Moirai was not happy at all the day following the attacks. The largest communities in the area had sent representatives for a meeting to discuss the possible reasons for the attack, as well as agree on measures they should take to avoid future trouble. The meeting had been a complete disaster with all the communities accusing each other for the attack. The Four Winds sub-community and the Three Spears community had gotten the most accusations, because they were the two that had been the best off out of all the communities that got attacked.
One would think the accusations would focus on communities that didn’t get attacked at all, but the machinations of Pantheon made everyone assume that a guilty party would try to misdirect accusations by having themselves attacked as well. And since the two mentioned communities were the ones that suffered the least, they were the most suspicious. Actually no one actually voiced their accusations against the Four Winds with Moirai sitting at the table, but their looks and whispers spoke volumes.
The Genasi of the Three Spears on the other hand were unable to explain the pathetic attack against their celebration, nor were they able to explain the dead bodies of the attackers found in their garden. Moirai had to admit that if Dee hadn’t explained to her what had happened, she too would find that a little convenient. She knew better however, so she made no accusations against them, and even deflected attention away from the weird circumstances. She did that partially because she didn’t want the others to find out that several members of the Four Winds had been performing at that party. It would be even more odd that both places with Four Winds members present also happened to be the places where the attacks were easily stopped.
The whole meeting hadn’t produced anything useful, and was just a giant waste of her time. Time which she had plenty of other uses for at the moment. She was also tired due to lack of sleep, and she was cranky due to lack of food as well. She could go on for weeks with no food and no sleep, but that didn’t mean she enjoyed it being hungry. At least she wasn’t as bad as Dee.
She ran into Mina at the building used by the guardians soon after returning. “Do you know where she is?” She asked rubbing her temple in annoyance. There was no need to specify who Moirai meant with ‘she’.
“I saw her for a moment after she stopped patrolling the area. I think she said something about going swimming. That was about an hour ago, so you might still catch her at the pond.” Mina replied, not wasting any time on frivolities. She could sense Moirai’s mood. That was actually one of the problems with high ranking psions, their emotions sometimes leaked into the surroundings and could be felt by the surrounding people. Usually this was easy to keep in control, but in some cases the psion just couldn’t be bothered. Such was the case now.
The area controlled by the Four Winds also had a large pond within. The pond was large enough to almost be called a lake, and Moirai knew Dee liked to spend time swimming in the pond as a form of physical training. “Have to hand it to the girl, even with missing the whole night’s sleep, she still keeps up her training.” She said to herself. “And I don’t think she had a very pleasant sleep the previous night either.” Moirai remembered Dee had mentioned something about a chat with a deity.
That was another thing that intrigued Moirai. The girl was obviously too young to have gone through the ritual, yet she also had a blessing as evidenced by the holy power she had seen the girl using on several occasions. In fact, the girl had an interesting quirk of doing fairly frivolous things with that holy power. She had seen Dee use holy magic to make a barrier to keep the rain from her fur, as well as using holy flames to clean her room and clothes by burning away dust and dirt. She’d never seen such irreverent use of holy power before, though it did seem to double as a control exercise.
Moirai reached the pond just as Dee was getting out of the water. Dee’s normally fluffy tails looked kind of sad all wet like that. The rest of her body gleamed as the moisture was running down her short fur, as if being rejected by the white strands. She looked positively indecent in those skimpy swimming shorts and top, that did more to accentuate her figure than hide it. Yet Moirai knew the girl wasn’t doing it on purpose, because she knew Dee hadn’t quite grasped the whole concept of sexuality just yet. The various men and women in the area paid attention though.
“Get some clothes on idiot disciple! You look indecent!” Moirai yelled in a friendly reprimand.
“How could I look indecent with all this fur?” Dee asked with a tilted head. She still hadn’t grasped that the fur was short enough that it didn’t actually hide anything.
‘Yep, still no clue.’ Moirai thought to herself. “Never mind that, just get some clothes on. I had a crappy morning, and I’m going to be taking it out on you.”
