Dee took a better look at her surroundings as the dwarven girl she now knew to be an acolyte pushed her wheelchair back towards the infirmary. The building they were in seemed to be built with functionality in mind instead of trying to be impressive or grandiose. The walls and floor where made of some grey stone, while most of the walls were covered in what seemed to be calming yellow plaster. There were large arched windows every few mels along one of the walls, allowing lots of natural lighting to enter the hallway. On the other side the wall had several nondescript brown wooden doors, leading to rooms with unknown purposes. Judging from the distance between the doors, the rooms were not very large and were used either as offices or other similar purposes.
Dee could see a bit of a training field outside the windows, and she could make out some armored people going through their drills. As her vantage point sitting on the wheelchair was rather bad, she wanted to get up to the window to get a better idea of her surroundings, but the acolyte was having none of that. The young woman brusquely told her to sit still and rest until they got back to the infirmary. The acolyte most certainly wasn’t going to be responsible for Dee hurting herself further. It looked like she would have to wait a bit until she could scout things out personally.
Instead she satisfied her curiosity by asking the acolyte some questions, some of which the young woman even answered. Apparently this building was rather massive and housed trainees from both the Order of the Radiant Sun as well as the Holy Orders. Most of the people here were trainees and acolytes, as well as the teachers and master assigned to their training. Currently there was a larger amount of fully trained templars and paladins present as they were watching over some of the children saved from the assassins. This was despite the fact that most of the kids were still being treated by the Mystic’s guild, while only a handful was currently here resting and recovering.
Dee herself would spend at least two weeks in the infirmary recovering and would not be allowed to stress herself too much, as that could endanger her recovery. After two weeks, she would be allowed to partake in light exercise to help her body recover correctly. That sounded intensely boring, so Dee hoped that Captain Sarfina would find that tutor soon, or that they would at least give her some books to read or something. She didn’t mind a little boredom after all that happened, but doing nothing for whole days at a time was a bit too much.
Luckily for Dee, she didn’t have to get bored for more than a day. After waking up the next morning and eating some rather mediocre breakfast, her tutor arrived. Dee was resting on her bed getting bored, as she felt the presence of someone new in the room. Someone new and powerful. She knew that she would not be able to escape in her current condition if whoever had come was hostile, but she prepared to flee anyway while staring through the partitions towards the source of power she had sensed. Once the partition opened, she could only blink in slight confusion and stare in slight fascination.
Apparently the person saw the confusion in Dee’s eyes, and could feel her stare. A soft female voice asked: “What is it girl? Is there something on my face? It’s a little impolite to stare like that at someone you just met.” A long row of sharp teeth was shown as the woman gave a small smile in a failed attempt to soften her words.
“My apologies, I’ve never quite seen scales as beautiful as yours. The red hue is simply mesmerizing.” Dee replied dragging her eyes away from the ruby red scales of the saurian woman. The woman was dressed in a long white and gold robe of a priestess, and was carrying an ornamental golden staff with a blue crystal on top that had four smaller crystal levitating and rotating around the large one in the center. The over two mels tall saurian looked quite impressive and a little imposing.
“Why, thank you child. I quite like your pure white and smooth fur as well. I get the feeling that you haven’t seen all that many saurian before?” The woman’s toothy smile widened further.
“Not that many no. I’ve seen a few when I first came to this world but they were all blue in color. I’ve never seen anyone else with a beautiful red hue like yours.” Dee said still a little distracted. She had always liked the color red, and something about the saurian scales made her want to run her hand along them.
“Ah, you must have visited the eastern section of the Day city then. Our blue cousins mostly reside there. My kind live mostly in the northern sections of both Day city and Night city. In any case, my name is Mazatl. I was asked to be your tutor for a while. Pleasure to meet you.” The saurian woman greeted Dee politely and cupped her hands in front of her chest in a greeting.
“I figured that might be the case. My name is Haydee, but most people just call me Dee.” She replied while returning the greeting, imitating the gesture and eliciting another smile from Mazatl.
The saurian woman took a seat on a chair next to Dee’s bed, taking care to arrange her long and thick tail for a smooth position. “So if I understand correctly, your knowledge of this world is very limited? They didn’t explain your origins to me very clearly, though I can make some guesses based on the rumors flying around.”
Dee acknowledged the assessment with a small gesture. “I would appreciate it if you assumed I just arrived on this world having no knowledge of it. A monk told me a few things the first day I came here, but that was a long time ago. I can make some guesses on my own, but I’d rather just be taught the real facts instead.” Dee replied a little ashamed of her ignorance.
