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Part Two: Preparations for Project Cosmic Hope

07

Diary of Rowena Nightshade: Travels to the Great Cities

Autumn Equinox Year 543: Brennan and I first journeyed through the Great Ravenwood Tree to the Faethorn Realm, the ethereal plane where the great spirits dwell, where the reflected souls of our dear forests stand, newly healed and now vibrating with life. In accordance with our symbiotic ties to the fae, Queen Maeve did pledge the support of Faethorn to the decree of Mother Night, to help convince the Empire to stop their scheme to further tear into the fabric that binds the cosmos. It heartened me greatly that the covens of the Moondance and Lakewood also beseeched Faethorn to join them on this mission.

After bidding farewell to silvery Faethorn and departing the ethereal plane, to Hallifax we travelled. Indeed, the crystal spires that float upon the clouds are majesty themselves, but, oh, I cannot feel the vibrations of the living ground beneath my feet, nor smell the green of life, nor even sense the beating of the earth’s heart. Is it no wonder, Mother Night, that those who live in cities do not hear the rhythms of the cycles and cannot understand the wisdom of the great spirits?

Chairman Adom heads the Hallifax Board of Governors, and is as passionate as stone and cold as ice as are most of the race of lucidians. The Board is made up of lucidians and trill, and it was to the trill that I made my strongest appeal. Perhaps the winged race of trill hear the cycles of nature at least a little, for indeed they were more responsive to my plea than their lucidian counterparts. Or perhaps an elfen like myself just cannot fathom the race of crystal beings, whose expressions never change and eyes fall upon me like icicles. Only Mother Night knows how these two peoples came together.

Alas, after the Board adjourned to a private meeting, it was decided that Hallifax would support the Empire’s project. Later, Llisilli Cloudwalker, one of the trill board members, told me in confidence that political considerations played no small role in their decision since Hallifax was seeking imperial mediation over mining rights with the dwarven kingdom. Her words perhaps were meant to comfort me, but only made me sadder to think such secular concerns were given greater weight than the spiritual wisdom of the great spirits. Still, some small hope was offered as the Board agreed not to use the Matrix, the nexus of power in Hallifax, for these imprudent experiments.

Next, we travelled to the great dracnari pyramids of Gaudiguch, ruled by the mysterious Illuminati and spiritually led by the enigmatic Most Venerable Bhodifucius. Where Hallifax was cold and aloof, Gaudiguch was hot and tempestuous. The dracnari are not called dragon lords for nothing, as they live among the volcanoes of the Razines and swim in flames as easily as the merian swim in water. Though they listened to me with sympathy and made many placating platitudes, it was obvious they were much excited by the Empire’s quest.

Indeed, they danced and feasted, revelled until deep into the night. When intoxicated, the dracnari make little effort to hide old racial tensions, as certainly was the case when the High Flame belched fire upon the ambassador from Hallifax, who was one of the cold lucidians on the Board who I had met previously. My only hope is that the dracnari spiritual leader, the Most Venerable Bhodifucius, hears the ring of truth from the words of Mother Night, for one of his cryptic remarks to me made me think that perhaps he understands more deeply than the others. But the Most Venerable does not lead his people, but teaches through paradox and conundrums.

Mother Night, I fear I have failed you in this mission. Will no one listen to your words? Does your wisdom fall upon deaf ears? Despite all our protestations, the Empire pursues their quest for power relentlessly. Even pointing out the Empire’s previous failure of Project Soulforge, that drove the mugwump from their ancestral home, makes no difference. Our words fall like snowflakes upon the hot skin of a dracnari, melting into nothing and disappearing as so much steam.

08

Magnagora Chronicle: Fates say, "You will find that which you seek."

FATES GIVE OPTIMISTIC PROPHESY FOR PROJECT COSMIC HOPE

Magnagora - 18th of Methril in the 543rd Year of the Imperial Empire - "You will find that which you seek," stated Clotho, according to the Cosmic Hope Committee, who returned from the Plane of Shallamar last night, led by the High Prophet of Magnagora. The Committee is touting this phrase as the centerpiece for going forward with an earlier than expected expedition to the 'supra plane' as early as the beginning of next month.

The House of the Prophets in Magnagora was abuzz with activity throughout the evening as runes were cast and tarot cards spread in an effort to translate the prophecy of the Three Sisters.

Members of the Cosmic Hope Committee include Emperor Ladantine VII, High Prophet Ghani n'Rotri of the Magnagora House of Prophets, Princess Marilynth of the Celestines, Grand Cipher Tlochaka Chum of the Illuminati of Gaudiguch, and Professor Tomasol Lars of the Hallifax Matrix Research Institute. Assembling at the Stone of Truth in Magnagora at dusk yesterday, the High Prophet opened a portal to Shallamar, the Higher Plane of Truth, and the Committee returned approximately five hours later.