“Weee.” Dee said in fake cheer, with a tone dead to all emotion.
Moirai didn’t waste any time and launched several mental attacks at her disciple who was drying herself off with a towel. Dee showed her new skill at mental defense by parrying the mental probes away instead of trying to block them, just like a warrior would parry enemy strikes with a sword. The least amount of effort for the maximum benefit. Of course mental attacks weren’t as direct as physical ones, but at least Moirai could no longer force her way through Dee’s mental defenses with brute strength.
Aside from brute strength attacks, there were more subtle ways to try and penetrate the mental defenses of your target. One of the simplest was to try and find a gap in those defenses by enveloping your targets defenses with your attack. If the mental shield wasn’t complete, then your attack would get through the gaps. Both of these methods relied on either being much stronger than your target or your targets defenses having gaps to exploit. Dee could now defend against both of these, as that was the first thing Moirai had taught her.
That left the third and most commonly used strategy, which was to slowly burrow your way through your targets defenses. It was like trying to find your way through a maze made by your target, which kept shifting and your target kept throwing traps, blocks, false paths and other problems in your way. Interestingly this method didn’t rely on your level of power or mastery of psionic power, though it did require practice to become good at. No, what this method relied on was each person’s intellect, experience, ability to multitask and most of all deviousness.
Of the four qualities, Dee had three of them in spades, especially the last one. Moirai had found this out the hard way, as her mental probes met nasty traps and kept running into blocks and were forced back to square one. The best and worst thing about this method was that the person on offense would inevitably succeed sooner or later; it was simply a matter of time. You could also use more than one probe to burrow through your target’s defenses at multiple places. That’s where the multitasking came in.
The downside of this method was that even a class 1 psion could keep a class 9 psions out of her mind for a long time if she possessed the four qualities in large enough quantities. The attacker also had less than fun time during the offensive. The mental traps could range from very painful to extremely embarrassing, and mental pain could not be blocked the same way physical pain could be blocked.
What Dee lacked in experience, she made up in deviousness. Her traps seemed impossible to avoid and detect, and the maze of her defenses seemed complex beyond measure. And she kept learning. Moirai could still get through Dee’s defenses, but the time taken kept getting longer, and she had to exert more and more effort every time. The only reason she still did succeed, was because she was still better at multitasking due to her experience and Dee couldn’t maintain that level of difficulty against all the attacks at once. It was a simple case of something requiring less attention once you’ve done it a thousand times. That’s why they kept practicing.
“Master, what happened at the meeting? Did you figure anything out?” Dee asked more to distract Moirai, than out of any real interest.
“Bah, that whole meeting was useless. If left up to them, we would never find out what happened.” Moirai let out a curse that would make an orc blush.
“Well let’s try good old reason and logic for a moment, and see if we can figure something out. The way I see it, there are three main possibilities we should consider.” Dee still continued her distraction tactics, noticing Moirai paid more attention to the subject than she did.
“Go on.” Moirai prompted suddenly intrigued. The perspective of someone like Dee could be useful for ideas at least if nothing else.
“Well the idea is to figure out who benefits from this attack and how. We can probably rule out financial gain, as the price the assassin organizations would demand for something like this far exceeds any gains when considering the scale of damage. The first and most obvious possibility is that the attack itself was meant to accomplish something. The simplest goals would be to either cause damage to a target community or to kill a certain person, and the other attacks were there just to mask the real target.” Dee suggested, throwing off another probe by Moirai.
“That seems unlikely. It’s too convoluted for something that could be done much cheaper and easier through other means. The only communities that really suffered were so minor that there are much better methods to achieve the same goal. Besides, if the attack was done either to teach a lesson or to take revenge, wouldn’t the point be somewhat defeated if the person behind the attacks is unknown?” Moirai countered sending three new probes at Dee’s defenses.