“Alright, let’s start with the basics then and see where the conversation takes us from there. I have a feeling that you will have a lot of questions and we’ll get sidetracked at that point. First things first, this world is called the Pantheon of Heroes. Right away we come to the first important digression, because there is something that might confuse you. There exists another place called the Pantheon of Gods, which is where the various deities of all the worlds can gather. That one is more of a different plane and not a physical location. Most of the time when someone on this world says the word Pantheon they mean this world, but it would be beneficial for you to keep in mind that there is another place with that name so that you can avoid confusion.” Mazatl started her explanation.
“Guessing by the name, since the Pantheon of Gods is a gathering place for gods, then is this the gathering place of Heroes?” Dee asked the obvious question.
“Yes and no. You are correct that this is a gathering place for heroes but in a different way than you are most likely imagining. This next part is fairly complex and one of the harder parts to understand about our world, but try to bear with me. On the countless worlds in this universe, the various races have legends about powerful individuals be they brave heroes, insidious villains or beings that are confused with gods. These beings create legends, and the legends have their own power separate from the person who created them. Sometimes this power coalesces into what are called Authorities.
Authorities can vary wildly both in strength, function and in origin. Not all Authorities are born from legends either, as some are formed naturally. I think a few examples would illustrate this well. You have no doubt noticed that this world has several stars, or suns as people often call them?” Mazatl looked at Dee to make sure, and got a nod in affirmative.
“These suns and their effects are controlled by the beings holding the Sun Authorities. If the holders of these Authorities so decide, then the effect of those suns will weaken and the suns will barely shine, if at all. They can also use the power of the sun to attack their enemies, but that is a topic for another time. Sun Authorities are an example of naturally occurring Authorities, which can be passed from one person to another freely, although they rarely change hands. Many lesser Authorities however are often traded for, and usually for exorbitant prices as they are limited in number but always in high demand.
On the other end are so called Hero Authorities which this world is named after. The legends I mentioned earlier can cause the gathered power to coalesce into an Authority which will grant various benefits to the holder according to the legend that created it. A famous warrior might have a famous weapon and some powers attributed to him, and the created Authority will grant the holder access to the weapon and powers mentioned in the legend. It can also increase the holder’s skill with the weapon in question and grant other similar benefits. On the downside, the Heroes are often famous for the way they met their end. The holder of the Authority will often also gain a weakness in addition to the benefits and the weakness is often related to whatever caused the end of the hero in question.
Authorities like this can sometimes be passed on, but just as often the Authority will automatically choose a new holder according to its own criteria. Some Authorities require the hopeful new holder to go through trials to gain their favor, while some stay in the family and so on. It’s hard to make too many generalizations about them, because they are so varied. The important part is that they seem to gather here at the Pantheon of Heroes, hence the name. The Authorities also tend to grant great power, but that power often can’t be used freely. For example, even if you were to gain a Sun Authority, you wouldn’t actually be able to do anything with it, because it would require your own power to actually make any changes.” Mazatl explained.
“Seems fair. The more powerful the Authority is the more of your own power is needed to use it properly. I would consider it highly twisted if someone would simply gain great power that easily. I’m assuming there’s also a level of mastery of some kind involved?” Dee asked, making sure.
“As with any other power. Just because one has the potential, it doesn’t mean one can use it for maximum effect. Don’t underestimate the power of Authorities though. The power they grant can often surprise you and change the rules in a way you won’t be able to expect.” Mazatl said seriously.
“Thank you for the warning. I’ll keep it in mind.” Dee replied thoughtfully. As a logical person, she might be vulnerable to making assumptions based on known rules and could be completely surprised by anything defying those rules.
“Now all that said, Authorities are not something you’ll have to worry about too much for a while. I just wanted you to be aware of them, and where the name of this world comes from. Returning to the subject of our world, the planet is quite possibly the largest habitable planet in the universe. It is as big as five normal sized stars, and holds uncountable number of beings of almost all races found in the universe.
Unlike normal star systems, here we have several stars orbiting a single planet. Those stars are controlled by the Authorities I mentioned earlier. The city of Day has more light than the city of Night, hence the names. The cities are on the opposite sides of the planet, with a great wilderness in between. I’d tell you the number of stars giving light to each city, but that number changes on occasion according to the whims of their masters. Even the number of stars varies sometimes as new authorities are created, and old ones cease to exist.
You’ve probably already learned that the two cities are divided to thirteen circles and that the power of the inhabitants rises towards the center of the cities. The eight and the fourth circles are important thresholds as the nature of the cities changes at those points. Beyond the eight circle, as in circles between nine and thirteen, people are living rather normally and one can do rather well with his or her own power. These are often called the lesser circles where people are simply trying to make a living. Because of the availability of resources and space, the competition for them usually seen on other worlds is not too fierce here. That is not to say there is no conflict as you should know, but it is less intense than in the other areas.
