|Full Name:||Michelle Buchanan|
|Age:||32 (Looks 26)|
|Tradition:||Cult of Ecstasy|
|Theme Song:||"Bring on the Rain," Jo Dee Messina|
|Quote:||Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us. The Ecstatics. We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.|
At first glance, Michelle Buchanan seems like a frail, broken thing. Her body and mind are weak, she seems confused and has trouble with open spaces and large crowds. She's got the Cultist's absent look and one could be forgiven for thinking it's from being strung out on drugs. For all of that, though, there's something sweet and charming about the woman... maybe the seeming helplessness, maybe the lack of guile, maybe the way she seems genuinely to want to help people despite her own situation.
Other things lurk below the surface, though. Simmering rage boils up at strange times, and sometimes she speaks differently, answers to a different name. Something is wrong with the woman, though for some this might only add to the allure. She clearly doesn't like the anger or the strange mood shifts, and will try doubly hard to atone for them, which can leave a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde impression.
But none of this is the true Michelle. The above are all just effects of the things she's been through in the last ten years--betrayal and mental abuse from her mentor, six years in a Paradox Realm, strange experiments in a place she can hardly remember or even describe. The true Michelle, the one buried beneath the mental trauma, was someone driven to learn and know everything she possibly could. Endlessly curious, trying to make the world better one person at a time, sometimes with an overly proud or snide streak. She aches to have a plan in place for her life again, to put her feet on the road and go after a goal. To build something--a relationship, a cabal, a business. At this point she doesn't care. Her true self has been denied so long that any goal would be worth grabbing, any knowledge worth having, any experience worth living. Anything to find herself again.
Everything our senses tell us is an illusion. This is an ancient concept, but even modern science confirms that the world we see and hear and touch is only a fraction of what truly exists. The three spatial dimensions we can perceive, the single, linear dimension of time, are merely a small portion of the true complexity of the universe. Some theories state that there are truly 8 or 12 or 15 extra-spatial dimensions--Michelle isn't sure just how many there are, she just knows there's more to reality than meets the eye.
As humans are by nature creatures of structure, Michelle approaches the universe through a structured thought process--she just knows she's only grasping at the edges of universal truth. The framework she uses is that of advanced physics--quantum mechanics, string theory, especially the more esoteric versions. There is, however, a distinct difference between Michelle's views and standard scientific practice. She carries the idea of the "observer" to an extreme. Reality is observed, and hence we change it by observing it. A Mage imposing their will on "reality" is simply fighting the belief and observatory power of all the others around her, which is why coincidental magic is easier, vulgar is harder, and Paradox... well... Paradox is simply like a rubber band snapping back after its tension is let go, the will of the collective forcing the dynamic influence back into line. In fact, Michelle sees Paradox as a rather defensive measure from the universe.
Michelle sees things in ways others do not. She can see the "curled up" dimensions hidden at every point in our universe, and hence can manipulate space in seemingly unorthodox ways. If she can pull herself outside of linear time, then she can manipulate that, too. If she can understand something, she can change it and affect it. The sort of "foci" most Ecstatics use are for Michelle simply devices to change and enhance her perceptions--directly affecting reality is done through her own person, through gesture and word. Sometimes, for a lasting effect, she may build something to hold the spell, but mostly she is her own focus--once she's able to see and understand.
There is one universal truth, though, one constant. There is some sort of divine being (or possibly beings). There is an overall plan, though Michelle doesn't begin to understand what that may be. There is a way the world is supposed to be, however--kinder, gentler, a place where people respect and care for each other. With power comes responsibility, and so Michelle, to keep her power, to be worthy of it, must help others, make the world into the kind of place it ought to be, even if she's not always certain of the exact details of this "perfect" world. She is driven to help by her Avatar, and to know by her own personality, and so she is constantly seeking, searching for truth.
