=========================== Turn Seven (Part II) ==========================

     Guy and Raem both look quite smug.  Leoshi says ``do we think it is a 
*good* idea for *everyone* '' as she gestures meaningfully at Raem and Guy ``to 
get their wish?''

     The Dragon Emporer says ``Leoshi, have faith.  There is more at stake here 
than I knew.''

     Miriya waves her hands in arcane passes and states ``I **WISH** that 
Tarkis, Styles and the Wandering Tien walked once more amongst the living and 
were here with us, and I **WISH** that all those who wished to be were reunited 
with their families.''

     A disembodied voice replies ``As you have wished so shall it be, if not 
now, in eternity!''  The Dragon Emporer leers at the Invisible God and states 
``you really *are* sappy, aren't you!''

     Tarkis, THE Tien and Styles appear next to the party.  Tarkis looks amazed.
 Styles whirls around, reaching for the middle of his back, and the Tien looks 
around the chamber in a deliberate way saying ``well, it is good to be back 
amongst friends!''  

     Cragspider and the Invisible God both bow their heads slightly.  The Tien 
says ``I think I'm the only one that all of you know directly!  Is that the 
case?''

     ``So it would seem'' says the Invisible God.

     ``Did I carry out your wishes in the way you anticipated Cragspider?'' asks
the Tien.

     Cragspider says ``It took millenia, but indeed, the world machine was 
restored and my precious creatures have been spared.''

     The Tien says ``I'm confused about several things though...''

     ``Me too!'' Phineas interjects and goes on to ask ``If I'm not clever 
enough to understand the whole meaning of the world, then why don't you explain 
as much as you can?  Frankly, saying that we couldn't understand sounds like 
you're trying to weasel out of the question.  How are we supposed to know the 
right way to recreate the world if we don't even know what it's for it the first
place?  I wouldn't even plan a tower without knowing its purpose, much less an 
entire world.  Why did you let evil, chaos and void in the world?"

     The Invisible God looks through Phineas a moment and answers in warm tones 
``Phineas, the answer to some of your question lies within you.  You had many 
healthy children with Anna.  Still, you did not know why you created boys or 
girls.  Perhaps you will understand a martial analogy.  Consider a proving 
ground.  As a commander, you loved your soldiers.  Still, you sent them out to 
be injured and occasionally maimed to improve their skills, to separate the gold
from the dross.  Yet, you gave them a choice.  They were never forced in your 
training to do something.  Even more so, I have given some creatures a measure 
of freewill.  They were free to do as they chose.  From my vantage, all things 
were known.  I put the dust in motion and the sun across the sky.  In its 
fullness, my plan was my garden, lovingly tended.  Within the design, you saw 
only parts.  As you moved from day to day in your journey, your choose your own 
paths, and you created your own destiny.  Many in your party have seen the 
wisdom of having challenges in your lives.  So, my creation provided you with 
existence and a measure of accomplishment.  I did not need creation.  I do not 
hunger for worship.  Still, the worlds have brought me something akin to 
pleasure.  Chaos and Void have their places too as you shall soon see.  Evil is 
the antithesis of my scheme for creation without free will.  Good is *the 
choice* to do what I have requested.  Without choice the universe is amoral, not
good.  This is enough to ponder for now.  There will be time enough, and you'll 
have more to consider shortly.  You have seen and still don't believe; blessed 
are those who have not seen and still believe.'' 

     Phineas undaunted asks ``Why did the Invisible God need other deities as 
intermediaries?  And why were so many of them travellers from other 
dimensions?''

     The Invisible God says ``Phineas, you have served me well in this world, 
and you too shall be rewarded.''  The Invisible God stops for a moment and 
appears to be musing at a private joke.  His eyes twinkle and a hearty laugh 
sounds across the room before He says ``Phineas, some day a child will ask you 
why you live for so long, why you talk of other dimensions and why you were 
chosen to do so.  When you answer that question, my answer will be complete.''
       
