“Why not just destroy the Madstone?” people might reasonably ask. Because knowledge is power. And it’s about time I keep this damn omniscience going. And seeing how so much stuff is apparently omniscience-proof nowadays, I sent my minions, Bambi and Winnie-the-Pooh, out to meet with a few parties on my behalf in case of such hidden knowledge. Because of his inherent distrust of humanity, I sent Bambi to speak with the Faustus/Hephaestus organization. They’ve been fucking around with magical artifacts for awhile. It’s a weak lead, but being a god is no time for hubris.
Winnie is much more personable, despite being a large brown bear. People love talking animals. I sent him to go have a word with Captain Lightning I and his apprentice, Captain Lightning II. Captain Lightning I always treated me pretty nice considering our differences, going back to our first real run-in with him being under the control of Spinetingler. Spinetingler is a horror-themed villain who uses his limited reality-warping abilities to turn people into monsters. He managed to beat Captain Lightning and turn him into an evil minion. Ever since then, Lightning’s been oddly understanding. I think it goes back to his service in World War II. He had to fight alongside the people who divided up Poland with the Nazis, after all.
So Captain Lightning gets the friendly bear. Getting them there was easily. I modified the Dimensional Bomb technology with what I’ve spied on about the portals on Earth. Weakening the walls between universes can lead to permanent breaches and links. The Madstone limited my apparently not-so-omniscience to its confines unless I used my dimensional breach technology to reach the real world. It worked just fine out there. That let me hunt down the temple the Faustuss people were operating out of now.
Beneath a decrepit former Blockbuster was a temple, recently carved because Faustus/Hephaestus wanted something old-looking. Faustus was the side handling the magical items, and they’d been the more powerful branch for awhile when Hephaestus got infiltrated by a vigilante who seized power and used their resources in a personal vendetta. Hephaestus is back in line, and has their own storage and operations in the temple.
So the temple had both magical defenses and automatic gun turrets with guard robot dogs that all activated when the magical portal appeared. Seeing as they still see clients in such places, these defenses didn’t open fire. They just readied themselves. I wouldn’t have dropped off Bambi if he was going to get shot as soon as he appeared.
Bambi clopped out, twin laser turrets tracking the temple and the weapons he recognized. “I’m here to bargain!” he declared.
Most of the defenses went dormant again and a Hephaestus salesman wizard in a business robe stepped out. “What can we do for you, Mr…?”
“Bambi,’ the deer said.
The salesmage did a doubletake. “Come again?”
“I am Bambi of the forest, sent on behalf of the Unicorn Goddess in search of knowledge,” the deer responded.
“Is this-” he started to ask.
A copy of my head appeared floating in the air next to Bambi and told him, “This is not a joke. Bambi is here as my agent, to obtain information and negotiate the payment you will ask from me.”
I left to go do more important stuff before he could ask why I wasn’t meeting with the himself. I got shit to do.
For instance, Captain Lightning I was waiting in an ancient tower on a mountain that wasn’t entirely in any dimension. I “pinged” him of a sort. I used an obvious scrying spell, one he would easily be able to detect, then opened the portal there more slowly. Winnie ambled out on all fours, wearing a harness packed with plastic jugs of honey. Some were a gift to Captain Lightning from Winnie and the rest were for his own enjoyment.
“Hello!” Winnie greeted Captain Lightning.
The old man, and he was looking his age more and more these days, smiled and shook his head. “Gecko sent you.”
“Yes. We need some help. I can share some honey with you if you would like to talk,” Winnie offered.
Captain Lightning guffawed. “Come here, Pooh. Tell me what brings you here?”
I, on the other hand, used my powers to examine the Madstone more thoroughly. When I first summoned it, I found out about its pocket dimension. But back in the beginning…
The name of the tribe is now lost. Despite the stereotypes, Native Americans aren’t all magic, but one of them learned from some of the Three Hares who settled here. These supers and aliens pretending at godhood had some mages in their ranks, and some mingled with the native tribes of this half of the world. One of them learned from them and learned that they were wide-open gaping assholes. He knew people like that. Some day, they would be a threat. Power requires care, or it would turn on those who gave it up.
He worked carefully, trying over and over, until he found a way to enchant a simple stone to trap people with those powers. He didn’t find out how superpowers connect to people, necessarily… pretty sure the guy didn’t have to worry about radioactive gamma goop and bioengineering back then, which was also why powers were more rare. But they existed, and he tapped into their wellspring to make a stone sphere that would hold them within it. And if it held them, then it stood to reason it had to be a place. The brilliant son of a gun made the pocket dimension without truly realizing what he’d done. With today’s knowledge at his fingertips, he could have pulled off some crazy shit.
