‘Coup’ Part 2/4

23:59 Sat 14 Jul 2007. Updated: 23:33 16 Jul 2007
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My headache was getting worse. I ignored it and walked down the corridor, into the main chamber.

It was very large, and filled with an astonishing number of things. Relics and artifacts from a million worlds, all intermingled. There was no real order to it—why would they impose one—and I know that visual inspection would never yield the answers I sought.

I was slightly nervous at this point. There had been traps within the chamber, but I scattered them before I entered, or so I thought. If I was wrong, and one of them seized me now, it would be over. But any hesitation consumed precious time. I closed my eyes and began the simple searching spell that would find the map.

I found it within moments. A rough-hewn brown disk of stone about one arm’s length in radius. When I opened my eyes I could see it. Its aura was like nothing I’d ever encountered, almost dead and yet shivering with animus.

I walked over to it, although I knew it was useless to me for the moment. I didn’t touch it, but cast my eyes over it. It was so old, and looked ancient and ageless at the same time. It was very slightly convex, and at its center there was a spot of black rock. There was no seam between the rough brown and the smooth black. They simply became one. I knew that they were different substances, and knew also what the gods must have known, that their fusion was likely key to the survival of the device. But this riddle that had eluded the gods was not one I would attempt myself.

No, I needed the device’s services. Here I ran into one of its quirks: in order to gain access to its power, the user had to be female.

I was not. There were transformative rituals that I could have applied, but these were extremely dangerous even for one as powerful as myself. I would have had to risk death, insanity, complete personality and memory loss. None of those seemed prices worth paying.

Instead, I had managed to find hints, here and there, about the other devices in this place. The other things that countless gods had put here to hide, things that threatened them, things that irritated them, things that offended them. And among these things was an artifact that could temporarily turn minds from female to male, and from male to female.

I was convinced that only the mind mattered. The map would search for some patterns of thought from the user, and if those were present, it could be fooled. I could hold onto my sanity, and my powers, until the map revealed the location of the power source. After that, I would not need it, or anything else.

But switching those mental patterns without destroying the mind itself was no easy task. I had struggled with the problem myself and eventually gave up. The hidden artifact I sought was the answer, or so I hoped. I had to hope not merely that it worked, but that its creator’s conception of ‘female’ matched that of the map.

Searching for this artifact was more difficult, because it would not stand out in the same way as the map, and I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. So I would have to mentally inspect each relic in the vault, rapidly. I began this sorcery, trying to ignore the fact that my headache was growing worse.

The headache wasn’t too much worse by the time I found it. I walked over to it, and saw that it was a flat board, slightly longer than I was tall, and about two feet wide and six inches deep. Near what I assumed was the top there was a half-circlet of metal, attached by a metal cord to the board. I moved the map beside the board.

I lay down on it and picked up the half-circlet. There were different symbols on each of the ends, but I had no idea what they meant. It seemed as if the ends should touch the wearer’s temples, so I oriented it that way and put it on.

‘Coup’ Part 1/4
‘Coup’ Part 3/4

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