        Phineas goes on and says ``Why all the smoke and mirrors about the 
connection of this world with Branham's universe?  Why did everyone call it the 
"Real World"?  Seems to me this world is real as any other.  And what about all 
those other planes, like Limbo?''

     The Invisible God reveals near infinite patience and says ``the world where
each is born *is* the most real world to them.  Through the centuries have you 
forgotten your dear Aunt Hatty, Hewey, Dewey and Lewey or the Barony of the 
Festering Swamp?  I know you have not...''

     Phineas interjects ``I've *tried* to!''

     The Invisible God chuckles again and says ``you truly have chutzpah 
Phineas!  Because I worked through other agencies does not mean My Hand was not 
behind them.  Did you not feel my gentle kiss in the wind or see my glory in the
blooming of the trees or flowers?  Could you not see the reflection of my wisdom
in your marriage to Anne?  Together, men and women reflect my image.  It is 
natural that you should think that failure to do something given the opportunity
is the same as the inability to do so, but such is not truly the case.''

        Balinor attempts to stop Phineas, but Phineas dodges and blurts out 
``why couldn't Cragspider destroy the world?  What are "type one" and "type 
alpha one" objects--and all the other things that Cragspider was blathering 
about?''

     The Invisible God says ``Time grows short Phineas, but I shall answer this 
in a way I think you can understand.  Cragspider is not the Creator, and she is 
not allowed to destroy the world.  The other terms are things Cragspider 
associates with this world, because truly she lived in another place before she 
knew My Glory.  This was the place you knew as Branham's universe.  Still, all 
things are the work of My Hands and Will.  Cragspider will answer these 
questions for you.''

     Trahk Chi and Leoshi lunge for Phineas in attempts to quiet him, but the 
old Death Master is too sly for them and sidesteps them both.

     Phineas says ``One more question . . . how are Death, Man, and Void 
different from the other Runes?''

     The Invisible God answers ``There are other Runes similar to the three you 
mentioned, but you never became aware of them.  I will answer the question you 
intended.  Death, Man and Void each carried in them a measure of free will.  
These Runes were part of that choice that is so much a part of you, all sentient
creatures and Good and Evil.  They symbolize the ability to step outside of a 
rigidly defined creation.  One of my creatures Ossirri known to you as 
Grandfather Mortal brought these things from a place that was apart but still 
within My Ken.  From the beginning I knew these Runes would come into the world,
but they were not part of the original motives I placed within it.  Death offers
annihilation, not merely a surcease.  Man offers free will.  A tree is just as 
alive as a Morokanth; still the Morokanth has something that the tree does not, 
free will.  The Void offered a chance to visit other planes.  On those planes, 
those other deities of who you spoke earlier ruled.  Their will shaped the very 
substance of the "universes" they ruled.  More will be revealed in a few 
moments.''

     Phineas pauses for a moment, filled with a spirit of introspection, and the
party breathes a collective sigh.

     The silence is broken by Miriya who says ``Lord, I have a few questions 
myself.''

     The Invisible God says ``Miriya, in a short time you will be with me for 
all eternity.  The questions will all be answered then, and you shall soon see 
from whence your ancestors sprang.''

     The Tien says ``it seems an inopportune time to ask additional questions, 
but I *am* most curious.''

     The Invisible God says ``I knew you would be.''

     The Tien asks ``first, where is Hrothmir?  You promised that he would be 
present for the final confrontation.''

     The Invisible God says ``he is here.  Your remaining questions must wait 
faithful servant.''  

     A tall man wearing a crown of gold and silver filigree, draped in a cape of
purple steps from the shadows of the room.  The cape is embrodiered with all the
runes, and they seem to dance around the fabric as the party glances at them.  
At the man's waist is belted a sword, and Kaliban Keen-Eye gasps and says ``the 
sword of Hrothmir!''  The man says ``I am Hrothmir.''  The Tien runs forward and
clasps Hrothmir.  The Tien weeps unabashedly and says ``please forgive me dear 
friend.''  Tarkis says ``father?''  

