Emperor of the Line
This story was originally posted by Gamemaster Armifer in the Guild Events folders of the Moon Mage folders of the Dragonrealms forum on 10/18/2008.
Emperor of the Line
The very awkward journey of Sophister Jon Ilbani began ten years after the signing of the Lunar Accord. One of the most striking demonstrations of Lunar magic in the previous decade was the introduction of the Moongate spell into wide-scale use. Teleportation had long been a hallmark of the far-flung mystics and astrologers, but the moongates had incredible potential to influence commerce and war.
Unfortunately, there were...incidents. In order to complete the teleportation operation, the newly christened Moon Mages relied on techniques to induce altered states of consciousness. Meditation, prayer, alcohol, drugs; anything that would surrender the magician's control over his own mind and allow his planar link to rule during the critical moment. These techniques were sufficient for classic teleportation, but proved problematic for forming stable gates. Dozens of magicians were lost per year, and many towns in the empire forbade teleportation within sight of their walls.
Ilbani was one of a handful of magicians, all of them Sophisters or Celestians, that could reliably generate gates. Unconvinced that it was due to a personal attribute, Ilbani set out to discover what the critical factor was. He presented his findings during a convocation celebrating the 10th anniversary of the guild. Ilbani argued that the common factor among all the reliable gaters was that their techniques were grounded in mathematical exercises. From this, he proposed that high mathematics was at least symbolically important to this magical operation, and further asserted that it may be possible to describe a magical geometery.
While most of the sects were lukewarm at best to the notion of distilling a transcendent, mystical experience into lines and numbers, the two sects that were open to the concept were also the only ones still routinely using the spell. Despite the disapproval of many of their peers, the first of the guild's Geometers gathered and began their research.
Work was slow. Teleportation and other variations of magically manipulated space quickly confounded the understanding of conventional mathematicians. The magicians' formulae grew in complexity every year, until it was as occult and impenetrable as any knowledge can be. As the years went on and the Geometers were frustrated at every turn, they noticed the steady degeneration of Ilbani's mind. Where they saw a sprawling and seemingly contradictory set of proofs, Ilbani claimed that he saw variables changing as they worked. He asserted that errors in his work were because the numbers were conspiring against him.
Things came to a head when Ilbani's son found him sequstered in his workshop, apparently measuring the length of a table over and over again. Each line on the stack of papers he had produced gave a different number. Jares Braun called for him to account for his work, to which Ilbani replied, "I must humbly ask a grandmaster to defer while I host an emperor."
Concerned for Ilbani's safety -- and the political repercussions if he did something catastrophic in the middle of Throne City -- Braun ordered a group of Moon Mages to subdue him and bring him to the guildhall for treatment. The magicians found that Ilbani had barricaded himself inside his workshop, and was screaming geometry-related nonsense at the top of his lungs.
Attempts to scry into the workshop returned bizarre results, suggestive that the workshop had been displaced elsewhere in space (Fateweaver Tanan Ulrich took exceptional interest in this effect, but that's the start of another story) and communication with Ilbani resulted only in more shouted babbling about emperors and the conspiracy of numbers. At length, the magicians decided the old fashion approach would work best and physically forced their way into the workshop.
The group went in expecting madness, but not quite the kind they found. All of Ilbani's furniture had been warped into strange curves and edges, the material unharmed but the form little more than abstract art. Ilbani himself was scribbling with mad intensity at a mathematical formula spread across one wall, constantly adding new factors and rewriting old ones. In the center of it all, floating in mid air, was an impossible shape. Witnesses described it as like a cube, but as it rotated various planes on its form appeared and vanished. To a man, they reported a disquieted sense of tearing as it spun, and headaches when they attempted to take the entire shape in at once.
The Moon Mages watched dumbfounded as Ilbani and the geometric monster dueled. The shape steadily grew in size and "tearingness," only to be reduced in size and complexity with Ilbani's ink strokes. Ilbani completed the last stroke of his formula with a shout of triumph, and the impossible shape unceremoniously disappeared. The witnesses report that Ilbani turned to face them with a look of peace on his face, then collapsed dead. The Imperial Healers determined his heart had failed.
The Geometers were unable to make heads or tails of Ilbani's formula, neither to explain what it meant nor why the witnesses claimed it had magical power. Before the workshop was cleaned up, Jares Braun ordered an exact copy of the formula engraved in a bronze plate and interred with Ilbani's body.
In the years that followed Ilbani's death, the Geometers proved more capable. Within a Human lifetime they had codified enough of Enlightened Geometry to prove its merit and standardize the practice of teleportation for centuries to come. Strangely, many of those fundamental formulae were refined from the lines of research that were muddled and impossible during Ilbani's life.
Ilbani's strange encounter had one other lasting impact on the lives of Moon Mages: while it is a joke among researchers in many disciplines, Moon Mage researchers consider it very bad taste to cite gremlins when an experiment goes awry.