remain the same person you will share the same soul and attunement slots. However if a duplicate diverges too much from the main body and then gains the favor of a deity or deities independent of its main body, those gods will grant the duplicate a soul of its own that will persist after the main body’s death.”

Marigold watched as Baldric violently shuddered at what she had just said. Something she had revealed to him just now had revealed a horrifying truth to him that had caused that violent reaction in his duplicate body.

“What is wrong young vicar?”

“I’m suddenly understanding even more why King Morcant was so Mad at me about my original Seven.” He said with a quavering voice.

“I would imagine your original seven are quite diverged from your main body by now.” She nodded in understanding at that. “You would have made them when you were quite young, which means they would have been made from a version of you with much less experience to maintain your sense of self. They would at best be like a very close twin to you instead of an exact copy of your mind.”

“N-no you don’t understand.” he ran his hands through his hair, or at least the ice equivalent of hair that felt so much like the real thing. “I didn’t just make mental duplicates. I also experimented with items that accelerated how fast I could think.”

“By the maiden…” Marigold breathed out and made a religious gesture in front of herself to give herself strength. “How would you have even known to make such an Item? That is incredibly complex magic which could easily make you brain dead if you do it wrong. Why was no one supervising you?!”

“I kept my experiments a secret. In my defense, I didn’t do anything without a lot of testing and running a lot of simulations. However, even with all my planning there were unintended consequences.”

“I am almost too terrified to ask what those consequences are. You have risked your brain and your total sense of self on a tightrope so thin that it baffles me that you are as lucid as you are. It is a miracle you haven’t turned yourself into an involid or made yourself go insane in an existential crisis from what you’ve told me.”

“It’s worse than that.” Baldric said. He didn’t even know why he was telling her this. He just felt like he could trust her. She was just like him. A duplicate mind in a facsimile of a body. He felt a sort of kinship with her that he couldn’t quite describe.

“My original seven; they became dependent on the thought acceleration items. Then they started making more of them on their own without asking the main body. They’ve been doing that inside the lair for years. Constantly making themselves think faster and faster.”

He looked away from Marigold’s floating pendant and her face that was still in her hand as he spoke.

“Then they started being able to experience these dreams and visions and relay this information to me. They had access to magic I’ve never seen before and their way of thinking is so foriegn from rational understanding that I can’t even call them human minds anymore. When I showed them to Morcant, he said that they had become what he referred to as Artificial heralds of the realm of illusions and dreams.”

“B-By the pantheon! The main body doesn’t use thought acceleration items anymore does he?”

“No High Priestess. Not anymore. Not after what happened to the Original Seven. From what you’ve told me though, it sounds like they might have gained their own souls and attunement slots, which means they’re going to live long after the main body dies. That...that’s too terrifying for words. They don’t even function normally, their entire existence is vision walks so psychedelic that it dwarfs the strongest drugs you can think of.”

“You are a truly special young man to have been able to learn and grow from mistakes that would have destroyed anyone else. Jayceon couldn’t handle having one duplicate, I shudder to think what would have happened if he had made more.”

“I know one thing. I’ve resolved to never teach anyone else how to make duplicate minds. It's far too dangerous.”

“Else? Who did you teach before?”

“Before I was the Vicar of the Pantheon of Water, I was an illusory wizard. I couldn’t make my own items back then so I had my personal Maid Shahnaz make them. I gave her the schematics and she made them to those specifications.”

“Has she ever made duplicates of her own mind?”

“No..." he paused before he crossed his arms and added in a less sure voice. "I don’t think so.”

“You should ask this Shahnaz just to be sure. You do not want a repeat of what you’ve been doing. This does go a long way of explaining how you fought Babica Preja at least.”

“I would greatly appreciate you keeping this a secret. I do not know why I’ve been so loose with this information, I know my main body would be beside himself trying to make me stop, but after everything that’s been happening and the fact that you are like me, I just had to get things off my chest.”

“I know the importance of keeping such secrets close to the chest all too well, young Vicar. This shall be handled with the utmost secrecy. In the meantime, I would like to invite you to the Golden Maiden Temple after the funeral for the fallen on this estate. I think we have much to discuss.”

Copyright © 2020 Demented; All Rights Reserved.
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Yikes, what a frightening vision of what may come for some of the duplicates if all of this comes to pass.  Unintended consequences can be a great burden.  Just so well done, and flowed beautifully.

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Sometimes you have to get things off your chest. I am downright terrified of the seven and what they might mean in the scheme of things. With luck, they will eventually be dealt with. An artificial immortality is still immortality nonetheless, and unnatural. Any same person would not let themselves fall into insanity in my opinion.

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34 minutes ago, Yeoldebard said:

Sometimes you have to get things off your chest. I am downright terrified of the seven and what they might mean in the scheme of things. With luck, they will eventually be dealt with. An artificial immortality is still immortality nonetheless, and unnatural. Any same person would not let themselves fall into insanity in my opinion.

 

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On 12/9/2020 at 1:17 AM, Yeoldebard said:

Sometimes you have to get things off your chest. I am downright terrified of the seven and what they might mean in the scheme of things. With luck, they will eventually be dealt with. An artificial immortality is still immortality nonetheless, and unnatural. Any same person would not let themselves fall into insanity in my opinion.

I agree! But the seven being able to live loner after the main body dies is a scary thing!

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