Chosen One, 115

Being the Chosen One Really Is Half Doing Crazy Shit and Half Figuring the Crazy Shit out

Ao3 Link

“A ley line isn’t quite the same as the Pillars or the rest of the Web,” Ariel explained to Isaac.

“Because the ley lines are alive,” Isaac said, nodding. “Right.”

Ariel blinked. Yancy put down his tea cup. “Huh?”

“Are you quite certain, lad?” Yancy asked.

Oh. Isaac had already fucked this lesson up, shit. “Yes?” he asked, looking between them. “No? Sorry. I just thought that was what you were going to say.”

“It wasn’t, but let’s come back to that later. Why do you think it was alive?” Ariel asked.

“Well…” Isaac had a pen and paper, but it was only so he could fidget with something, and that was what he did, tapping the pen against the paper carefully. “When I was touching the ley line, it felt like I was the ley line. Like it was directing my thoughts. That was why I attacked you. Because it didn’t like your power.” He still felt terrible about that, but Ariel had insisted he stop apologizing.

“Huh,” Ariel said again. She looked down at the table, or at something beyond it, then back up. “Okay. Honestly? It never occurred to me that the ley lines might be alive. If they are, I don’t think they’re sapient.”

“Sapient?” Seth was in the room with them. They were having a meeting. It was a bit weird.

“It means they’re alive but they don’t think,” said Isaac, grateful that Lee had spent an hour once explaining sapience to the whole class. He wished Lee was here, but she’d been called to the castle. “So like plants or something.”

“Yeah, that might be a good way to think of it,” Ariel said. “I have to admit that nobody totally understands ley lines, even those of us who have been here a long time. To learn more about them than we know, I’d have to dissect a planet and that’s a bit of a problem for the people who live there.”

“What’s a planet?” Isaac asked.

“It’s what you call a world if you’ve been to a lot of them,” Ariel said. “The point is, I don’t know if ley lines are alive. Maybe they are.”

“If they are,” Isaac asked, mostly out of curiosity, “wouldn’t that mean that Fucklandia is alive too?”

Ariel thought about that. “I doubt it, because that’s not generally how planets work.”

“Okay. But the ley lines might be.”

“If that is the case, it is all the more reason to be wary of them,” Yancy cautioned. “They may not appreciate their power being used so wantonly.”

“Or at all,” Seth said.

“Indeed. That said,” Yancy went on, “if they are alive, it is possible they could be approached safely with the correct amount of caution. One cannot reason with a tree, but that need not mean we live in acrimony with our dendral neighbours.”

Isaac wasn’t an expert in words, but he didn’t think ‘dendral’ was a real word. It had the cadence of something Yancy had just made up. “I know a really good gardener who says you can reason with plants if you talk to them the right way. Maybe you can reason with anything if you talk to it the right way.”

“I admit I’ve never tried talking to a ley line,” Ariel said. “Their power and mine don’t interact well, as you noticed. They’re fonts of magic that stem from the planet itself, from the time it was formed.”

“How is that different from the Web?” Seth asked. “It’s also a font.”

“It’s a construct,” Ariel corrected. “The old gods made the Web to keep demons from entering and destroying the world. The fact that humans could use it to do magic was not intentional.”

“Oh.” Seth frowned. “Oh, okay. Which is why when Aaron destroyed it, that portal opened.”

“Yeah,” Ariel agreed.

“Which means if we can reconstruct the Web, we can probably save him,” Isaac muttered. “But also the Web was dangerous to humans.”

“Yeah. Ley lines probably are too, but humans have never used them in a sustained way as far as I know.” Ariel looked away for a second, then back. “They were used by the people who lived here before humans.”

“Ah, the notorious pre-Catechism gods?” Yancy asked.

“Before them too. It’s an old world, Yancy. I came here when humans did, so I can’t tell you much about the guys who were here first. But they used ley lines and, uh…” Ariel scratched her head. “Blasted themselves into extinction, seemingly.”

“Possibly with ley lines?” Seth asked. Isaac figured he was thinking about the statue on the bottom of the world. These people Ariel was talking about must have built it.

“Possibly they were involved. I actually think it was a bunch of other shit that’s not really important, though.” She smiled. “I promise I’m not withholding information just to be mysterious or whatever. I’ll tell you what I know but I genuinely don’t think it’s relevant right now.”

“Okay,” said Isaac, before Yancy could ask her to tell them. He could get details for his book later. “So basically, the Web was someone trying to reinvent ley lines for babies.”

Ariel pointed at him. “Got it in one, kid. Near as I can tell, the old gods modeled the Web on the idea of ley lines. The gods didn’t know how to use ley lines either, but they knew they existed and when they made the web, someone helped them anchor it to the world’s ley line network in order to power it, because they figured it was the way to stop the demons. Which it was.”

“Are they still anchored?” Isaac asked, because he trusted Seth or Yancy to ask the other question he wanted answered.

“Sort of. It’s hard to explain; the closest I can get it to say that they’re connected in the same way this planet is connected to the sun.”

