Chapter 3: Listening Post
by Jeff Grubb
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Omniscience and Omnipotence: Contrary to most mortal reports, gods are not all-wise or all-powerful. True, some are very powerful indeed -- lords of the pantheons, for example, who founded their godly houses and still retain powerful portfolios. But most gods within the hierarchies have narrow limits to their abilities. Similarly, while some deities are rich in eldritch knowledge, it usually remains confined to their areas of expertise, and once removed from those friendly confines, they are as prone to error as any other being of the universe, regardless of station.

Compared to most mortals, it can be said that the gods are much more powerful, but no more wise.

-- Amandar's Great Big Book of Divine Power

Whisper, like most of her pantheon, was a solitaire, and she lived alone on her plane. Being a most minor god, her plane was extremely small, and Jest could see from one side to the other. Not that there was much to look at -- a lonely cage of a house perched on top of a blackened tor. The tall windows flickered with a pale, ghostly radiance from within. It was called the Listening Post, and it was Whisper's home.

The door was open and empty, though a cyclopean gargoyle blinked at him over the lintel. Jest wandered in. The interior of the house was but a single room, lined with video screens and speakers. A continual susurrus issued from the speakers, coiling around him -- a constant, low chatter of conversation. Occasionally something deep and profound and menacing rumbled out of the speakers and shook the floor.

At the center of the room, surrounded by speakers and screens, sat Whisper, cross-legged and intent. The Lady of Gossip, House of Knowledge, had a video eye-shade drawn down over one eye, and she held one earpiece of a large, padded headphone to her ear.

"Greetings, Lady Whis . . ." started Jest.

Whisper raised a hand and Jest's words died out. The soft voices curled around Jest as he waited for a clue to proceed. She listened intently for a moment, then in a quiet voice spoke.

"Violet is about to tell Patricia about her suspicion of Sherman's infidelity. This should upset Patricia to the point that she in turn will tell Violet about Violet's son's recent criminal actions."

Jest paused for a moment, then said, "And do I know any of these people?"

"I doubt it," said Whisper, her visible eye unfocused in the middle distance. "All of them are whales. There. The deed, as they say, is done."

She smiled and laid the headphones down. From the earpieces came a low keening that mixed with the ghostly voices surrounding them. She turned directly to face Jest.

"So you broke something," she said simply.

Jest's brow furrowed. "Actually, I was hoping you would help us."

"Because you broke something," she repeated.

"Actually Rust and I were thinking of hosting a get-together."

"Because you broke . . ." she started.

Jest interrupted, "If you know everything, then why are we having this conversation?"

"Because it's fun to watch you dissemble and dance," she said, and a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. "And because I don't know everything. Not by half."

"And how did you . . ." Jest asked.

Whisper's smile grew wider, and she waved at the room around her. "I hear everything, but, thank the Elders, I don't have to PAY ATTENTION to it all. But certain things call attention. Like someone's voice dropping to pass on a confidence. Like the silence before a secret is shared. And like two of my fellow godlings suddenly going off-line, then coming back later in mid-sentence. That attracts my attention."

"Sounds like a mystery," said Jest.

"It better not be," said Whisper, and her face darkened. "If my sister Mystery had a hand in it, she would have bragged to me immediately about it and dared me to find out. And my other sister, Secrets, is even worse. She wouldn't even tell me. But you're going to tell me what happened, and there won't be any danger of either of them grabbing this plum. Dish the details, fellow godling."

Jest laid out what happened - the breaking of the door and the large room they found within. He neglected to mention the Duocorn, wondering if she would bring it up. She did not, which confirmed to him the insulating power of the room.

"Orichalcum," she said, drawing a finger across her chin.

"Uh-huh," said Jest.

"That's potent stuff. Hard to work with." Her brow furrowed.

"So Rust assured me," said Jest.

"Yeah. You're hosed."

Jest let out a plaintive cry, and Whisper smiled. "Okay," she said. "You're not completely hosed, but it's going to be tough. That explains why Rust is so upset."

"Yeah, he's . . . " Jest paused. "You're listening to him now, aren't you?"

"There's not much," she said. "He winks in and out, probably crossing over the doorway back and forth, worried about what's going on inside when he's outside, and vice versa. He's wondering what is keeping you. And he is cursing a lot."

Jest sighed deeply.

"Which means we will have to get this set up before he calls in the elders," said Whisper.

"We. That means you'll help get the word out?" said Jest.

"I'll help, but you have to do the recruiting," said Whisper. "Who do you need?"

"Obviously a Forge pantheon. I was thinking Hammer."

Whisper nodded. "She's sweet on Rust, though the big lunk doesn't realize it. She's at Homeforge right now, but reachable."

Jest sighed. "Not by me. I can't just walk into Homeforge. I'm not particularly welcome in the Maker's Factory."

"Of course," Whisper sniffed. "They're still a little huffy about that bronze zeppelin incident."

"Not my fault," Jest muttered.

"Okay, I can get word to Hammer without anyone else knowing. You have to contact the rest, though -- they're all in the field. You're going to need Tears."

"That goof?" said Jest.