     Hrothmir pats his old friend's back and says ``Lord, I am here.  I have 
learned much from toils in the underworld.  I am prepared to atone for my folly.
I trusted in my own wisdom and the wisdom of mortality.  You were right to work 
through Cragspider and send Carrastinian and the Tien to upbraid me.''  With 
slowly measured actions, Hrothmir turns to the Tien and says ``I absolve thee of
all wrongdoing.  You are forgiven Tien.''

     The Invisible God says ``spoken true and well Hrothmir.  You shall atone, 
but it shall be a glorious atonement.  Your sin was one of hubris, but you have 
learned.  There come others who have atoned lo these many millenia.''

     The chamber grows suddenly cold, and the smell of brimstone and foetid 
vapors fill the room.  Sounds in the chambered are dampened, and the light grows
dim.  The walls and ceiling of the chamber become a dull black.  Two figures 
enter the room, and deep vibrations churn the guts of the party members.  Though
the two stride forward together and appear human, they are as different as two 
can be.

     The first is tall and impossibly pale.  His noble countenance is punctuated
by a set of cold, black eyes having pupils so large they seem to suck in the 
light and life around them.  Haughty lips part ever so slightly to reveal teeth 
which are far too sharp for a human grin.  His hands are corded with apparent 
strength, and his will beats against the party in a palpable wave.  He wears 
close fitting shirt, pants and vest which appear to be made of black silk and 
velvet.  Sewn into his clothes are innumberable small silver Void runes.  He 
ignores the party as he strides toward the Invisible God.  Balinor says ``Lord 
Eldar!''

     The second, but the none the lesser, is short and squat.  His red eyes 
twinkle as he surveys the party.  Each party member blushes as they remember a 
forgotten sin or mishap.  His clothes are done in the colors of passion and hang
heavily with the weight of pins, bangles, gems and jewels of all shapes and 
varieties.  He holds in his left hand a scepter topped by a ruby carved into a 
likeness of the Rune of True Power.  His scarlet tummy protudes slightly from 
under his shirt, and his barbed tail swings to and fro as he gathers up his 
pants and pulls up to cover his ample paunch.  Still, he has an incredible charm
about him, and visions of eager followers swarm to mind in his presence.  He 
seems to promise all.  It is difficult for the party members to resist the urge 
to throw down their arms and follow him.  He blows a wide armed, theatrical kiss
to the party and turns to face the Invisible God.  He laughs a jolly chortle as 
he bounds the distance to the Invisible God in four steps.  Raem prostrates 
himself and mummers ``the Lord of the Seven Hells.''

     The Invisible God states ``nearly all the players are here, but there is 
another.  Let two became ONE greater than their parts!''

     A noble elf looking for all the world like Vorondil enters the chamber.  
The elf shuffles forward with a general lack of purpose.  Suddenly the elvish 
ghost hovering near Huvis shoots forward to the zombie, and the zombie's flesh 
melts into a pool of pure light.  Even the Dragon Emporer turns away.  The walls
of the chamber become clear once again, revealing the floating former 
inhabitants of Zhalindor and the legion of gates to the outer planes.  The mist 
and smells vanish and are replaced by stillness.  When the light vanishes, Lord 
Eldar says ``Arch-magnus Lichtadon?''

     The elf stands proud and regal.  His crystal blue eyes scan the Control 
Complex, and he states quietly ``I am Lichtadon.  I have been to this place 
before and stolen things which were not meant for me.  For this, many millenia I
spent osscilating between the mortal realm and the underworld.  I was wrong and 
am prepared to atone for the error of my ways, now and forever.''

     The Invisible God says ``so shall you.''

     The Dragon Emporer says ``Lord, what would you have us to do?''

     The Invisible God says ``Cragspider, tell Phineas, Miriya and Cragspider 
what they seek to hear.''