According to a brief statement by the High Prophet, the Committee first met with King Gorgaliel the Peacemaker, Supreme Holy Emanation of Shallamar, who graciously welcomed the Committee before escorting them to the Three Sisters of Fate.

Upon being granted audience with the Fates, the Three Sisters said in unison, "We live in all realities. We see all probabilities. We are the Fates and will show you the paths that could be." As Magnagorans know and as the High Prophet explained to other Committee members, this is their usual statement before unveiling a major prophesy.

"You will find that which you seek," prophesied Clotho, the youngest of the Fates. This statement was taken with great optimism by the Committee.

"Your name will be remembered through time," prophesied Lachesis to Emperor Ladantine, who later said he was "honoured and humbled" by her words.

"You will die and be reborn. You shall live and not live to see the fruits of your fate," prophesied Atropos, also directed to Emperor Ladantine. Atropos, the eldest of the Three Sisters, often gives obscure and enigmatic prophesies, and this one was hotly debated and scrutinised in the House of Prophets upon the return of the Council through the Stone of Truth.

"Overall, we are optimistic and confident in this prophesy," stated High Prophet Ghani n'Rotri. "Certainly, there were no portents of great catastrophe like those that led to the abandonment of Project Soulforge. Quite to the contrary, the Cosmic Hope Prophesies appear to be most fortuitous."

09

Gaudiguch Gossip: WHERE WILL COSMIC HOPE BLAST OFF?

The Empire rocked the Basin of Life by announcing that the Cosmic Hope Expedition will not launch from the Pool of Stars! Apparently our lovely Emperor wants to make a statement of an upcoming age of unity and solidarity with all prophecies pointing that Project Cosmic Hope will be an resounding success. In further developments, our favourite High Flame, Scuchi Mabuchi, is no longer part of the Cosmic Hope Project, being replaced by Grand Cipher Tlochaka Chum of the Illuminati to represent Gaudiguch - which is ironic since the High Flame of the Pyramid of Pyromancers was originally chosen to represent us because the Illuminati are too - shall we say, scary?

In any event, you can hear gold sovereigns tinkling blocks away from the gambling houses here in Gaudiguch as bookies collect bets on which Protectorate will receive the honour. Interested in the odds at the time of this writing? It's 2:1 for Magnagora's Stone of Truth; 3:1 for Gaudiguch's Eternal Flame; and 25:1 for Hallifax's Matrix.

No surprise that the odds on Hallifax are hitting rock bottom. The poor dears are aflutter with embarrassment over a continuing conflict with the Dwarven Kingdom over the newly opened Angkrag mines in the Teeth. Rumour has it that Imperial Mediators are being escorted with orclachi ur’Guard using the ur’Gates of Shallach. Indeed, orclach enforcers have been using the gates to make their presence known in all outlying villages. Is it perhaps because the Alliance of Forest Enclaves are still in a snit over the expedition proceeding at all? I don't know, but I've even seen a few of those hunky green orclachi in Gaudiguch. Yum!

The scuttlebutt is that Scuchi Mabuchi's little fiery fun with the Hallifax Ambassador are hurting Gaudiguch's odds for being chosen as the expedition’s launch point (any wonder why she was replaced by the robed and hooded Grand Cipher?). Still, we've been the most enthusiastic supporters of Project Cosmic Hope since the Imperial Proclamation last year. And that's why yours truly is betting her hard earned golds on Gaudiguch. Besides, I like them odds!

10

Hallifax Minutes: Full Support for Project Cosmic Hope

MINUTES OF THE HALLIFAX BOARD OF GOVERNORS

I. MEETING - CALL TO ORDER:
The meeting was called to order by the Vice Chair on the 1st of Ashmonth, on the 543rd Year of the Imperial Empire at 9:00 a.m.

II. RECOGNITION OF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Cririk Adom, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive
Hieli Goldfeather, Vice Chair
Lilali Skysoarer, Secretary
Professor En’oonki Lars, Member
Minister Sweeloh Sunfar, Member
Minister Ieck’co Shevat, Member
Minister Ke’kix Oolin, Member
Minister Tooli Goldfeather, Member
Minister Chia Cloudwalker, Member

MEMBERS ABSENT:
None

INVITEES PRESENT:
Closed Session

III. APPROVAL OF PREVIOUS MEETING MINUTES:
Secretary Skysoarer moved that the Methril 1st, 543 C.E. minutes be accepted as amended. Minister Cloudwalker seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

IV. STAFF COMMENTS:
Minister Lars of the Matrix Research Institute updated the Board on the cosmic energy levels of the nexus, which were at that time at low levels. He also submitted for the Board's review a report prepared by the Helix Ministry. The Board reviewed the report and found it in order.