At the eight circle is where the real competition for position and power begins. That is what usually separates the strong from the weak. The different groups will actively try to fight for power, improve their position and increase their reach and numbers. While the lesser circles live in relative peace, those at eight circle and deeper in are in fierce competition. At this point the ability of a single person usually stops being enough, and people form into groups to protect themselves and their interests. It is not uncommon to see entire groups get wiped out, if they pick a fight with the wrong enemy.
There is another important difference at the fourth circle. Each officially recognized group is assigned a number, but the number only starts to really matter when you reach the fourth circle. Those living at the center of the city, in the first circle have single digits from one to nine as their number. In both cities eight out of those nine are powerful groups, and only a single number belongs to an individual. Those at the second circle have double digits from ten to ninety nine and those at the third circle have three digits from hundred to nine hundred ninety nine. As you can probably guess, the numbers form a ranking of sorts and a clear ranking like this engenders fierce competition as every group tries to show their supremacy.” Mazatl finished her explanation.
“Well that sounds troublesome. For those involved at least. I’m fairly certain that it will not really concern me for a long time if ever.” Dee gave a small sigh of relief, while thinking that she would be spending most of her time for the foreseeable future under the watchful eye of the templars, and thus blissfully uninvolved.
“You’re most likely correct, but you should still be aware of the situation. And you never know what might happen in the future.” Mazatl replied with a smile of agreement. “Well, we’ve had a decent start to the lessons, and I’ll let you get back to rest. I’m pretty sure that little dwarven acolyte will turn me into a patient if I bother you for too long.”
“Can you at least arrange me something to read? It’s dreadfully boring to just lay here.” Dee asked with almost a desperate gleam in her eyes.
Mazatl gave a small chuckle. “I’ll see what I can do. It will do you wonders to do some of your own research and form some of your own opinions. I will teach you to the best of my abilities, but everything I say will be colored by my own experiences. You may come to different conclusions as you learn more.”
Dee gave a small sigh of frustration. Mazatl’s words had implied that she would send Dee some books about the Pantheon, but so far that was not the case. She had indeed received a fairly sizeable amount of reading material, which were currently piled at the side her bed, but most of the books were works of fiction. What’s worse, they weren’t even the sort of legends that might spawn the kinds of Authorities Mazatl had mentioned. They were mostly vacuous romance novels and trite tales of the sort of characters that drove Dee crazy with their idiocy. She had a sneaking suspicion that Mazatl had dumped a bunch of her favorite novels on Dee, just to have someone who could hold a discussion about them. Either that or the saurian was playing a mean practical joke on her.
She gently probed Mazatl on the subject during their next lesson, and found out it was mostly the first reason. There was also an additional element. Mazatl treated Dee like one would treat a standard girl of Dee’s approximate age, partly because the saurian didn’t yet know better, and partly to bring a sense of normalcy back to Dee’s life. As such, she assumed Dee would enjoy the sort of reading she had provided, since it was rather fashionable among girls of Dee’s age.
Mazatl knew or at least suspected that Dee had something to do with the assassin organization that had been attacked by the Radiant Sun, but didn’t quite know the extent to which she was affected by that experience. Mazatl had dealt with a number of children freed from slave markets, brothels and other shady sources and most of the children had been traumatized to at least some extent. Compared to the others, Dee’s behavior was remarkably balanced. Mazatl assumed, and not totally without reason, that either Dee had not spent that much time held by Zabaniya or she was locking the trauma deep inside her. In either case, a sense of normalcy that something as minor as the books could bring was rather therapeutic.
Dee didn’t want to correct Mazatl who had provided the books out of kindness, since having books of even this level was better than nothing, and if the saurian woman was offended then Dee might lose even that slight joy. She did point out that she was a psion and as such much further developed mentally than her peers, so more serious literature was more to her tastes, but she did it very gently. Besides, some of the trashier romance novels that had gotten mixed up with the books actually had some interesting content. So far Dee’s only experience with any matters sexual had been the brutality inflicted on the children by the sick twists among the assassin masters, so a gentler perspective was a welcome and a healthy change.
It was when she was reading one of those trashy novels that things changed. ‘Not that it’s my place to judge, but isn’t content like that a bit too soon for someone your age?’ An androgynous voice suddenly sounded in Dee’s mind.
“Oh pendant, you’re finally awake? You sure took your sweet time.” Dee said, her bright voice betraying her obvious pleasure. She had known that the pendant would be dormant for a long time, but the years among the Zabaniya had been very lonely. The pendant wouldn’t have been able to save her most likely, but at least she would’ve been less alone.