     Cragspider begins her tale . . .

                         Long ago, in a universe not so far away, there 
          was a race of humans who lived on a world called the Earth.  
          The Earth was in `Branham's Universe' millenia before 
          Branham's great-great-great grandfather was born, and it was 
          a place not unlike Zhalindor in someways and quite different 
          in others.  Earth had a sun, but it was not a god. It was 
          just a fiery ball.  It burned with the power of nature, not 
          magic.  Our world had but one moon, and it was a ball of rock 
          and dust, not a goddess.  Still, people played, lived and 
          died on this Earth.
          
               Mankind was not content with his lot though, and I 
          suppose that is not so different than here on Zhalindor.  
          (The Lord of Hell laughs aloud at this point, shaking his 
          head emphatically.)  Man saw other worlds from his vantage, 
          but you could not get to them using magic or psionics or 
          runes.  
          
               We had something that was man's alone, and we called 
          that thing technology.  It was different than magic in that 
          everyone could use it or abuse it.  The dwarves have (or 
          had) something like it here, but our technology was even 
          more soul-less than the dwarves!  (Trahk Chi says `such a 
          thing is *IMPOSSIBLE*!')  
          
               First man put things above the sky called satellites, 
          and eventually mankind expanded to other worlds and moons 
          close by.  The place man found was harsh, cold and airless.  
          (Balinor whispers to Branham `ah!  I understand more now!')  
          Man had to use ships to get where he went, but they weren't 
          the kind of ships you travel around in here.
          
               These ships were more like metal cans.  They had to 
          hold our air as well as our food and water.  They had to 
          travel for days or weeks or centuries depending on when they 
          were built and where they were going.
          
               My ancestors grew tired of the Earth and longed to 
          possess the stars as well.  It was man's birthright in the 
          church of technology.  My ancestors built something grand 
          called a world ship.  It was tens of leagues on a side, and 
          they carried not only people, but animals and plants of all 
          types and description.  My ancestors were culled from the 
          best and brightest of the Earth at the time, and once they 
          were in space, which is what we called the place between the 
          worlds, they became even more selective in who was allowed 
          to have children.  
          
               Soon the entire population from the smallest child was 
          as smart as the wisest sage.  My ancestors discovered 
          secrets buried in the fabirc of the universe itself.  By the 
          time we arrived at a habitable world, not all of them were 
          you know, my ancestors did not even need a world anymore!  
          They built their own out of the fundemental building blocks 
          of the universe and cast a mocking eye at thoughts of 
          anything greater than mankind.
          
               My ancestors did wonders then.  They created new worlds 
          and destroyed old ones.  They generated new species and then 
          destroyed them.  They created small universes and populated 
          them.  My ancestors did find evidence that something *had* 
          existed prior to mankind with a high level of 
          sophistication.  
          
               While my ancestors toiled on their projects and dipped 
          even further into the recessess of the universes treasure 
          trove, mankind at large expanded.  Eventually man had found 
          a way to travel across the cosmos in weeks rather than 
          years, and mankind travelled to the final frontier to 
          colonize it.  Mankind found something interesting.
               
               Man was not alone.  My ancestors discovered this as 
          well, but they chose to ignore the other species.  My 
          ancestors cloaked their star and themselves so as not to 
          interupt their vital research.  Still when humanity entered 
          into the sector of space where my ancestors had created 
          their home, my ancestors took an interest in mankind's 
          affairs and began to monitor their messages to one another.  
          Mankind discovered that there were species that looked like 
          elves and centaurs and slith out there.
          
               Men theorized that life was transported across the 
          galaxy by a race called the Ancients.  There was evidence on 
          many worlds of a great war, and men believed that the 
          Ancients destroyed themselves.  Even more incredible, there 
          seemed to be living members of the Ancient race, but these 
          Droyne were pitiful farmers who had little interest in 
          expanding outside of their small enclaves.

[continued]