- Physical: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 1
- Social: Charisma 4, Manipulation 1, Appearance 3
- Mental: Perception 4, Intelligence 4, Wits 2
- Talents: Empathy 2, Insight 4, Integrity 2, Resistance 1, Scrounging 2, Sensitivity 3
- Skills: Animal Ken 1, Performance 1, Research 2, Technology 1
- Knowledges: Academics 2, Computer 2, Enigmas 2, Lore 1, Science 3
- Arete: 2
- Spheres: Correspondence 2, Forces 2, Life 2, Matter 1, Prime 1, Time 2
- Backgrounds: Avatar 3, Dream 4
- Willpower: 5
- Merits: Jack Of All Trades 5, True Love 1
- Flaws: Deranged 3, Curiosity 2, Mentor's Resentment 1, Mild Phobia 1
- Abilities: Insight: 2, Lore: 2 (Total: 4)
- Advantages: Arete: 4, Life: 14, Prime: 7, Matter: 7 (Total: 32)
- Merits: +6
- Flaws: -7
Total Freebies Spent: 35
Specialties & ExpertiseEdit
- Michelle is pretty much incapable of lying. It's not that she thinks it's bad; she just isn't any good at it. So for the most part she's honest, and keeps her word wherever she can. This along with a general genialty and care for others (when she's able to focus long enough to pay attention to things) makes her the sort of person many folks would put their trust in.
- Michelle is always looking for what lies beneath, for what is hidden. She has developed an intuitive sense of the world, and she can sometimes seem to be jumping to a conclusion without actually thinking about something. It's not that she isn't thinking, but that she takes the information she gathers and processes it in a very intuitive, "gut feeling" kind of way, more roundabout than directly logical.
- According to Michelle, the best way to perform magic is to "grok" things first--to understand them completely. Because she takes so much time and effort to truly understand the world, she has a great deal of insight and discernment, and is able to figure out the truth behind seemingly complicated situations.
Insight: Flashes of Inspiration
- Sometimes, as noted before, Michelle just puts the pieces together. It's like one of those metal puzzles, where you shift the pieces around and around and then suddenly--click!--the whole thing comes apart and you understand how it all works. This can take some time, but it basically amounts to being good about putting together clues to get an answer more than finding obscure things. It's also more likely to happen when she has time to think a situation over.
Animal Ken: Horses
- Once upon a time (about a decade ago by her personal timeline), Michelle rode horses regularly, and was starting to compete. An accident stopped that short, and she hasn't spent a great deal of time around them since, but she retains some of her knowledge of how to ride and take care of horses.
- Again, once upon a time, Michelle took ballet. She's done more of this over time, and practices in private, for the excersise and trance-state, quite regularly. Actual performance happens less often, but it does sometimes happen.
- Michelle's always been fascinated with electronics. She loves taking things apart and figuring out how they work. Having access to the Spheres of Forces and Matter has only heightened this fascination. She enjoys fiddling around with electronics, trying to build things, and in earlier years often had electronics in various stages of dismantling lying about the house.
- History fascinates Michelle, and always has. (Perhaps this is part of why she likes a Tradition with Time as their main sphere.) Tracing historical movements, how the development of one thing affected life elsewhere, is terribly interesting. She often approaches the subject with a "chaos theory" sort of bent, finding the most interest in seeing how seemingly unrelated events wound up shaping the course of history.
- This one's pretty obvious... Michelle's a Mage, and hence has Lore about them.
Science: Quantum/Particle Physics, Mathematics
- Michelle has a B.S. with a major in physics, and was planning to get a PhD before she took off to seek Awakening. She still keeps up on the subject, though, and of course also has the high-level mathematics needed to study such a complex discipline. Quantum physics also forms the basis of her paradigm, and she sometimes uses math to help her focus and figure things out.
Merits & FlawsEdit
Jack Of All Trades
- Michelle craves knowledge the way some people crave drugs. She's not alive if she isn't doing or learning something, anything. She has to keep "in the know," reading newspapers and blogs whenever she can. She'll try almost anything once, she takes classes whenever she has time and money, she has a deep thirst and love for libraries and has been known to spend hours just reading some book she picked randomly off the shelf. She knows a little about a lot of things, basically. How does she have the time for all of this? Well, once it was because her mentor provided for her needs and liked her insatiable curiosity--and also it's because this is magickal study, to her. The only way to see past the illusions is to learn as much as one can, to learn to discern truth from lies, to see as many different ways of solving a problem as possible in order to find the best way. Besides that, she finds herself bored if she's not doing something... and as a Cultist, she's likely to make whatever she's doing something new, something to expand her horizons.