“Ok, possibility number two then. The attacks were there just to hide something else. For example, one of the communities got their hands on an item they shouldn’t have and the item was stolen or taken back during the confusion of the attacks.” Dee threw another suggestion, trapping two of the new probes almost immediately.
Moirai twitched at the mental pain. “That seems rather likely. It would also explain the presence of the person with a stealth Authority that you killed. Throwing away Authorities like that seems wasteful to the extreme, and if the Genasi got their hands on something they shouldn’t…that seems like an avenue we should investigate.” Two of her probes were getting deeper into Dee’s defenses.
“Alright, moving onto possibility number three. The attacks were made to elicit some kind of reaction from the communities in the area.” Dee guided the two mental probes right into each other, and as they stumbled they ran into another trap together. This time Moirai got one of Dee’s nastier memories as a price instead of simple pain. It was about one of the operations Zabaniya had conducted on Dee.
Moirai couldn’t really do anything about that except grunt in displeasure. Dee liked to feed these fragmented pieces of memories as nasty surprises. They were shocking enough to distract her, but not clear enough to really find out anything about the girl’s past, aside from the fact that it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.
“What kind of reaction are you talking about?” Moirai asked, her attacks slacking off momentarily, allowing Dee to gain back lost ground.
“Well, for instance are there other sub-communities in this area, and did any of you call for reinforcements from the main community for additional defense? They might want to weaken you main community.” Dee suggested.
“No, we’re the only sub-community in this area as far as I’m aware. And we didn’t need to ask for more forces. In any case, the attack was too weak for that anyway.” Moirai replied immediately, finally picking up some of the lost momentum.
“Well, then I would assume that the communities in the area recalled most of their people from the surrounding area for protection. Maybe someone was getting too close to something that doesn’t want to be found. Maybe someone is planning a large scale attack against us, and doesn’t want too many eyes in the surroundings.” Dee suggested, pushing back another probe, simply by leading it astray.
“That…actually sounds plausible and very bad. We need to send some patrols out.” Moirai suddenly stopped her attack and got up immediately.
“Also consider the possibility that the attack might have wanted to accomplish more than one of the goals at the same time!” Dee yelled after Moirai, quite happy at her success.
“Time to see if I can scrounge up some clothes and maybe some food while she’s distracted.” Dee mumbled to herself, looking down. She had kept the same clothes in the hopes that would provide a small distraction as well. For some reason people tended to pay attention when she dressed like this, and she wasn’t above using that to her advantage. Even Moirai got distracted every now and then.
‘Seems something is bothering you.’ Croestia asked, as Dee had trouble focusing on her cultivation.
Moirai had taught Dee an actual cultivation methods after finding out Dee had used nothing but refining methods so far. The difference was noticeable as Dee could feel that the earlier slowdown of her power growth seemed to not be a problem anymore. That said, this evening Dee kept fidgeting around and was unable to focus on her meditation.
‘I’m just arriving at some rather unwelcome conclusions.’ Dee replied silently.
Croestia was a little confused why Dee was suddenly not talking out loud anymore, but that didn’t really bother her. ‘I get the sense that this has something to do with what you were talking about with Moirai earlier.’
‘Partially yes. Our little discussion earlier prompted me to think about things, but that’s not the root cause of the problem. The problem is the Authority I gained last night.’ Dee replied unhappily.
‘You figured something about the Authority then?’ Croestia asked even more confused. Shouldn’t that be a good thing? Even if the Authority was useless, at least they would know and could deal with it accordingly.
‘Yes. There’s a bit more to the Authority that first meets the eye. I don’t think it’s a low ranking basic Authority like Moirai thought. It’s not something grand like a Hero Authority, but it’s more than she thinks. The Authority is all about stealth and hiding, and part of the Authority is that it also hides its potential from outside investigation.’ Dee hadn’t had too much time to familiarize herself with the Authority, but it didn’t hide the details from Dee the same way it hid things from Moirai.
‘That sounds great, especially since we thought it might be useless to you. So why are you unhappy?’ Croestia asked her confusion deepening.