"That goof," said Whisper. "You're going to need him. Trust me on this. This is serious doings, and you need him to keep everyone sober and concentrated."

"Does that mean I can't invite the Lord of Beer?"

"He's grounded. Again. Don't ask," said Whisper. She held up her finger and thumb, an inch apart. "He's this close to becoming the God of Light Beer."

"Tears." Jest huffed. "We're cool, but it's not like we're close. Fire and water, actually."

"Yes, but at least you're talking to each other, still, unlike you and most of the Forge gods. Just tell him that Leaves will be there."

Jest blinked. "I wasn't planning to invite Leaves. I mean, what can she bring to repairing a door?"

"She can bring Tears," said Whisper. "Go get her first. She's on the Gwendolican Coast -- it's harvest season there and she's been pulling double shifts. The girl needs a break. And Tears is in the Holy City of Juk. Their Grand Matribishop just died, and he's overseeing the funeral."

"I know," said Jest. "Pity about the Holy Mother. Choked on a candied vulpine bone after giving a sermon on the perils of excess."

"That wasn't you," said Whisper, trying not to make it sound like a question.

"I do funny," said Jest, smiling now. "Ironic is a completely different department. Juk is on the way to the Cascading Planes, so I can tag him on the way. I think we'll need Sand." Whisper was quiet for a moment, and Jest thought he caught a frown flicker across her face. He added quickly, "Even I know we're going to need someone who can handle a bajillion motes of orichalcum dust."

"True," said Whisper, and she tilted her head, as if a distant conversation had suddenly caught her attention. "She isn't particularly . . . focused, if you get my drift."

"You mean she's a bimbo. Sure. And who among us is perfect?" said Jest, opening his palms upward in supplication.

"Some of us should try harder," said Whisper, quietly. "We are gods, after all." She shook herself and added, "Yes, then. She's with Storm right now, and we're going to need his power as well."

"With is a relative term, easily misinterpreted. Both are on the Cascading Plane right now, at least." Jest allowed himself a smirk.

"Which one of us is a god of information?" Whisper smiled back at him.

"You, oh Lady of Hidden Knowledge," said Jest. "But I have my moments."

"You do indeed," said Whisper. "Keep in mind that Rust and Storm have a bit of a rivalry."

Jest shrugged. "Which guarantees that they will do their best, each to show up the other. It's an incentive thing."

"It's a recipe for chaos," said Whisper, "which is something that you do so very well. So you're just going to invite everyone over for home repairs."

"I thought the idea of a Noplace Room, where the elders -- and you -- can't monitor us would be attractive enough."

"Any food?" asked Whisper.

"Hmmm. I thought we would order out. But I didn't know about Beer."

"Thought as much," Whisper sighed. "Mention it to Leaves, will you? Gwendolican is having its harvest and her father was a Hearth god. If you're going to recruit your friends to fix your mistakes, then you should at least feed them well."

"My mistakes?" said Jest. "Were MY hands the ones that broke through the door? And besides, if we have everyone there, we could improve things a bit."

"Improve?" drawled Whisper.

Jest held up his hands. "Well, since we DO have a chunk of land where the elders can't check up on us, and it IS currently unoccupied." If Whisper noticed that the God of Pranks was choosing his words carefully, she said nothing. "I was thinking we could turn it into a hang-out joint. A place we could get away from the elders."

Whisper could not help herself, but allowed herself a laugh. "Clubhouse of the Gods?"

"Nothing so juvenile," sniffed Jest. "Just a safe place for us. Not all of us have our own place. Living with your elders is a godly pain."

The laughter cut short and Whisper visibly winced. Jest cursed himself. He had forgotten that the Gods of Knowledge tended to live alone. "Not that I meant anything by that," he tried to say.

Whisper waved him off and shook her head, "You rarely mean anything," she said. "That's one of your endearing features. Now you should be off. Rust is getting more agitated by the moment, and it's only a matter of time before he decides to go to his elders and confess his mistake, and that will be the end of it all."

"We'd lose the Noplace Room!" said Jest.

"Not to mention you'd be banned from another godly domain," said Whisper calmly.

"Worse things can happen," said Jest offhandedly.

"Indeed they could," said Whisper. "Now shoo." She turned back toward her screens and speakers, and pulled up the oversized earphones.

Jest headed for the door, but halfway there, turned back "You were listening on Rust and I when he broke open the door. You weren't by any chance ASKED to keep an ear on us, were you? I mean, the elders aren't checking up on us?"

Whisper looked up and half-turned, almost surprised. Then she smiled again. "If they were, then this conversation would never fall into their hands, would it?"

Jest thought about it for a moment. At last he said, "I'm glad to have you as part of this plan."

"And I would not miss it for the worlds," said Whisper.

"Party, party!" said Jest, with a lopsided grin, and left.

She watched him leave, out the front door and down the hill to the edge of the plane. There at the edge was the slight distortion of reality, the track of a god in transit. Only then did the Lady of Gossip turn back to her screens and speakers, as the folly of the multiverse passed through her Listening Post.

"Party, party, indeed," said Whisper, tuning her headset to someone else's lies.

To be continued...


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