- Michelle met Stephen Morrison in college. It wasn't love at first sight--not on her end, anyway--but months of friendship turned into romance, and romance was on its way to becoming lifelong commitment when Michelle's mentor Jeff Rowland seduced her away to go Awaken and join the Cult of Ecstasy. She's always wanted to go back, she's tried over and over, and she doesn't quite understand why she never has. Indeed, she tried, six years ago, she was prepared to go and work things out with Stephen when Jeff attacked her out of jealousy. The truth is, Michelle and Stephen's connection was so strong that Jeff (who'd been grooming Michelle to be his protege for years) had to resort to Mind magick in order to keep Michelle by his side--and eventually, her concern for Stephen was enough to begin to break through even that. The thought of getting home to Stephen kept her together through Paradox backlash and weeks of strange experiments. Now, she wants to find him and prays he hasn't moved on since she's been missing or "dead" for six years.
- Jeff Rowland's attempts to control Michelle and keep her with him, using the Sphere of Mind (which he never taught her so she couldn't defend herself) resulted in a second personality being created within Michelle's mind. Calling herself Lorelei (Michelle's old online handle), this person is even more insatiable for experience than Michelle, though not as much for knowledge. She has few morals and fewer boundaries, though that's less intrinsic than because she was never given a reason to have any. She's the reason Michelle stayed with Jeff, and Lorelei is still in love with him, convinced that if she can just take over for good she can go back to him. Many things Michelle doesn't remember clearly since Awakening actually happened to Lorelei, and she's even more prone to "switching" under stress now. Only recently has she begun to be aware of the other person, though Lorelei was always aware of Michelle. Lorelei is not inherently an evil or bad person, and may be able to be changed, but right now she is an irresponsible woman who welcomes anger and enjoys causing pain, with a towering ego and a need to control anything she can. The problem? She's not very good with magick--the Avatar barely talks to her, and she doesn't have the patience--and so she knows she still needs Michelle. If they can work together they might be formidable, but for now it's just one more thing to make Michelle feel insane.
- Michelle's thirst for knowledge can land her in bad situations. She's prone to investigating first and asking questions later, the sort of person that would read aloud from the Book of Dead to hear what the words sounded like, or touch strange artifacts without knowing what they are. She's not stupid--she won't rush into a room without making sure there's actually a floor first--she just sometimes can lose sight of common sense in her desire to "grok" the world.
- Jeff Rowland became obsessed with Michelle when he first met her online while looking for a student. He selected her and groomed her, tried to convince her to forego or drop out of college, and became frustrated when she fell in love with Stephen Morrison and started building a life with him. Jeff met Michelle just after graduation, offered her peyote "for the experience," and used Mind magick to convince her to leave Stephen and come with him. The magick didn't Awaken her but she was close to it anyhow, and once she was Awakened he kept her with him through more magick. The creation of Lorelei was something of an accident but he welcomed it all the same--rather than turning Michelle into someone who'd stay, he got to keep her as she was and have someone he could force her to switch into when she started getting restless, someone who was more willing to stay around him. The abuse of power has slowly warped his mind and he's become a dark, nasty sort of mage. When Michelle tried to leave him for good he attacked her with a Mind effect to try and keep her--and wound up throwing her into a Paradox Realm when the effect backfired. When she returned six years later, it was Michelle and only Michelle he talked to, and, convinced that Lorelei was gone, he handed her over to some of his nastier "friends" in order to try and be rid of her. If he finds out she's out of their hold he'll probably try to clean up the loose end (or maybe try to bend her to his will again), but then, if anyone in the Tradition ever figures out what he did to Michelle he'll be in a lot of trouble.
- Michelle is afraid of crowds. Who knows who might be lurking, trying to get her? Maybe Jeff's right around the corner, or the people he handed her off to. And maybe that voice in her head will take over and she'll do something terrible. Not only that, but with her perception magicks running most of the time, Michelle's prone to sensory overload, and out in public reactions to that are far harder to control.
- Michelle's Avatar shows up to her in dreams and Seekings most of the time as Leonardo da Vinci, who is one of Michelle's heroes and the archetype of the "Renaissance man" that Michelle tries to be. He prods her to go after certain goals through conversation and inspiration. She enjoys these chats and looks forward to them, referring to her Avatar fondly as "Leo" or "Leonardo" in conversation--leading some of her mundane friends and family to think this is an actual person. It's an influence on her life, though not an overwhelming one, but they get things done (when she's not given into her derangement) because they have very similar desires and goals.