That didn’t totally make sense to Isaac, but he nodded anyway. They were close together. That probably explained why humans could touch the ley lines. But it also probably wasn’t safe to go up to the sky and grab the sun.

“Who’s someone?” Seth asked, like Isaac had hoped. “Who knew about the ley lines and was willing to help the gods?”

“Elves.” Ariel shrugged.

“Of course it was fucking elves.”

“Yeah. They were pretty invested in fighting the demons back in the day too, and they had some pretty kickass magic. They still do, there just aren’t many of them left.”

“This is most fascinating.” Yancy was taking considerable notes. He was already on his fourth page. “And I should very much enjoy continuing to discuss it at a later time. For now, however, we must address the primary question on this meeting’s agenda. Is the city’s ley line safe for Isaac to utilize?”

“The city is on top of four ley lines,” Ariel told him. “And that’s what I was getting at in an unnecessarily long-winded way. They weren’t made for humans to use. They weren’t made for anyone to use.”

“So I don’t use it ever again,” Isaac said, nodding. “Got it, no problem. I have way too many powers as it is.”

He tried to get up before Ariel could tell him it wasn’t that simple, but she talked fast. “It’s not that simple, Isaac.”

“Fuck,” Isaac muttered. “Should have teleported out.” He was pretty sure he remembered how to do that spell.

“Too late. The thing is someone set up that summoning spell and anchored it to those ley lines. And as much as I don’t want you knowing how to access them, I don’t want you not knowing how to access them when someone with less morals than you does.”

“But Isaac doesn’t need to do it, right?” Seth asked, frowning.

“Indubitably,” agreed Yancy. “There is no reason to assume that Isaac’s ability to connect with the ley line was resultant from his prophetic status. Any magic-user should be able to do so. There are a number of trustworthy mages at the academy who could be taught.”

Ariel had closed her eyes. “I cannot even begin to describe the depths to which I do not want anyone else knowing how to draw on the most powerful magical force in the world.”

“I understand that.” Yancy’s voice was gentle. “But you cannot do it and someone else already can. And what you have left out of your explanation is that someone must have taught them, is that not so?”

Ariel heaved a sigh and looked away. “You really don’t miss a thing.”

“I have been teaching a long time, young lady.”

“And I’ve been learning a long time. Yeah, someone had to have taught this person to do it. I have friends looking into that, but no leads. The thing is, ley lines repel angelic power. They don’t repel demonic power. Demons can’t use them, but they can get a whole lot closer to them than I can.” She looked at her fingernails. “And if there’s one out there teaching humans how to use them for destructive reasons, then someone needs to teach a human how to use them for nondestructive ones.”

“Then we must narrow down a list of candidates,” Yancy declared. “The first criterion will be their dedication to just causes and…”

“The first criteria has to be that Klaus has never been anywhere near them,” Isaac interrupted. There was a reason Oliver wasn’t here.

“Ah,” Yancy allowed. He considered that sagaciously. “Yes, you are right, of course. Such a dread creature must never be permitted access to this power.”

“He got his powers from a demon,” Seth said quietly. “Maybe it was him who did this.”

“It’s definitely not impossible,” Ariel agreed. “Listen, we can speculate all we want. The main thing right now is that we do have to teach someone how to touch ley lines at least sometimes. And frankly, I’m worried it does have to be Isaac. I’m not sure someone who’s used to only touching a fragment of the Web is going to be able to handle a ley line. I’m not sure the person who set up that spell down there isn’t dead because of it.”

“I’m not sure I’m going to be able to handle it,” Isaac said. It had been scary, how powerful the ley line was. How powerful it had made him.

Seth took Isaac’s hand. “You’ll be okay.”

Isaac smiled at him. “I hope so.” The world so rarely cared if he was okay. He was lucky the people in it did.

“There must be a way that we can ascertain whether Isaac’s involvement is necessary,” Yancy insisted. “Remarkable though he is, he’s only a student. I’d rather avoid putting him in further danger—not to mention mounting further pressure on him—if there is an alternative. Ariel, tell me in more detail about the nature of the ley lines’ power. Why does it repel angels? Perhaps there is something in there that can tell us why it is so dangerous to humans. Scriptural records do indicate a relation between us, after all.”

“Well.” Ariel sighed. “As far as I can tell, ley lines are leftover wells of power from the creation of the universe. I’m a manifestation of something anathema to that power. There are parts of this that I can’t tell you, but once upon a time there was a metaphysical concept called the Right Hand of Creation…”

Isaac tried, but he did zone out about five minutes into Ariel’s explanation. It wasn’t her fault, he always zoned out in classes, which this had suddenly turned into.

That was okay. There were a lot of smart people who’d tell him the parts that mattered. Isaac had learned that his job as the chosen one wasn’t so much to know everything, so much as it was to just do the things that good people asked him to do.

And he could do that. He would do that. Because Ariel was right. If bad people were going to have power, at least one good person had to have it too.

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