The man himself died of plague. It was another couple hundred years before Clara arrived, so the blame isn’t hers. Her husband had been something of an explorer who encountered a mysterious mushroom, taller than a cabin and pulsing red. He didn’t realize it had grown from an old battlefield where powerful superhumans had died. He’d destroyed it as an abomination without realizing he’d been infected. He died shortly after arriving home and passing it on to his wife who reacted differently, taking on a symbiotic relationship with it that mutated her and the fungus. It empowered her for more than just fungi.. She didn’t fully understand what had happened to her. The link between microbes and disease wasn’t figured out by this bunch of humans until after she was imprisoned in the Madstone. Maybe if she hadn’t been, it would have happened sooner.
Soon after Clara’s husband died, her landlord tried to force himself on the widow. She was now more than a match physically and beat him down. As an afterthought, she decided to give him a bout of the Black Plague. Thing is, she liked having power for once. With her money, she decided she’d start over new and be someone in the New World. She built her own cottage outside of town, drawing suspicions from people about possibly being a witch, when a hunter stopped in for some sustenance after having rifled through the forgotten remnants of a Native village. The hunter tried to help himself to Clara as well, and was only saved when he tried to hit her across the temple with the Madstone. She disappeared and he just thought something fucking weird happened. He spent the final two months of his life with some crazy diseases she’d inflicted on him, including venereal. I wish my omniscience hadn’t shown me what his junk looked like.
Some con artist found the stone and decided to sell it as a cure-all, demonstrating it on someone who was getting sick after being bitten by a wild dog. It worked.
And here we get to the mage’s mistake. Well, more of an oversight he didn’t realize. The Madstone needed a way to vent the powers it contained and this is not good for me. In much the same way computers can be unforgiving to someone who tells them what to do without really thinking about it, an assumption led to something of a huge potential change.
With the artifact known to cure rabies, that’s what people tried to use it for. And they did. It allowed the mundane people holding it to access the powers of the superhuman trapped within. They could have cured or caused any disease, but they never realized what they had access to. Occasionally, someone who touched it disappeared entirely and was never seen again. By that point, Clara’s mental health wasn’t that good and she’d turned the pocket dimension inside into her own laboratory of rot and disease. She didn’t even realize most of those who disappeared were here in the first place. Unless they were gifted with immunity to disease and a handy ability to blow up plague animals, they died quickly.
Later, the Madstone became a pharmacological, alchemical, and magical oddity in folklore. Then Mix N’Max decided to look for it, interested in how the stone cured people and what else it could do. And now there’s a woman running around with an object that I’m technically trapped within and which, if touched by someone without powers, could potentially allow them to use my powers. So that’s a lovely thing to find out. I barely trust myself like this; I sure as goose shit don’t trust other people with these abilities. They might be some sort of psychopath.
The dossier Bambi came back with from Faustus/Hephaestus didn’t provide any greater context except that Faustus was interested in buying it as a cure for rabies and study to find out if it had any better applications. One part they left out of their files was they had identified a list of faith healing frauds and TV show faux doctors who might buy it.
Captain Lightning was more on the money. “It is a trap that allows someone to use the powers of the superhuman trapped inside it, theorized to contain a great healer that no one knows how to free.”
I popped in while he and Winnie were sitting around enjoying a loaf of bread and honey. “Well, she is free. Turns out you can get out if someone sufficiently powerful wanders in and it spends all its energy trying to hold them.” I gestured to myself. “It couldn’t account for advanced technology, but I still feel its constant pull.”
Captain Lightning’s thin grey eyebrows rose. “She’s out and you are in?”
I nodded. “So someone without superpowers could touch it and be able to do anything I can.”
He got serious in a hurry. “We have to get you out of there.” He helped himself up using a gnarled old wooden staff that looked like it had grown around crystals.
“And we’ll have to do something about her, because she’s a nasty piece of work as well,” I said.
“What’s she done?” he asked.
“She escaped and left me in it. When I confronted her, she tried to trap me in it and she nearly killed a bunch of people around,” I explained.
Captain Lightning looked at me, then shook his head. “I cannot help you fight her, and must recommend you don’t. If she is near your level, the Earth must not risk a war between gods that could destroy it.”
“I can just undo all the damage anyway,” I said.
Lightning’s eyes narrowed. “And what if you don’t? What if you take advantage of it to make changes as a loophole? You turned your life around, but it was not a clean journey. I know the temptations that come with great power.”
I scoffed. “I expected better from you, old man.”
Captain Lightning almost seemed hurt. As if he was the one trapped in a rock here! “I would be happy to mediate and keep the peace. It would be irresponsible to aid you in a war that could destroy the world.”
I shook my head and snapped my fingers, returning to the Madstone with Winnie in tow. Bambi looked up from nibbling on some grasses.
“What do we do now?” Winnie asked.
“We’re going to toss Pestilentia back into this stone and be done with her. Or we shatter the Madstone and her head.”
“Shatter?” Bambi asked.
“Hardly knew ‘er,“ I responded.