- Michelle has a deep connection to the universal mind. Whether this is because of her intuitive way of thinking, or the intuitive way of thinking comes from this connection, the two facts about her seem to feed off each other. She often uses mathematics to try and get into "the zone" as she calls it, though dancing or smoking pot also will work. She doesn't mind the ephemeral nature of the knowledge she gets from this--she thinks of it as being able to see beyond the barriers for a time, and understands that such glimpses are fleeting when they come at all.
Magick & FociEdit
Michelle's magickal style is, first and foremost, about understanding. She always has to take time--even if just a few moments--to get into a state in which she can see things "as they truly are." That is to say, some sort of trance state. Much of her magick--like most of her Tradition--is focused on perceptions, both expanding and altering them for herself and (eventually) others.
Music, dance, sex, drugs, all figure in, but so does mathematics, logic puzzles, reading... anything she can lose herself in. It's the state that's important more than the activity itself. Much of her magick revolves around the concept that the act of observing a thing changes that thing, and that the more certain we become about one aspect of something, the less certain others become. In that place, in that uncertainty, Michelle's magick can slip in to change reality if she wishes.
She doesn't have specific foci for each sphere per se. To her way of thinking, which resonates with her Tradition's, all the spheres are connected. Altering perceptions is pretty much the standard method. Getting into trance state, taking drugs, having sex. She tends to smoke a joint or have a triple-shot latte in the morning (depending on what kind of "awareness" she needs) in order to run her perception effects for the day--and she avoids caffeine outside of ritual for specifically this reason. She also tends to switch up methods, or even stay entirely "normal" for a time, in order to keep the perceptions "altered" and not simply her normal mode of being.
The more difficult something is, the more time she needs to take to "grok" it... which means that something she's already seen or affected will be that much easier for her to handle magickally, while something entirely new may be resistant to her effects at first--though rarely the simple perception effects she keeps running most of the time.
- Space is multi-dimensional. The three-dimensional space we see is an illusion, as the two-dimensional nature of a piece of paper or a wall is an illusion. Michelle's grasp of Correspondence allows her to see and even subtly manipulate things in these higher-dimensional spaces. Ultimately, of course, all places are one place, but she hasn't reached that point just yet.
- Force, to the Cultists, is the illusion of the state of the physicality of Matter. Forces--all of them--are simply properties of Matter, changeable and fluid. Michelle tends to think of Forces in terms of the equations that govern whatever she wants to change, changing the equations to change the force. She knows these so well that it's easy to think of them, but she'll use other methods to alter them if she must.
- Life is the pulse, the beat, the soul of the universe. In Michelle's mind, she must have her own beat in time before she can properly affect others. Michelle's Life-beat is weakened, and so in some ways she has a hard time affecting other living things, though her perceptions are not dampened. She has the easiest time communing with plants and always has, and is likely to tend to focus her magicks in that direction, as well as toward healing herself and others, and small cosmetic changes (when she reaches that point.)
- Matter is an illusion. What we think of as solid is actually a latticework of atoms and molecules with empty space between. If one could alter the electrical fields around objects, one could pass right through them. She can't affect matter as of yet--she's only an Initiate--but she's well aware that it's an illusion. She really likes to use this sphere to heighten the pleasure of food or sex or even just clothing--tactile sensations are terrific.
- The power of the universe. Call it Dark Matter or Ether or... whatever you like. It is pure energy. When other Mages talk of using Prime to "get something from nothingness" Michelle laughs. To her, Prime energy is subject to the laws of conservation--which is why one must channel Quintessence to "get something from nothing." One isn't getting something from nothing--one is simply turning energy into mass. It is deeply related to Forces, though Forces merely describe the way Prime is bound up in Matter. Matter and Life provide the architecture and Forces tell Prime how to move through that architecture... and yet, the architecture itself is made from Quintessence, as are all things! Michelle finds this truth at once simple and profound.
- Time is the greatest illusion of all, and yet, the hardest to break. Michelle knows that time as we view it does not exist--it is not a continuum, but fractured moments. It is not stable, but relative to one's frame of reference. If Michelle can lift herself from that frame of reference, she can see time in a non-linear fashion, and even, someday, change it if she desires. She's dropped her need for foci for this sphere, and so has a tendency to "slip" in her perceptions. She gets these timeslips--seeing events that happened a day or two ago, or may happen a day or two from now--confused with her own muddled and fractured memories sometimes, and the whole thing gives her a strange, unfocused air. She slips back more than forward, and is never quite sure if she's seeing the future or the past, and all too often has a sense of a thing before it happens.
