The solid leatherbound book continued to rest on the hardwood floor without offering a hint of an explanation. The book had fallen. Stoni had heard it fall, and there it lay. She was sure that if the book had been close to falling, she would have noticed it protruding from the neat line of volumes. Regardless, she knew there was no reason for it to have fallen while she was away in the kitchen.
An examination of the bookshelf yielded nothing suspicious. It was solid wood with no hidden tricks. The book seemed solid enough too, other than the subject matter.
"Numinous: The Algebra of Destruction. A History of the Most Notorious Celestial Cult and its Influence on Renfros. Well that's downright odd. Hey ALI, what's Numinous?"
Anything that utterly trancents the mundane sphere, before which humanity both trembles and is fascinated, or a place that is filled with or characterized by a sense of a supernatural presence, could be said to be numinous.
"Thanks, that was so helpful," Stoni said without a shred of gratitude. "I mean, who is this book about."
The book is about the the most notorious Celestial cult, and its effects on every denizen of Riches of Renfros.
Stoni sighed. "Is Numinous the name of the cult? Or the name of something that inspired the cult?"
Reading the book explains the book.
"Fine, be that way." Stoni set the candle on the table beside one of the lounge chairs and snatched up the book. She sank into the plush comfort of the chair and forced the book open to the first page.
Dedicated to those who fell or withered before their time
Introduction: The Identity and Origin of Numinous
To understand the cult of Numinous, an understanding of the nature of Celestial beings is necessary. Numinous is but one of the many beings that entered our world from the Celestial plain, though they are counted among the most 'powerful' of such beings that are known. Due to the trancendant nature of Celestial beings, comparisons of power cannot be drawn and to do so is a categorical error. Nor can one Celestial being be technically counted as a singular being. To think of a Celestial as contained in a separate individual form has been a perilous mistake for many who have fought against them. Celestials are by nature and essence manifestations of aberrant mathematical phenomena, given life of a sort. Even that is not a correct statement. Celestials are animated but not 'alive'. As the reader will see, any statement of truth about the Celestials must be tempered by qualifications and clarifications, or perhaps it would be best to say the opposite of clarifications.
Stoni snapped the book shut between her thumb and fingers. "I'll have to find someone to give me a summary of what anyone might actuallyl need to know, if the topic is ever relevant. There's no way I'm wasting any more of my time here trying to understand a book that starts like that. Especially not with books popping off shelves without cause." She stood forcefully and shoved the book back in its place. "Time to check out the rest of the house. Maybe I'll get another tier of the Observe skill." She rather enjoyed the feeling of raising skill and ability tiers, though she wasn't entirely sure what the point was. Especially not in the current case, as it seemed highly unlikely to her that the real Granny V would ever return to this character.
She soon found a laundry room, complete with baskets of clothes awaiting washing or folding, and a washing machine. A thick rubber belt from the back of the machine passed through a pair of slots at the top of the wall, implying an external mechanical power source. That was informative but not immediately useful. Further explorations led her to a pair of small bedrooms and a bathroom between them. All were spotlessly clean and bore the scent of cleaning products. "Guest rooms, I figure. Which means the main bedroom must be through... No?"
The door she'd opened instead took her into an activity room complete with a billards table, shelves packed with boxes, and some odd metal and wooden objects on stands. The latter turned out to be musical instruments, while the boxes contained games involving cards, boards, and figurines. The instruments were recognisable but none of the games felt familiar.
Backtracking, she found a door in a corner she'd missed. She was almost certain there was no space for anything but a large closet behind it, and that turned out to be basically correct. Rather than a closet, the door hid a staircase up to the main bedroom. It was larger than both guest bedrooms put together, and the bath in its attached bathroom was big enough to fit four people, or eight if they didn't mind rubbing shoulders.
"Definitely a comfy place he's got here," Stoni judged. "I wouldn't mind spending several years in a place like this. I wonder... ALI, is this house typical for houses in VIVID?"
That is up to you to discover.
Stoni rolled her eyes. "I guess it would be futile to ask if there's anyone else in the house with me."
You would not receive a satisfactory answer to such a question.
As an alternative, Stoni pushed one of the bedroom's bay windows open a crack and listened for a few minutes. The slight ambience of leaves in the ocean breeze and distant surf became apparent. On top of that, she heard the occasional bird and a few distant small animals. There was nothing spooky, scary or suspicious.
Stoni was pleased to have progressed further, but the content of the messages was boringly repetitive. "Hey could you make those less verbose? Please?"
Notification verbosity has been decreased.
"Er, thanks. So... now what to do? I'm talking to myself, no need to respond, ALI. Reading? Maybe. There might be something I can do to train more skills? Though I'm not sure what the point would be. Practice, I guess. Being prepared for future missions sounds smart. If I can avoid needing to figure out everything on the fly, that means much less pressure. On the other hand, this is a great chance to eat all the food I want. And drink wine. Well, not too much wine. Not with creepy books jumping onto the floor. But there's no reason I can't do both. I've got, what, four more hours?"
Minus seven minutes.
"Excellent." Stoni would have rubbed her hands together in anticipation, if she could have. Instead, she slapped her knee. "To the kitchen!" She struck what appeared to be an attempt at a dramatic pose, then shrugged and headed for the stairs. "Hey ALI, I've been meaning to ask a question," she said as she carefully chose her footing.
There was no response to her non-question.
"Uh, so Riches of Renfros is what this game world is called, right? And there are other worlds in VIVID?"
Both statements are correct.
"Yeah, so what are the other worlds called?"
Mask of Lunacy, Cybernoir, and Retrotopia.
"Huh. That's an interes—"
The crash of shattering glass cut off Stoni's comment. It came from the kitchen and sounded heavy but small. It didn't sound like a window or a drinking glass.