“Humm, that implies you were familiar with my previous personality. Have I changed owners without violence for a change?” The androgynous voice asked, now also speaking out loud since Dee didn’t seem concerned with secrecy.
“Mother said you’d lose your memory and personality when you switched owners. I had hoped she was wrong, but it seems that is not the case. Yes, you changed owners by choice.” Dee answered feeling a bit down. She had liked the pendants previous personality.
“Well this is an interesting change of pace. It also seems we were familiar previously, though judging by your age, that acquaintance could not have been very long. In any case, it’s a pleasure to meet you master. Although you seem to know some of it, I’ll tell you the basics just to make sure. The personality and memories of intelligent items like myself get wiped when we change owners because more often than not we change hands due to violence. If we had a vendetta against our new owners, we wouldn’t make for very good items. For the same reason, the new personality is usually rather similar to our owner, to avoid creating problems.
If our owner is evil, so are we. If our owner is noble, so are we. Our identities and power grow with our owners. Although there will always be slight differences, in general we tend to have personalities very compatible to our owners. Our powers tend to develop either to emphasize the strengths of our owners, or to cover their weaknesses.” The androgynous voice explained.
“That doesn’t sound right at all. You had a very different personality when compared to mother. She was brilliant but a little ditzy, while you were more of a voice of reason and calm.” Dee wondered in confusion.
“I think that might be because my previous owner had me for a long time. When we are together for hundreds of years, we tend to start developing more of our own individual personalities. Complexity grows from experience. We get more complex and create small differences over time, which later on can compound for larger differences. There is also a possibility that I was how I was, because that was what my previous master desired. Your wishes will also influence our development over time.” The voice explained. Dee could already tell that the new personality was different, as it sounded less emotional and more…analytical?
“Well I’m sure we’ll get along this time too, though I feel a little bad for the loss of your old personality. That said, I am curious about your abilities and the contents stored inside you. Neither you nor mother really explained your old abilities beyond being good with detection type abilities, which you used to train me when I was smaller. I’m also pretty sure mother stored several things inside you for my future use.” Dee inquired, trying to distract herself from the loss of the first and perhaps the only real friend she’d ever had.
“Well, first of all any abilities I had previously are now gone, and should only serve as something you can use as an idea for how I should develop in the future. The only ability I retained was to work as a dimensional storage, which you already mentioned. I’m going through the contents right now, and will give you an inventory in a moment. Before that, we should talk about the first direction I should take. The good part about intelligent magical items such as myself is that we grow along our owners, and our owners can direct that growth. I start without any abilities, but you get to influence the type of ability I will start developing first. I could for instance start with the detection type abilities that you mentioned?” The voice suggested questioningly.
“That doesn’t seem very smart when that is one of my specialties, unlike with mother who wasn’t as great with them. Since I’m just starting to develop myself, it would be iffy to have you cover any weaknesses I have, since I might as well train to improve those weaknesses myself. It would be wasteful to have you start with an ability that will grow redundant in a short while. How about something in the general supportive style? Something like that would always be useful.” Dee suggested instead.
“Hmm, I think I have something in mind that would suit your specifications. I can develop an ability to provide a wide variety of positive effects. I think most people call them buffs. For instance, I could improve your speed or strength depending on the situation.” The voice mused.
“That sounds useful, tell me some details.” Dee prompted.
“Well, what I have in mind would bring flexibility and various uses. The strength off the help I can provide would grow stronger the more I develop. I could provide all my power as a single buff, like strength for example, and you could change the nature of the buff as the situation required. I could give you several buffs as well, but the strength would lessen with each buff. Three buffs would mean each would only be a third as effective, but that too might be beneficial in some situations.” The voice explained.
“That sounds like something that would be very useful. Would that be the only benefit you provide, or will you develop further abilities later on?” Dee asked. If someone had been listening in, they would be weirded out by two overly analytical and emotionless voices talking to each other.
“I would develop more abilities later on. That said, there is something of a trade-off involved. If I develop several abilities very fast, then they will improve much slower. I’d recommend sticking with one or two abilities as long as possible to get the best of them. In any case, it’ll take me a few days to gain the ability to provide buffs, and it will years before we can talk about another ability. Shall I go with this ability then?” The voice asked.
“Do it. We have something else to discuss. I used to just call you pendant. Do you have a name, or shall we decide one for you now? I don’t want to keep calling you pendant.” Dee pointed out with some chagrin. Pendant was the name she used for her old friend, and it would feel wrong to have someone else re-use that name, as uninventive as it was.
“You get to decide. You should be aware that choosing my name will also affect something else. My personality can develop either as male, female or neither, and the name you select will decide the path I will take. Judging by your reaction earlier, last time I was neither, but that doesn’t have to be the case this time.” The voice dropped another surprise.