- I'm not angry yet. Anger will come, but for now I'm hurt more than angry, saddened and confused. Mostly confused--just coming back out of a Paradox Realm will do that to a girl--and so I don't understand yet where I am and why I'm here. By the time I do, the anger will come, but it won't really be any easier to understand.
- I'm keeping hold of myself through repeating salient details, as I did for however long I was lost in that horrible Realm--I am Michelle Buchanan, I was born on March 12, 1977. It's 2009, and I know that before the Paradox Realm it was 2003, but that isn't really the confusing thing. I'm used to the idea of timeslips--I am a Mage, a willworker, a Cultist of Ecstasy. We mess with Time a lot.
- Six years ago... well, six years to linear time, an age and an instant to me... my mentor, Jeff Rowland, attacked me. Out of jealousy, fear, obsession, addiction... I still don't understand yet how someone dedicated to freedom could become so possessive. I should understand, I've seen worse, yet I don't. Jeff was my mentor, my teacher. We had a sacred trust. How could he violate everything we believed in?
- How could he have sent me here?
- I don't like this place; there's something wrong with it, with the people, the walls, the... everything. Of course, that could be the after-effects of the Paradox, still. I remember Jeff attacking me, defending myself. I remember the world exploding, and years and moments and eons of confusion and pain from being caught in the backwash of our vulgar magicks. I am floating in freefall, lost in a world of impressions... the truth is, I can't remember the details of that place except that I seem to have come back confused and disoriented--and bearing a passenger, a voice in my head. I am crazy; it's no wonder Jeff locked me up.
- No, no, I don't belong here. I should go home to Stephen, he's probably still at Stanford waiting for me...
- I'm more lost than I thought; I have to get a grip on linear time. Moments are melding; I'm not even that incredibly proficient with the Time Sphere but something in Jeff's effect, something in the backwash and the Realm has scrambled my timesense entirely. My memories muddle into an eternal "now" and the memories of the Other in my head are mixing in. I have to get hold of myself. Linear time. Start with the earliest, the youngest, put it together like pieces of a puzzle. Find yourself again.
- My first night is frightening. It's not the place; not yet. It's being back in "normal" reality, or what passes for it these days. I think about my childhood, the first piece to put in place. I think about Texas. San Antonio. The little house in the suburbs, my parents, my sister. She was older (I guess she still is) and perfect. Or that's what I thought, anyway. She's brushing my hair, telling me stories before bed, and we're camping in Yosemite and I'm afraid of bears or lions or something. She's reassuring me. She smells like vanilla. I come back to the present, holding onto the memories of Sarah, and this place isn't so scary anymore.
- As a little girl I loved horses and ballerinas, but also building things and sometimes setting them on fire for fun. Or maybe just taking them apart. It was my Dad's fault; he never got a boy, something was wrong with Mom after me, so I was going to be the youngest. So I got all the "boy" stuff Sarah never wanted, and I loved it. Dad encouraged it, but Mom was scared. Protective. They loved me, I never doubted that, but I wanted to do and learn everything.
- Horses. Running in the fields, the smell of them in the sun as I brushed and curried and checked hooves. I loved horses. I wanted to own one but we didn't have the space. For a moment I'm transported back to the house, with the tire swing on the tree and the chairs in the yard and--it couldn't have been this idyllic. There must've been bad things. My parents never fought in front of us, but... something? I was a lonely child in elementary school, kind of squirrely and odd and quiet, but who doesn't remember those years that way? No, that's not it. Something to do with horses.
- I rode horses. In competitions. I was 16, and I was in a competition and the horse stumbled... maybe I reined in too quickly... and I fell. Hit my head, broke my leg. Why does that matter so much? I was okay before then. Precocious, too curious for my own good, but a good student, with a few friends, not popular and kind of awkward but relatively normal. And then I broke my leg. Why does that matter?
- Huddled on the bed of this strange place I try to remember, and then it comes to me. It's not the horses... it's the dancing. There were three things that made me feel most alive in a life where all I wanted was to feel and know and do more--horses, science, and dancing. In one moment I lost two of those, and almost all three.