V. OLD BUSINESS:
Subject: Imperial Mediation with the Dwarven Kingdom

Board Decision: Minister Sunfar reported that the mediations between the Dwarven Kingdom and the Hallifax Board were not productive. The dwarves appear hostile to the Board's latest offer to renounce all claims of precious metals in return for 50% of all precious or semiprecious gems harvested in Angkrag. The Dwarven Kingdom have taken the position that it has proprietary rights to all mountains surrounding the Basin of Life. Professor Lars reiterated a need for the gemstones to reinforce the Matrix, especially in light of the demands on the energy levels of the Matrix this past year. Vice Chair Goldfeather pointed out the diplomatic need to resolve the Angkrag incident before the Emperor makes a decision on where to launch the upcoming Cosmic Hope Expedition. Vice Chair Goldfeather then moved to accede to the dwarves demand which was seconded by Minister Sunfar. The motion failed with 3 yeas, 4 nays and 2 abstentions.

Minister Oolin moved for a compromise counteroffer to the Dwarven Kingdom: that the Board would renounce all claims of precious metals in return for 25% of all precious or semiprecious gems harvested in Angkrag. The motion passed with 5 yeas, 1 nay and 3 abstentions.

VI. CLOSED SESSION:
Subject: The Cosmic Hope Expedition

Board Decision: Minister Goldfeather expressed the diplomatic necessity for the Board to open the Matrix more fully for experiments concerning the upcoming preliminary Cosmic Hope tests in order for Hallifax to more fully be considered for the Cosmic Hope Expedition. If the Matrix was chosen as the launch site, this would be an important advancement of Hallifax’s role in imperial politics and would have many favourable repercussions in the future. Professor Lars objected on the grounds of security and safety, citing the Emperor's previous planar undertaking, Project Soulforge, and its subsequent dissolution because of concerns for nexus safety. Minister Oolin and Minister Shevat pointed out that, unlike Project Soulforce which was plagued by many unpropitious divinations, the recent Hope Prophesies curtailed much of these concerns. The Chair moved to fully open the Matrix and the motion passed with 7 yeas and 2 nays.

VII. ADJOURNMENT:
There being no further business to come before the Board at that time, the Board meeting was adjourned at 3:04 p.m.

Approved this 1st day of Ashmonth in the 543rd Year of the Imperial Empire.
By: Lilali Skysoarer, Chair Secretary

11

Imperial Proclamation: Date and Place for Expedition Cosmic Hope

OFFICIAL IMPERIAL PROCLAMATION MLXXV

We, Emperor Ladantine VII, on this twelfth day of the month of Ashtar in the year of Our Holy Empire five hundred and forty-three, do hereby proclaim and ordain that the Holy Empire's most glorious and Holy mission to reach beyond the Higher Planes shall be held on the Thirteenth Day of Gorgani of this year. Expedition Cosmic Hope will launch from the Stone of Truth in Magnagora.

Our Proclamation will go effect at noon on the day following the issuance of Our Proclamation.

12

Magnagora Chronicle: Honours for Magnagora

STONE OF TRUTH CHOSEN TO LAUNCH EXPEDITION COSMIC HOPE

Magnagora - 13th of Ashtar in the 543rd Year of the Imperial Empire - The Stone of Truth in Magnagora will be the launch point for Expedition Cosmic Hope, Holy Emperor Ladantine VII announced yesterday by Imperial Proclamation. The launch will commence exactly one month from today.

"This is a great honour for Magnagora," commented the Most Eminent Rushdam d'Murani, Grand Vizier of Magnagora. Cheers were heard throughout the city as the proclamation was read.

When asked about the sudden disappearance of the Fates in Shallamar, High Prophet Ghani n'Rotri stated, "The Three Sisters have been known to leave the higher planes from time-to-time. They are beyond our ken and I would not read too much into their absence. It certainly has nothing to do with Cosmic Hope. I think it has been proven often enough that the Light has blessed the Empire in this endeavour."

The High Prophet would not comment on rumours from the House of Prophets that high percentages of the reversed tarot cards and inverted runes were turning up in minor castings, and dismissed reports that the Circle of Prophets were ordered to stop casting minor prophesies until after Expedition Cosmic Hope was launched.

"The Circle of Prophets stands by its earlier analysis of the Hope Prophesies," said the High Prophet. "Nothing comes close to the dangers foretold by the prophesies surrounding Project Soulforge, which we vehemently opposed at the time. I hope we can put behind us any pessimism about this project, for now is a time for celebration in Magnagora, blessed indeed by the Light and the Emperor!"

The launch of Expedition Cosmic Hope will be broadcast live by popular aether host Globglob Mesherbrub and a team of planar correspondents.