‘Here’s the problem. It hasn’t been that long since Moirai told me about a glaring problem in my stealth abilities, namely other psions being able to rather easily detect me. She also didn’t know of any way to compensate for that weakness. Now I suddenly gain an Authority that might be able to solve that problem, and it might be the only solution, seeing as Authorities break normal rules. This seems a little too coincidental, does it not?’ Dee mentioned her suspicions.
‘Wait, are you sure it can solve the problem?’ Croestia was sorting her own thoughts and wanted to make sure she understood.
‘Sure? No. I haven’t had enough time with it to be certain. I’m fairly confident though that this Authority should be able to hide my mind within Mindscape for at least short periods of time. I could use it for other purposes as well, but this is the main point. The exact time the Authority would hide me requires further testing, but I suspect it depends on who I’m hiding from. Someone strong like Moirai would should see past it quicker.’ Dee explained her thoughts rather patiently. She wanted Croestia’s opinion, and kind of hoped that Croestia would call her crazy.
‘Well, if that is true, then it does seem a little too coincidental. What does this have to do with your talk with Moirai though?’ Croestia asked, trying to piece it together.
‘Well, doesn’t it kind of seem that the Authority was almost fed to me? The person holding the Authority just so happens to attack the party I’m attending as a bodyguard, and I can also detect the other people accompanying the person who should theoretically be nigh on undetectable if the others were not around. I told Moirai I could see three basic possible reasons behind the attacks, but there might have been a fourth reason.’ Dee really hoped she was wrong about this.
‘You don’t think the whole attack was just to get you that one Authority, do you?’ Croestia asked shocked. ‘That seems quite extreme.’
‘No I don’t. However, like I mentioned to Moirai, there might have been more than one reason for the attacks. I find it much more likely that someone found out about the attacks beforehand and just made use of them for their own purposes. I mean, once you know that there will be dozens of attacks, slipping in one more won’t draw attention, and who would notice a few extra bodies among all the dead? That’s not the worst part though.’ Dee was just getting started.
‘It’s not? That’s plenty bad already.’ Croestia wasn’t sure she wanted to know more.
‘No. In order for someone to send me this little gift, they first had to know I was looking for it. They had to know where I would be at the time of attacks. They also had to know that I was able to first sense the approaching threat, and secondly deal with them. You’ll note that the person I killed was stronger than me, so it’s not too farfetched to think I would lose that fight. Someone has been observing me, and I haven’t noticed at all. They are able to hide from me, and most likely also able to listen to at least some of our conversations. They can also hide from Moirai, who is a class 9 psion.’ Dee really, really hoped she was wrong.
‘That’s why you’re talking to me like this isn’t it? Who would be able to do something like this and why?’ Croestia was flabbergasted by the implications.
‘I don’t know, but I can think of some possibilities. It seemed the Zabaniya were grooming me for something. Perhaps they still are. Another possibility that comes to mind are the two goddesses that have getting on my nerves lately.’ Dee suggested.
‘There’s a third possibility.’ Croestia suddenly suggested.
‘Who?’ Dee asked.
‘Well, someone was supposed to meet you when you first came into this world. From everything I’ve seen in your memories and can infer from what was left inside me, your mother Selvaria has friends in high places. Very high places. As in first and second circle level of high places. Immortals over rank ten-type of high places. Perhaps that friend is involved.’ Croestia suggested simply.
‘After all this time?’ Dee wondered mostly to herself.
‘Well, information is power. Finding someone like you in a world as large as this takes time. Maybe they like what they’re seeing, and are pushing some things in the right direction…’ Croestia replied.
‘Why not approach me then?’ Dee asked a little sullen. She herself knew several possible reasons, but she felt the need to ask anyway.
‘That I can’t say. Like I said, that’s just one possibility. Maybe they think you’re safer here or something?’ Croestia replied, knowing that Dee could guess many other possible reasons herself.