- The leg healed wrong. Mom didn't want me riding anymore, and I couldn't dance very well anymore, and it was like a ton of bricks hit me. Junior year of high school, I retreated to the A/V room and the geek clubs and cried myself to sleep every night. The boy I liked started dating someone else, and I thought I would die (I was 16, after all). I lost myself in arcane online discussions (BBSes!) and metal concerts; my grades slipped. A B minus was a big deal, for me. Maybe I had after-effects from a concussion, or maybe I was just stressed. I just knew I was scatterbrained as hell.
- Then one of my friends turned me on to weed. It was amazing. I could focus. I could think. I could do my homework. I know people think potheads are dropouts, and a lot are, but for me the expanded perceptions made the universe make sense again, and I remembered science, and God, and how I'd always found the latter in the former. And then I met Jeff.
- That's when I lose it. I cry myself to sleep. The next day is a haze. What do they want with me?
- I can think again the next night. I put Jeff aside for now, focus on college. I went to Stanford, and it was all planned... Stanford, and then probably MIT, get a physics degree, I had it all planned out. I can't guarantee the Nobel, but it's good to try, right? College is where I met Stephen. I had friends, roommates, another boyfriend before him (and when I met him!) but Stephen's the one that sticks in my mind. He was the guy that sat and listened while I poured out my troubles with being so far from home and in my First Serious Relationship and all that. Stephen was in grad school, studying ethnobotany, I have no idea how he had time for an undergard, but we met at a bar near campus and we just clicked and it was great.
- I broke up with the first boyfriend... what was his name again?... and then there were another couple of guys, and then Stephen, patient Stephen. I think I was almost 20 when we got together, we'd known each other a year or two, and it was great. I can remember his touch and his voice, and it stabilizes me the same way Sarah stabilized me yesterday. That was yesterday? Yes, yes, it was.
- Stephen was stable even as I was starting to feel bogged down. The plan... I loved the plan, I loved to plan, but I got more and more restless the closer I came to graduation. We started talking marriage after about a year. I'd gotten into MIT... he was going to get a position back East to be near me... things were all going to work out. Marriage, kids, good careers, all the pieces were falling into place, and I felt like I was falling apart.
- I'd been trying more and more things to try and open my mind, synthetic drugs... Stephen never minded the pot but Ecstasy and LSD he disapproved of. Somehow that just made me want to rebel against his good intentions even more, but I started to feel empty. I started talking to Jeff more (don't think about that too much no no not yet not ready) and then... and then... I can't help it, I can't get around Awakening without Jeff involved.
- So I focus on Stephen instead. I wonder where he is tonight. I wonder if he knows I'm alive, or if he thinks I'm dead, or maybe just ran off again. Did he find someone else? Did he come looking for me? Is he even alive... or did Jeff go finish him off, too?
- I'm lost in nightmares and I don't wake up for a very long time. When I do, it's to a voice in my head telling me the memories aren't going to pull me out of this. I ignore it and try to focus. I don't understand what they're doing, but it hurts. I have to keep myself. Michelle. I'm Michelle.
- Jeff put me here.
- I met Jeff in high school. My senior year, online. We talked about physics and pot and he didn't quite believe in the former but he swore by the latter. He flirted but never too badly. We met in person before Stephen, and he offered me to come drop out of school and experience with him. I declined, and he said, laughing, "Maybe when you're more awake." I didn't get it then.
- He's attractive in a shaggy way, a stereotypical California surfer, blonde hair and blue eyes (I love blue eyes) and so different from Stephen's earthier, stable persona. Jeff's got the stoner "forever gaze" that I'd come to recognize as a Cultist's hyper-awareness, a look I'd get used to seeing in the mirror. He is a bad boy on the surface but he seemed kind and gentle underneath. He made me laugh and laugh. We kept talking, through college. I graduated, and I was restless, and I poured my heart out one night to Jeff over IM... how I loved Stephen, but I was afraid, how I wanted to study but I worried the "dusty old books" didn't have what I really needed to know. How I had to live, and experience the world, how it was this aching need Stephen didn't seem to get, and my parents didn't, and my friends didn't... but Jeff did, he got it.
- He met me that night. It didn't occur to me to ask how he got all the way to California from where he'd been holed up in Mexico so fast. He waved it off, said he was planning to move anyway... to Nevada, this time... and he took me out and gave me peyote.
- The world... shifted. Awakening was a slow process (and something he'd been guiding me to for a while) but that night started the real process. It was like slowly coming to after a dream, realizing you've been dreaming though you're still not fully awake. I spent most of the next week on one drug or another, and by the end of it I'd left a note on the bed for Stephen and followed Jeff to Las Vegas.
- On the road, feeling heavy eyelids lifting, I questioned him about what was happening to me. He explained Awakening, and the Cult of Ecstasy, and Mages, and... all of it. And the world changed. Colors were different, I could feel time and space and electricity... the lights in Las Vegas, I felt like I could reach out and turn them on or off with a thought if only I knew how to see them the right way. Jeff laughed as I stared at things, asked what I was doing.
- "Trying to grok," I said, and he laughed more.
- Vegas was too much color and sound; my new senses overloaded and I fell out and down. I thought I'd die. And then I was sitting in Milan (and don't ask me how I knew it was Milan) having a glass of wine with Leonardo da Vinci.
- "What am I doing here?" I asked.
- He threw an apple at me in answer. I fumbled, didn't catch it, and he shook his head.
- "Stop trying to use your hands. Catch it with your mind. That's your strength." He threw it again, and I fumbled again.
- "Why can't I catch it?"
- "You have to focus, Michelle. You can't just dance along. We're not like that. We're different. We want to know, to push boundaries. Why does the apple keep falling?"
- "But gravity is the weakest force in the universe. It should be easy to overcome."
- "You know better than that," I chided. "The gravitation attraction force between two masses is inversely proportional to the square of their separation distance."
- Leonardo threw the apple again. I wondered how it got back to his hand when neither of us picked it up. "Stop parroting other people. Think for yourself. Why does the apple keep falling?"
- "Because I'm not catching it."
- "Better. You can't catch it with your hands. Gravity is the weakest force. It should be easy to overcome. Look. Focus. Think."
- I stared at the apple... and then I understood. Gravity was an illusion. The apple itself was an illusion, a three-dimensional representation of a multi-dimensional object. Time was merely a collect of moments. I could see the apple's path through time like a film strip curving to the floor. If I just intervened at the right moment... no. Not with my hands. With my mind. I could see the gravitational fields. I just had to modify them. It was easy.
- The apple floated in mid-air. Leonardo smiled. "Welcome back." I didn't understand that then, either. I'm not sure I do yet.
- Leonardo knows things the real da Vinci didn't (such as the nature of gravity) but hey, I figure he would've learned all that stuff if he'd lived forever, right? He's always pushing me to do things, learn things. Always a new goal, a new path, a new journey. Jeff called me a "Questing Essence."
- The voice in my head isn't Leo. It's female, and angrier, and... I don't like it, not at all. Go away, go away!!
- I can't. I'm stuck here, just like you. There's a way out... would you stop fighting me?
- I scream, and they medicate me, and I sleep.
- When I woke up, I was on a bed in a hotel room. Jeff had carried me up there after I passed out. I tell him what happened while I try to adjust--I'm truly Awake now, and what came before was nothing compared to this. He smiles when I tell him reality is an illusion and says, "I knew you were one of us."
- We make love that night, and seal the mentor-student bond. He teaches me magick, we meet other Mages. Someone heals my leg, and I can dance again, but I won't let them fix my eyes; I hold on tightly to my need for glasses to read with. Jeff finds this hilarious. For a while, for a couple of years, it's great. It's a whirlwind ride and I never want to get off. We travel the country, I call Stephen and my folks sometimes, but mostly I live like I've never lived before.
- I'm not in the hotel room now, or with Jeff. They're doing something to me here. I don't know what... I don't think I want to know... but I'm changing, slowly. I try not to think about it. I focus on my memories.
- I woke up that morning knowing something was wrong. I'd had terrible dreams for weeks, and then Stephen called. His cousin Samantha had died, the cousin that was almost like a sister to him, and he wanted to talk. It felt like waking up from a hazy dream again, heading out to see him.
- It turned out he was a Mage after all, a Verbena. It was a family thing, and I remembered the Morrisons, so earthy and earnest but kind and welcoming, and we laughed that I'd never seen it before. He'd Awakened too, Samantha had been his mentor... and now she was gone. He hurt, but we bonded over discussing different magickal styles, and though we knew we belonged in different Traditions it still felt like coming home.
- I told Jeff and he sounded happy but I knew he was upset. He insisted on coming to be closer, insisted on keeping up our relationship, and it hurt Stephen, I think. He couldn't handle the idea of polygamy, and Jeff said he was just being closed-minded, but I sensed other things, darker things, down inside.
- Jeff and I pulled apart over the next year and a half. He talked about buildings falling and wars and anarchy and sometimes he sounds like he thinks the way the world has become, the hatred and pain flying around, is a good thing. He talks about change and freedom and I wonder how he can say such things. I'm not sure I know him anymore. I wonder if I've really known him all along. And the wild ride isn't what I need anymore. I'm not sure it was ever what I needed. I've learned a lot and yet I haven't progressed much on a personal level. I need goals, focus, things Jeff never gave me.
- I keep going back to Stephen, I'm worried about him, and I need him. He's a stable rock to my firey, flighty ways, and we work well. I inspire him, he grounds me. Sometimes the other way around. We're made for each other. Jeff was jealous, I get that now. I didn't then. I'd slept with other guys, but I think Jeff knew this was different.
- Six years ago, a lifetime ago, a moment ago, I called Stephen and told him I was leaving Jeff for good. I wanted to work things out, go for monogamy, get engaged again. He sounded happier than I'd heard him in years. I wish I could go back to that moment and just leave Jeff a note like I'd left Stephen when I first walked out.
- Jeff was angry. He'd been angry for a while. Maybe he'd seen this. When I told him, he lashed out. I'm not sure what he tried to do, but whatever it was, I think he was trying to keep me. I think, from what he said, what I felt, he knew he'd lose me to Stephen entirely. Something had grown dark in him without my noticing. He'd been consorting with dark people, cruel people. He lashed out, and I defended myself, and the world exploded.
- It's easier to hold onto myself now. I can't remember the Paradox Realm well. I know that's what it was because Jeff told me. And so many other things are fuzzy, hazy. I'm holding onto people, the same way I held onto them in the Realm. Stephen, Mom, Dad, Sarah. I held onto them to get me out of the Realm.
- It's not enough, here. I know who I am but I can't seem to get out. Hope isn't enough. Wanting to live and see them again isn't enough. There is anger, lurking, power, pain.
- You could use it. You could get out. Who cares if you kill some people? Fuck 'em.
- I don't want to listen, but days stretch into years. Has it been twelve days? Fourteen? Six months? I'm not sure anymore.
- Slowly, I give into the anger. I will not let them do this to me. I will live. It's not enough.
- Jeff. He put me here. I came out of the Paradox Realm on his bedroom floor and he bundled me up, told me what had happened, and handed me over to these people. He was darker. Glad to be rid of me. I thought I'd loved him once. I thought he'd loved me. Maybe I'd Awakened from it, but I regretted ever leaving Stephen. No, not that. I regretted not going back sooner.
- Jeff stole my life. He tried to bind me to him, or maybe kill me. It doesn't matter. He betrayed our bond, a sacred trust. He betrayed our Tradition. He will pay, and I'll make sure of it. He's going to die.
- I'm afraid of that anger, of what it turns me into. I'm afraid of the things it does to me, but then one day... they stop. They let me go. I'm on a street in an unfamiliar city, but I'm free. I can find Jeff. I can kill him.
- And then, standing on the street, I become terrified, and I run. I don't know where I'm going, or where I am. I just have to find a way to hide from myself and the voice in my head until things are better.
- I am Michelle Buchanan. I am an Ecstatic. I have a duty to the world, I am here and alive for a reason; I cannot simply give into this anger. I am better than that.
- I am stranded on a street in Crystal Springs, Colorado. In some ways, I feel like my life is just beginning.
Michelle is Wyrm Tainted. This isn't a flaw because it's meant to be worked off in play, and hopefully soon. She hasn't been Tainted long, and there's definitely still hope, but the anger and violence of the Beast-of-War is already seeping into her. Lorelei actually welcomes this power completely, and may be the conduit through which the Taint entered.
There are aspects of this application that have been left vague in order to keep spoilers from leaking all over--I'll be happy to answer questions on-game regarding plotfoo.